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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back

By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

Diego Luna-Victoria of Lima, Peru writes, "If you think the United Nations has too many nations, you should check FIFA -- Fédération Internationale de Football Association, soccer's main organization. It contains 205 countries. Here is their ranking." Though the last ranked team is No. 197, nine countries share this ranking, making the total 205. Locked at 197th on the Top 205 of nations according to FIFA are Belize, Djibouti, São Tomé e Príncipe, Aruba, U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Guam, American Samoa and Montserrat. Come on boys, let's win one for Djibouti! And quick, without using Google, can you tell me what general area of the world Montserrat is in?

I noted that CBS broadcast the men's NCAA basketball tournament via broadband, knowing millions would watch on their screens at the office, and wondered if this was CBS's corporate plan to reduce the worker productivity of its competitors. Laurie Hill of Marblehead, Mass. countered, "And what about the trilogy-length Tuesday Morning Quarterback? Isn't this a plot by ESPN to reduce the worker productivity of its competitors on Tuesdays?" Laurie, you're on to us.

TMQ noted preposterous punting in the frozen-but-melting north, a CFL team punting from the opponents' 48 though trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter and needing only two yards for a first down. Craig Cooper of London, Ontario notes that because the clock operates differently in the CFL than in the NFL, this decision was not necessarily as nutty as it seemed. In the CFL, the clock stops after every play in the final three minutes, while offenses must snap within 20 seconds of the referee's signal that the ball is ready for play. These rules mean a late-game three-and-out possession might take only about a minute off the clock. Thus, Cooper argues, a team down by 10 in the middle of the fourth quarter in Canada still has a realistic shot of getting the ball back enough times to tie or win. OK, but why didn't the team in question simply go for the first down? It was third-and-2, the CFL equivalent of fourth-and-2 in the NFL. Then again, Peter Mosca of Vancouver, B.C., writes, "You say that in the CFL, third-and-2 is equal to NFL fourth-and-2. But in the CFL the defense must line up one yard off the spot of the ball. Because of this, a CFL third-and-2 is like an NFL fourth-and-1, making that punt even fraidy-cattier. This also explains why CFL teams almost always go for it on third and inches."

A column complained about movie special-effect scenes in which a punched person flies backward through the air as if hit by far more force than even Mike Tyson could deliver. Specifically I objected that when Lex Luthor punches the kryptonite-weakened Man of Steel in "Superman Returns," Supe is thrown backward 20 feet -- though Luthor has no special powers, he's just swinging a normal fist. I asked readers if anyone could calculate how much force would be required to throw the 225-pound object 20 feet. Eric Wells, a professor of physics at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. wrote, "Assuming projectile motion and a launch angle for Superman of 10 degrees, to travel backwards 20 feet would require a launch speed of 13.2 m/s. How much force is this? Well, the easiest guess is to use the fact that the impulse imparted to an object is equal to its change in momentum. For a force that is constant with time, the impulse is force*time applied. Assuming Luthor's fist was in contact with Superman for 0.2 seconds, I get a force of 6,760 Newtons or about 1,520 pounds. If Kevin Spacey, who plays Luthor, weighs 180 pounds, he's generating a force that is an impressive 8.4 times his body weight. Anyway this will make a nice test question for my freshman class." Jim Doherty of Raleigh, N.C. found this projectile motion calculator. He used it to reckon that to be hurtled backward 20 feet, a 225-pound superhero would need an initial velocity of 17 miles per hour, and for a fist to impart such velocity, "Luthor's fist would have needed to be moving 150 miles per hour. Even assuming one could actually achieve that speed, the fist would shatter when it transferred all of that energy into a stationary object." Michael Dowling of Melun, France adds, "These kinds of technical inaccuracies in superhero movies drive me crazy. What's weird is that I have little trouble believing the rest of the stuff."

Peyton Manning
Peyton will face his brother's team on Sept. 10.
Smoke continues to emanate from my ears about last year's NFL decision to extend the DirecTV monopoly over NFL Sunday Ticket until 2011. For the millions of people, including me, who live in places where it is impossible to receive DirecTV, this is deeply infuriating. Now the latest Sunday Ticket ad features Peyton Manning urging viewers to change channels to a better game than the blowout they are watching. Hey Peyton -- MILLIONS OF VIEWERS CANNOT CHANGE THE CHANNEL, even if they're willing to pay for the privilege. Whether this constitutes restraint of trade on the part of the NFL will be the subject of an in-season TMQ.

