(Jan. 4, 2005) -- As 12 teams enter the NFL playoffs, consider
this -- 11 of them will end their seasons in bitter defeat, players
kicking locker doors and fans tearing up their placards and ticket
stubs, even sobbing. In a playoff-bracket system, only one team
concludes its year in victory. The work, effort and dreams of all
others come to crashing termination in defeat. Charles Darwin would
feel right at home with the NFL playoffs.
Which makes me pause to wonder, is the college bowl-mania system
really so bad? This year, 56 big-college teams appeared in 28 bowl
games, and 28 teams ended their years with dancing and celebration.
For 28 groups of players and 28 sets of extended family and fans,
the final memory of the season will always be a happy one. Whereas
for 11 of the 12 NFL playoff teams, and their extended families and
fans, the final memory of the season will always be unhappy.
survival of the fittest format sure can be brutal. Maryland, where
my kids go to high school, has a
16-team state football championship tournament, which I've come
to know well because our high school made it to the second round
this season. But the 16-team format meant 15 sets of boys, coaches,
families, friends, cheerleaders, poms, bands, managers and
schoolmates ended their seasons sobbing, left with a bitter final
memory. Or think of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which now
takes 65 entrants; 64 of them end their seasons on sour notes.
Maybe the bowl setup isn't so bad after all -- less Darwinian,
more humane, certainly more scenes of happy victors, fans and
families. Maybe the NFL should just stage a bunch of bowl games
after the season, allowing half the playoff teams to end their years
happily. Or maybe the ideal NFL club to root for is one that gets a
big victory in its final game but does not make the postseason,
allowing the last memory of the year to be a pleasant one. So
congratulations, fans of the New Orleans Saints! It's better this
way, trust me.
In other NFL news,
Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post notes that since 1999,
playoff-bound teams seeded Nos. 1 through 4 that won in the final
regular-season week were 25-5 in their first playoff tests, while
playoff-bound teams with the same seeding that lost in final week were 6-4 in their first postseason games. That sounds
like an airtight argument for playing to win, even if your seeding
is already locked. On Sunday, seven teams entered their
regular-season finales with seeding locked. What did they do? Green
Bay, New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego played to win;
Indianapolis and Philadelphia did not try to win; Atlanta offered a
medium effort. For the Patriots, Tom Brady was in until the fourth
quarter began, and his team won; for the Steelers, even the
practice-squad players played to win -- see more below -- and their
team exited victorious. Working simply from the historical record of
seeded teams that do or don't win their regular-season finales, TMQ
predicts that Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego will
fare well in the playoffs, while Atlanta will struggle and
Indianapolis and Philadelphia make early exits.
|Wonder what Darwin
would think of instant replay?
And in other NFL news, the postseason is finally here -- the
moment all football nuts have been waiting for. But as TMQ annually
points out, at the very moment the postseason arrives, fan interest
begins to decline. During the season, no matter how your favorite
team stumbled, there was always next week. Now, for 20 of the
league's 32 teams, there is no next week. The stadium lights have
been turned off, and grandfatherly guys with names like Sparky are
helping players toss the junk out of their lockers. Already backers
of the eliminated teams are turning their attention to the draft,
free agency and the spring minicamps. By this time next week, 24 of
the 32 teams will be eliminated, meaning only one-quarter of the
league's fan base will still have dogs in the hunt. It is a paradox
but it is true that each season as we reach the playoff climax,
And in still other NFL news, annually Tuesday Morning Quarterback
warns at this point -- just 11 more games to go. Count 'em and weep
-- four wild-card games, four divisional games, two championship
games and then that Super Bowl thing you might have heard about.
Just 11 NFL contests remain for this season. Savor them.
Stats of the Week
The Jets and Vikings lost and made the playoffs; the Jaguars,
Ravens and Saints won and were eliminated.
