Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
TMQ Nation fires back

By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

Department store
Charming, merry Labor Day shopping scene.
TMQ expressed existential dread that Christmas marketing has crept forward to September. Jerime Wargo of Dyer, Ind., writes, "On Labor Day my wife and I were at the Carson Pirie Scott in Merrillville, Indiana, when we spotted the clerks setting up Christmas trees." Matt Diller of Chicago writes, "On Saturday, September 8, my girlfriend and I went to Michigan Avenue in Chicago to do a bit of shopping. At the Watertower Place Macy's, a section of the store was blocked off with tarps. We peeked through a gap in the sheets -- only to see that Macy's was already setting up its Christmas section with trees, lights, tinsel, and all the trimmings." Dace Campbell of Seattle reports that the Christmas section was open at the Seattle Costco on Sept. 8. Colin Murphy of Rochester, N.Y., reports, "Around here we have a big-box store chain called BJ's, similar to Costco. Industrial size tubs of laundry detergent, flats of motor oil, 500pc bags of fried chicken wings, etc. I was in there last week and noticed that their Christmas section, which by the way included a faux-flocked plastic tree with a synthesized version of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' on repeat, was LARGER THAN THE HALLOWEEN SECTION." Cheryl Edwards of Ashland, Mass., announces, "Let it be known that at 6:35 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, 2007 I saw a display of Hallmark Keepsake Holiday Ornaments in the Paper Store in Natick, Massachusetts." Ryan Ottele of Renton, Wash., writes, "I just got back from Vegas and one of the gift shops at the casino formerly known as Treasure Island, now just TI, had a full Christmas display up in the window." Justin Monteforte reports, "I work in center city Philadelphia in the venerable Wanamaker Building. The first three floors of the building house a Macy's department store. Walking through the store on my way to lunch on Monday, my co-workers and I noticed a section of the store done up in Christmas decorations, including a tree! It was September 17th." Russell Rivera of New York City reports, "At the Boston Market on 10th Ave. at 58th St. in Manhattan, they already have a poster hanging in the window which advertises that beginning on October 1, you can place orders for holiday parties. How long do they cook that turkey, chicken, and meatloaf?"

On the Preposterous Punt watch, Donovan Gilletti notes that Texas A&M, trailing Miami of Florida 24-0 in the third quarter, faced fourth-and-5 at midfield and punted. You don't even need to ask who won the game. (TMQ calls the Hurricane school "Miami of Florida" in a nod to the older Miami University in Ohio.)

Bellagio
But don't leave the water on while shaving, our hotel is environmentally conscious.
TMQ wrote that some revolting plutocrat had ordered an entire $400 million A380, the world's largest airplane, converted into a flying palace. Sriram Rangarajan of Chennai, India, notes this BBC report saying the revolting plutocrat has been named. It's Russia privatization billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of English soccer club Chelsea FC. On trendy environmental hypocrisy, Jonathan Hammersley of Indianapolis writes, "Another stunning example can be seen in the fancy hotel-casinos in Las Vegas. The very hotels that have massive, elaborate water displays such as huge-scale fountains, cascading waterfalls, and even replicas of Venetian canals, also have notes in the hotel rooms asking for towels to be used more than once to help conserve water."

TMQ complained that in the sci-fi movie "Sunshine," there's a crew on the futuristic mission to place a bomb on the surface of the sun; owing to gravity it would be easy to get to the sun but very hard to come back, I supposed. Kevin Grazier, a planetary-probe scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, writes, "Earth is moving fairly quickly, there is a lot of angular momentum to overcome. This is counter-intuitive, but it turns out that in terms of power though not of time, our sun is the single most difficult star to get to in the universe." Jeremy Hiatt of the physics department at Stanford explains further: "You said that getting to the sun would require much less energy than getting back to Earth. That would certainly be true if your spacecraft started at rest with respect to the sun. However, the Earth is flying through space at about 30 kilometers per second relative to the sun. The force of the sun's gravity is just right to hold us in our current (slightly elliptical) orbit. To get to the sun, a rocket launched from the Earth would need to slow itself down; that is, accelerate in the opposite direction of the Earth's trajectory through the solar system. If it slowed down to a standstill with respect to the sun, then it would fall directly into the sun. If it doesn't stop completely, it will travel on an elliptical orbit that will bring it extremely close to the sun, at which point it will be traveling so fast that it has enough kinetic energy to fly right back out to where it started."

Algae
Be sure your super-advanced starcruiser has some algae aboard.
TMQ also complained that in "Sunshine," the future superadvanced spaceship relies on a small hothouse with a handful of flowering plants to provide oxygen for its crew. I supposed that a vast expanse of greenery would be required, since individual plants release only tiny amounts of oxygen, and asked if any botany-adept reader could figure out the rest. Kris Mott of Rockdale, Texas,, an engineer, calculates that supplying the oxygen for a crew of eight would require around 75,000 flowering plants. Kevin Skerl, an ecologist from Parma, Ohio, supposes that what the spaceship should really carry is racks of algae: "According to this experiment, it takes about eight square meters of algae to supply oxygen for one person. So the eight-person crew of the spaceship needed 64 square meters of algae."

Solar system
The universe -- only Tuesday Morning Quarterback readers know its name.
TMQ complained that the White House and Congress are wringing their hands about petroleum waste, but we don't even have the national resolve to keep our tires properly inflated, which improves MPG. Roger Sperberg of Montclair, N.J., writes, "It's not just that lower inflation of tires makes for greater fuel consumption. The tires flex more when they're under-inflated, which not only puts more stress on them, it causes them to heat up more, which shortens their life. The hotter the tire, the faster the oxidation of the rubber occurs. So automakers prefer the lower inflation because it makes for a smoother, softer ride, and tire makers prefer it because it leads to faster-wearing tires."