Matt Jerram of Waltham, Mass. notes, "In the ad, Peyton implores the viewer to stop watching his Colts whip the Titans and switch over to see his brother quarterbacking the Giants. A close look at the stat strip at the top of the screen indicates the score is 28-3 Colts with about 2:15 left in the fourth quarter. After Peyton's chat with the viewer, he drops back and snaps off a perfect strike to the end zone. I suspect he has another reason for wanting the viewer to change channels -- to hide his shame for running up the score!" Here's the Game Book for last season's Titans-at-Colts game. Indianapolis did lead 28-3, but in the third quarter. Manning attempted no passes in the fourth quarter, with the final Colts' touchdown coming off a fumble return. The game situation in the commercial must have been electronically manipulated. The actual game situation was plenty maddening enough to anyone who cannot get Sunday Ticket even if willing to pay.

Michael Hall of Sioux Falls reports that the Sioux Falls Storm recently won the United Indoor Football League championship 72-64 over the Lexington Horsemen. The game was played, the team announced, "in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,800 screaming fans." The contest featured 19 touchdowns, two field goals, three missed PAT tries and a deliberate safety. Here are the Sioux Falls Storm cheerleaders, plus their announcement of tryouts on April 16th, 2005. Better hurry!

Derek Fisher of Ottawa, Ontario notes that Maggie the macaque didn't do too badly forecasting NHL games this winter for Canada's TSN. Surely there's room for a raccoon, meerkat or wombat forecaster this fall on "Sunday NFL Countdown."

Two years ago Tuesday Morning Quarterback praised the tasty Coffee Crisp candy bar, sold only in Canada; we complained that its tag line, "makes a nice light snack," was deceptive as the Coffee Crisp contains more calories and fat than a Milky Way. Corrie Rudy of Glendale, Calif. writes to report that Nestle is now selling the Coffee Crisp in the United States. "The tag 'makes a nice light snack' has been replaced by 'wafers with coffee crème center,'" Corrie notes. In the United States, "light" has a defined legal meaning as regards food products; in Canada, it does not.

Regarding my item on the Connecticut high school rule that punishes coaches whose teams continue to try to score after acquiring a 50-point lead, a high school referee from another state wrote to note that Connecticut does not allow a running clock during blowouts. This is the score-limiting device recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations, whose rulebooks for high school sports may be ordered here. Maryland, my state, uses the NFHS running-clock rule whenever a team leads by 35 points or more in the second half.

Readers further noted that late in high-school routs is when the third-stringers get to play, and third-stringers crave the experience of scoring. "As a former high-school soccer player, I know the reserves anticipate playing weaker teams so they can actually get in a game. Once you say the third string isn't allowed to try to score, it's a tough slope to start traveling down," wrote Sante Piracci of Chapel Hill, N.C.. Connecticut's rule was enacted in response to the coach at New London High School, who relentlessly runs up the score on weak opponents, winning one game last season by 90-0. Many readers including Jill Robinson of New Haven, Conn. noted that New London is also the town that sparked the dubious Kelo decision, in which the Supreme Court called it just peachy-keen fine for the government to seize private property from one person and hand it over to another better-connected person. An anonymous reader suggested in haiku:

Port of New London:
where no home is safe, nor is
conduct sportsmanlike.

Regarding teams that might rue, really rue, passing on Matt Leinart, Ray Manzo of Tracy, Calif. contended the 49ers had no choice in the matter because Alex Smith already owns the keys to their salary cap. Drafting Leinart and offering him a contract befitting a fifth-slot quarterback would have been financially impossible for San Francisco, even if the Niners waived Alex Smith, since in that case all of Smith's guaranteed money would instantly crash-land on the team's cap. "You're a great columnist but I sure don't want you to be the next 49ers GM," Manzo writes.

Michael Rodriguez of Irvine, Calif., currently studying at QingHua University in Beijing, reports that a Mega Mac has appeared in Chinese McDonald's. It's only a matter of time until 1.3 billion Chinese are overweight, undersexed and stuck in traffic jams just like us! Meanwhile an item derided Burger King's claim that the new Triple Stacker -- three beef patties, six strips of bacon and three slices of cheese -- could contain only 800 calories as the company maintains. Burger King's nutrition breakdown for the sandwich asserts that six strips of bacon hold just 80 calories. Matt Cotnoir of West Warwick, R.I., who works at BK, notes, "The 'six strips of bacon' you get on a Triple Stacker are actually six half-strips, making only three total. According to Calorie-Count.com, three medium strips of bacon are a shade over 100 calories." Half a strip equals a strip? Sounds like my dating career!

In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse," and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here.