Stats of the Week No. 2
Buffalo and Carolina opened a combined 1-11, then went a combined
15-3, then closed a combined 0-2 -- both losing at home on a day
that a win would have put them into the playoffs.
Stats of the Week No. 3
Counting penalties, Minnesota snapped the ball seven times inside
the Washington 8-yard line, and came away with only a field goal.
Stats of the Week No. 4
Detroit gained 434 yards, and lost.
Stats of the Week No. 5
Kansas City gained 443 yards, and lost.
Stats of the Week No. 6
Miami's three quarterbacks combined to throw eight interceptions
returned for touchdowns.
Stats of the Week No. 7
Miami was the sole NFL team that did not have a 100-yard rusher
Stats of the Week No. 8
The last four losing Super Bowl entrants (Giants, Rams, Raiders,
Panthers) have had losing seasons the following year.
Stats of the Week No. 9
Seattle and St. Louis made the playoffs despite being outscored
by their opponents; Buffalo did not make the playoffs despite
outscoring its opponents by 111 points.
Stats of the Week No. 10
Atlanta finished first in rushing, though its highest-rated
runner finished 15th.
Stats of the Week No. 11
Kansas City scored 483 points, a 30 points-per-game average, and
finished with a losing record.
Stats of the Week No. 12
Minnesota and St. Louis made the playoffs at 8-8. All previous
8-8 teams to make the NFL playoffs lost in the first round.
Stats of the Week No. 13
Jersey/B and Minnesota enter the playoffs on a combined streak of
Stats of the Week No. 14
No team ranked in the bottom 10 for offense made the playoffs.
Four teams ranked in the bottom 10 for defense made the playoffs
(Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota and Seattle).
Engineer Cheerleader of the Week
Literary Cheerleader of
the Week remains suspended for more recognition of cheer-babes with
other serious credentials. This week consider Rachel Arruejo of the San Diego Charger Girls, who
has a degree in electrical engineering from the University of
California at San Diego, an on-the-rise school, and who works as an
R&D engineer. Arruejo has both dance and gymnastics training --
you don't find all that many dancing engineers -- and was the
Chargers' cheer representative to last year's Pro Bowl. Yes, there
are Pro Bowl cheerleaders, and whether a lot of it is reputation,
publicity and who you know, like on the players' side, is a good
question. When the 2005 Pro Bowl cheerleaders list comes out, I'll
scan it for snubs, as sports columnists always do with the players'
|Perhaps Rachel is a
reason for San Diego's turnaround?
Sweet Play of the Week
Game tied at 7 in the second quarter, Green Bay had first-and-10
on the Chicago 38. Brett Favre faked a handoff up the middle, while
a receiver came from the left as if to take an end-around. Every NFL
team now runs the action where there's a back headed up the middle
while a receiver comes for the end-around, and the defense's
challenge is to guess which of the two gentlemen will get the ball.
Answer this time: neither. Fullback William Henderson snuck into the
right flat (underneath where the end-around guy came from), and then
shot up the field for a touchdown reception.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2
Leading 10-7 in a must-win, Denver faced third-and-goal on the
Indianapolis 2. The Broncos lined up in a power-I set with two extra
tight ends on the field, including tight end Patrick Hape lined up
as a fullback. Play-fake and Hape runs into the right flat,
uncovered, for the touchdown reception: Denver cruises and the hopes
of Jacksonville, plus of Spenser, the Official Youngest of TMQ and a
Jax fan, are dashed. Note to defensive coordinators: Hape is no
Antonio Gates, but Denver looks for him at the goal line. Hape has
eight receptions this season, four for touchdowns.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3
Game tied at 7 in the third quarter and New England playing to
win, the Patriots faced second-and-4 on the San Francisco 8. New
England came out with two wides left, and Tom Brady saw that one of
the Niners defensive backs was way off the line, practically lined
up in the end zone. Brady audibled to a quick hitch to slot receiver
Deion Branch -- note to defensive coordinators, the Patriots like
the quick hitch at the goal line. David Patten, the other receiver
on that side, blocked the man covering Branch, and Patten outran the
backed-off corner to the end zone. Later, at the end of the third
quarter and New England still playing to win, the Flying Elvii faced
fourth-and-2 on the San Francisco 17. New England came out in a
spread formation with four wide receivers -- then Brady simply went
straight up the middle on a sneak, first down and TMQ wrote the
words "San Francisco season over" in his notebook. Often when teams
set up in multiple-receiver spread formations, the middle of the
field is left soft for a run, but few teams take advantage of this,
seeming to think that if you bring four or five receivers out then
you must heave-ho to someone.