TMQ proposed that the NFL should mandate that all players wear the Riddell Revolution or similar new helmets with anti-concussion features. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told TMQ, "Many players do wear that helmet, which Riddell based on the research that our concussion committee funded. But describing it as an 'anti-concussion' helmet is probably overstating it. It is not a concussion-proof helmet. It is designed to better protect against concussions by providing more protection around the ears and jaw. The research showed that the closer a hard hit was to the ear, the more likely it would result in a concussion. Longstanding league policy is that players have the right to choose their helmets as long as they are NOCSAE approved." Yet as Roger Goodell is prone to say, playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. Players have no entitlement-like power to say what they want to wear. If the NFL can mandate no droopy socks, it can mandate safety. NFL, just mandate anti-concussion helmets. This would be setting a good example. And please, NOCSAE, hurry up and complete your helmet safety-standards update.

Meanwhile Mike of Rice Lake, Wis., writes, "Our high school varsity team started using Revos a few years ago, and had only a little improvement in concussion rates. Our coach was puzzled by this, so he did some research. We had previously used blue, plastic, upper-only mouthguards that form to your mouth. This year our team converted to thicker double-sided mouthguards developed for cushioning the jaw during hard hits. We have had three concussions total, and every concussion was suffered by a player using the [old] mouthguards. We have had no concussions among players using the double-sided mouthguards. That's a small sample, but still seems important. The Revo helmets are nice, and are definitely more comfortable than regular helmets, but getting better mouthguards may help too, and is much more cost-friendly for high school. To set an example, the NFL should require double-sided mouthguards for all players."

TMQ regularly complains about the lack of reality in action movies. Shridhar Padmanabhan of Naperville, Ill., writes, "In 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' the hero constantly rams his car into other cars, jumps off floors inside cars -- yet not one airbag ever pops up. Not for the lead character, not for the villains."

Jack Birnbaum of San Diego notes, "In the Patriots-Chargers game, the Chargers finally scored with 6:47 left in the third quarter, to make the score NE 24 SD 6. They are now behind by 18 points. An extra point cuts the deficit to 17, which would require three more scores to tie. A 2-point conversion would make it a potential two-score deficit. They kick the point after, thus indicating (a) they would rather be sure to lose by one less point than take a chance now on restoring some limited, but still somewhat realistic hope for a comeback. Isn't this just as bad as punting on fourth-and-short when behind?" TMQ's immutable law of the PAT holds: Kick Early, Go for It Late. Unless you're way behind! When you're way behind, every point matters and you should go for two.

I visited L.L. Bean's Freeport, Maine, stronghold and reported the absurdity that although the Bean store complex is located in a rural area a tremendous distance from 99 percent of the American population, it's nonetheless crowded and hard to park there. Samuel Pfeifle of Yarmouth, Maine, writes, "I love it when people come to visit Freeport and complain there are too many shoppers and it's hard to park. Um, weren't you here to shop and didn't you bring your car? You know when Maine is idyllic? When all of you tourists go home. Tell all your friends: Maine is a cold, unforgiving place and horrible to visit. Like L.L. Bean? Shop online. Don't come here." I forgot to mention, another great thing about Maine is that the people are friendly.

A couple weeks ago I was asked on WDVE in Pittsburgh what kind of mail TMQ gets, and I was happy to be able to answer that reader animadversion is almost always clever and insightful. Well -- that was until I wrote about the Beli-Cheat scandal. TMQ has been dive-bombed by vulgar e-mail the past two weeks, and I don't know what that says about Patriots fans -- especially since I am not attacking the Patriots, I am attacking the notion of cheating. At any rate, I got so much vulgar e-mail that I am not going to dignify the whole pile of it by quoting from readers who objected to my Beli-Cheat points.

Paper shredder
Did the NFL find hanging chads on the Patriots' Super Bowl game plans?
I will offer a few comments from readers worried about the scandal, because I think there is a lot we don't yet know. Carol Lang-Drapala of Norman, Okla., writes, "Since they were so quick to destroy the documents and they refuse to answer questions, they must have found something incriminating. I am a die-hard NFL fan and I will continue to be one, but this incident and the way the league has handled it, has made me doubt their integrity."Jon Allison of Chicago asks, "How could the NFL possibly have assessed lots of tapes and documents in just 48 hours?" Brad Foulkes wonders, "Haven't you begun to consider that the reason the NFL destroyed the tapes is because they showed other teams besides the Patriots doing something illegal? Having one team be a bad apple is embarrassing, but how much more damaging would it be to the NFL if there was video evidence of many or all the teams cheating?" Indeed, that is a powerful question; if the Belichick Files show that cheating is common in the NFL, pro football could eventually be seen as akin to pro wrestling, and the league and its partner networks could take a huge economic hit. Note to honchos on Park Avenue, NFL headquarters: If pervasive cheating is the real reason you destroyed the documents, it's going to be much worse if you don't come clean with the public of your own volition.

Finally, a reader writes, "Here in Poland, where secret taping scandals in politics are a weekly occurrence, we have a saying, which I will present in haiku:

Lack of evidence
is evidence the evi-
dence has been destroyed."

-- Roman Picheta, Warsaw, Poland

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 is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.