Sour Play of the Week
Leading 21-18 with 1:12 remaining and needing a win to maintain
playoff hopes, New Orleans faced third-and-5 on the Carolina 43, the
Panthers out of timeouts. Run, then boom a punt into the end zone
with maybe 40 seconds left? Aaron Brooks sprints backward 10 yards
and tosses at the sideline to Ernie Conwell, who promptly steps out
of bounds for no gain, stopping the clock.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2
The Cleveland Browns (Beta Version) leading 22-7 with 2:10
remaining and seeming poised to actually win one for their acting
interim provisional coach; Houston had first-and-10 on the Betas 32.
Why blitz now and invite the Texans to score? Seven gentlemen
crossed the line, David Carr dodged the blitz and ran to the 12;
Houston scored a touchdown and Cleveland survived only by recovering
the onside kick.
Revenge of the Practice Squad!
It's Brian St. Pierre handing off to Willie Parker as Chukky
Okobi blocks -- who are these guys? They are the unknown Pittsburgh
third-stringers who bested the Bills' first team in the fourth
quarter, denying Buffalo the playoff slot it would have earned with
a victory. Buffalo led 17-16 at the beginning of the fourth quarter,
and at that point Steelers starters departed the game; Pittsburgh
had already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
St. Pierre came in at quarterback -- until Friday he was on the
Steelers practice squad and had never appeared in an NFL game. St.
Pierre led Pittsburgh on a clock-killer fourth-quarter drive of 14
plays and 8:53, against the Buffalo defense, which finished ranked
second in the league. Parker had a total of 83 career yards rushing
coming into the game, and ran for 101 yards in the second half --
though in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo defense knew Pittsburgh
would rush on every play. (All 13 non-kicking plays of the
game-icing drive were runs.) Okobi had five career starts in four
years coming into the game, and there he was plowing the road in the
fourth quarter, joined by tackle Max Starks, who has never started
an NFL game. Other Pittsburgh who-dats outplayed the Buffalo first
team on its own field.
When the Pittsburgh regulars made their mass exodus at the start
of the fourth quarter, you could sense Buffalo players and coaches
starting to celebrate on the sidelines: assuming the game was over,
they were mentally listening to SportsCenter announcers extol
their astonishing comeback from 0-4 to the playoffs. The next thing
you knew, Pittsburgh was ahead 29-17 at the two-minute warning. Oh
ye mortals, trifle not with the football gods!
Buffalo rebound note: Though the Bills sure made the second half
of their season interesting, on the year they only beat two teams
that finished with a winning record. Buffalo had boasted about
scoring more points than Indianapolis over the previous six games,
but yet the Buffalo offense recorded only seven points in the second
half as starter after Pittsburgh starter bowed out of the contest.
Buffalo has boasted a lot about its highly ranked defense, but in
the club's three meetings with elite teams -- New England twice,
then Pittsburgh -- the Bills surrendered 89 points. Anyway if you
can't hold a lead against the other team's practice squad in the
fourth quarter at home with a playoff invitation on the line, you do
not belong in the postseason.
Dave Fisher of Cañada Flintridge, Calif., reports that Carl's
Jr., the West Coast burger chain, is running a TV ad that touts
drive-through service. A car smashes into a Carl's Jr. and drives
through the restaurant, as the crawl on the bottom says DO NOT
In addition to not driving into the store, DO NOT ATTEMPT eating
the new Carl's Jr.
Breakfast Burger, a hamburger topped with fried egg, bacon,
cheese and hash browns. This morning madness holds 830 calories and 46 grams of fat, substantially more
than the 530 calories and 30 grams of a Big Mac. Meanwhile Hardee's,
a burger chain owned by the same parent company as Carl's Jr., has
introduced the Monster Thickburger -- two-thirds of a pound of beef,
four bacon slices, three slices of cheese, mayo and "butter-flavored
shortening," weighing in at 1,417 calories and 107 grams of fat. The
"shortening" here will be shortening of your lifespan -- the Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than
65 grams of fat per day, imagine almost twice that amount in a
single sandwich. Doesn't Hardee's want its customers to survive long
enough to return and order again? TMQ's fast-burger recommendation:
the new Angus Steak Burger at Burger King. It's delicious,
top-quality beef with lettuce, tomato, onions and a "corn dusted
bun," and has 570 calories and 22 grams of fat, which are good
numbers for a hefty-sized fast-food sandwich.
Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed
Baltimore leading 30-21, the Marine Mammals faced third-and-goal
at the Ravens 1. Play-fake, Sage Rosenfels sprints backward 10 yards
-- Sage, the goal line is the other way! -- then throws a crazy
pass, interception. Can't anyone just run up the middle for a yard
Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed
at All No. 2
Now it's Baltimore 30, Miami 23 and the Dolphins face third-and-2
on the Ravens 28 with 4:09 remaining. Play-fake, Sage Rosenfels
sprints backward 14 yards -- Sage, the goal line is the other way!
-- sack, and Miami punts and goes on to defeat. Can't anyone just
run up the middle for a yard anymore? Remember, since this was
third-and-2 with the game on the line, Miami should have been
thinking in two-down terms: gaining even a yard on third down would
have been good.
Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed
At All (Playoff-Bound Collapse Edition)
Leading 17-16 at the end of the third quarter at home with
Steelers starters leaving to take comfortable seats, the seemingly
playoff-bound Bills faced third-and-1 on the Pittsburgh 11, on a day
when Willis McGahee averaged 4.4 yards per rush. Run up the middle?
Instead pass, offensive interference against Buffalo. A third-down
gain brings the ball back to the same point, but now it's
fourth-and-1. Run up the middle? If you fail, the opponent's
third-string gentlemen are pinned deep in their own territory with
the crowd roaring at experimental-scramjet decibels. Instead
field-goal attempt, missed from 28. These two mincing fraidy-cat
calls on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 are promptly punished by the
football gods with 10 lightning points for Pittsburgh.
Now it's Steelers 26, Bills 17 early in the fourth quarter, with
Pittsburgh practice-squad guys populating the field. Buffalo faces
third-and-1 on the Steelers 48. Run up the middle? Instead attempted
trick play, loss of yardage. On fourth-and-6 from midfield, Buffalo
punts, even though the whole season is on the line and you're
playing against third-stringers. Emboldened by this mincing
fraidy-cat failure to seize the day, the Pittsburgh third-stringers
staged their clock-killer drive, and the home team did not get the
ball back until almost the two-minute warning. For everything else
that went wrong for the Bills on Sunday, had Buffalo simply run up
the middle on even one of three late-game short-yardage downs, the
Bills would likely now be preparing for the playoffs.
Seen any good hockey games lately? As the NHL continues its
self-destruction -- hockey players demanding more millions from a
failing league is like USAir employees staging their Christmas
sickout to protest that too many people are flying on their planes
-- Jesse Derris of Washington, D.C., suggests showing solidarity by
gawking at the Ice Girls of the New York Islanders.
They aren't cheerleaders, rather, figure skaters. And you'd think it
would be too cold on the ice to wear revealing outfits, but you'd
think wrong, Derris reports. During last holiday season, the Ice
Girls appeared in minimalist Santa's-naughty-elves outfits. Of
course, during last holiday season there were hockey games to appear
at. On the Ice Girls bios page, click any skater and then scan to
the bottom, where each recounts the worst pick-up line she has heard
The New York Giants of Hackensack Does Have a Certain Ring,
The Anaheim Angels are now officially the Los Angeles Angels of
Anaheim, though Anaheim is 26 miles from Los Angeles, according to
MapQuest. (Actually, 26.18 miles, in the modern computer-based
hyper-specificity that TMQ loves.) Surely many in California are
already musing that Los Angeles means "the angels" in Spanish, so
the team name is now the Angels Angels of Anaheim. Aha, but what
does Anaheim mean? It is a concocted word built from the German
heim, for home, and the Spanish word Ana from the Santa Ana
River. So the team's new name means the Angels Angels of River Home.
"Let's go Angels Angels of River Home!"
Best Plays Ere the Clock Struck Midnight
Jersey/A trailing 16-14 in the fourth quarter on Sunday night,
the Giants faced third-and-goal on the Dallas 3. Eli Manning
pump-faked the corner fade that so many teams now call in this
situation, then flipped a middle screen pass to Tiki Barber for the
touchdown. Later, as the clock approached midnight -- and the
regular season had to end by midnight, the NFL's fairy godmother
said so -- the Giants faced first-and-goal on the Dallas 3 with 16
seconds remaining and no time-outs. Jersey/A came out in a spread
formation, then Manning handed off to Barber up the middle for the
winning touchdown. As a wise man once observed, "Often when teams
set up in multiple-receiver spread formations the middle of the
field is left soft for a run."
NFL Hurtles to an Exigency!
Purists breathed sighs of relief that the NFL did not hurtle into
any of the possible disasters of a losing team in the playoffs, a
10-6 team denied the playoffs or a combination of both. But the
outcome still leaves much to be desired. Two 8-8 teams -- Minnesota
and St. Louis -- are in the postseason, while three 9-7 teams --
Baltimore, Buffalo and Jacksonville -- are not. In one previous
season, 1999, two 8-8 teams made the playoffs while a winning team
was denied. But in that year only one 9-7 team (Kansas City) was
shut out. This year, we have three winning teams denied a
postseason invitation while two non-winning teams advance. This, TMQ
feels, represents not disaster but exigency -- "the quality or state
of being exigent; a state of affairs that makes urgent demands"
The solution to this exigency is the one TMQ has been pushing,
namely, make the wild cards league-wide. What effect would that have
had this season? All division winners would remain as they are; I
don't propose tampering with the division alignment. Minnesota and
St. Louis, the 8-8 NFC cards, would be disinvited. Baltimore and
Jacksonville would advance at 9-7, while Buffalo at 9-7 would stay
home based on likely tiebreakers. (In a league-wild system there
would need to be a new league-wide tiebreaker hierarchy.) A playoff
field with two more 9-7 teams and no 8-8 clubs is simply stronger,
and isn't the whole point of the regular season to place the best
teams into the playoffs?
Throw Now, Run Later
Trailing 17-14, the Blue Men Group reached first-and-goal on the
Atlanta 3. TMQ's immutable law of the goal line dictates: If you're
going to play-fake, do it on first down when the defense is thinking
run, not on second down when the defense has just stuffed a run and
is thinking pass. First down play-fake, touchdown pass to the
uncovered tight end and the Seahawks are poised to stagger their way
to winning the division. Somehow I have never gotten around to
naming this immutable law. Let's call it Throw Now, Run Later.
Remember, this applies only at the goal line.
Curious Tactics, Dr. Watson
The scoreboard in St. Louis had flashed the news of the Bills
defeat, which not only put the Jets into the playoffs but assured
Jersey/B of the fifth seed regardless of the outcome of the game
they were still playing. So when the Jets reached Les Mouflons
9-yard line with six seconds remaining in regulation, trailing by
three, why did Herman Edwards order the field goal? Why not one shot
at the end zone to win or lose? At that point, Edwards knew the
Bills had lost, and should have been prepared enough to know that
meant his team's seeding just locked. Yet Edwards sent the game to
overtime, and the Jets played almost another full period. What did
Edwards accomplish except tiring his charges, in advance of a
certain road trip to the West Coast? (The fifth seed was assured of
playing at San Diego.)
In the regular season finale of 2003, the Ravens went to a
meaningless overtime in the final game despite having locked their
best seeding; then looked tired in the first-round playoff game, and
lost. It's good for a postseason-bound team to play to win in the
regular-season finale, but when overtime and exhaustion loom, call
it a day. Not only did Edwards wear out the Jets for nothing; he did
so knowing his charges might be assigned a Saturday kickoff, which,
a few hours later, they were. Why didn't Edwards just go for it at
the end of regulation, and win or lose?
What Was the Colts' Secret Agenda?
At kickoff of the late game in Denver, the Colts knew from the
early scores that if they lost, the Broncos would be in the
playoffs; if they won and Jacksonville won, the Broncos would be out
and Jax would be in; if they won and Jax lost, the Broncos would be
out and the Ravens in. Since the Colts were already locked at the
third seed and the final entrant had to be the sixth seed, that
meant that at kickoff, Indianapolis was in a position to determine
who would come to its field the following weekend in the playoffs.
By winning, Indianapolis would have guaranteed it would not play
Denver again; by losing, Indianapolis guaranteed a return date with
Denver. Knowing this, Indianapolis made no attempt to win -- in
effect choosing Denver as its first-round opponent. Yes, the Colts
beat the Broncos 41-10 in the playoffs at Indianapolis last season.
Even so, methinks the football gods have been tempted here.
Movie Disclaimer Watch
The disclaimer box for
The Aviator warns of "a crash sequence." No doubt this comes
when the investors get a look at the box-office receipts! The flick,
about the life of Howard Hughes, is directed by Martin Scorsese.
Yours truly hasn't seen The Aviator and so has no idea how
closely it cleaves to history, but can tell you that Scorsese's
Gangs of New York, promoted as grim historical truth, was
heavy on fiction. For instance, the 1863 New York draft riots are
presented as an atrocity in which Union troops cold-bloodly murdered
women and unarmed men in the streets. There's no evidence this
happened, soldiers not arriving in the city until the third day of
the riot, when the deaths -- mostly lynchings of black men -- had already occurred. Gangs of New York even
shows Union warships firing broadsides into Manhattan, an absurd
fictional touch. Maybe in The Aviator, the Spruce Goose
breaks the sound barrier!
|Does this look like
someone whose life needs fabricating?
Best Purist Drive
Chris Datres of Ocala, Fla., nominates Navy's 26-play, 94-yard,
14:26 drive that sealed its bowl game against New Mexico. The drive
ended only in a field goal, yet chewed up and spat out so much time
that New Mexico's hopes were lost.
If Brad Pitt Changed His Name to Raghavendra Rau, That Would
Not Make Him Smarter
This study by Purdue University management professor
Raghavendra Rau finds that mutual funds that change their names
to include buzz words like "growth" take in more cash from customers
than those that do not change their names, regardless of the actual
management of the funds. Rau told the Wall Street Journal,
"If I change my name to Brad Pitt, that shouldn't make me more
attractive to women." Hey, why not try? From now on, let's make this
column the Sexy, Clever, Important Tuesday Morning Quarterback by
Take One Till the Fourth
Scoring to make it Jets 26, Rams 21 late in the third, Jersey/B
went for two; incompletion. TMQ's immutable law holds: Take One Till
the Fourth, unless way behind. Forget what those "coaches' cards"
say about margins, until the endgame it is impossible to know what
scoring combinations will matter -- a 99 percent chance of one point
is almost always better than a 40 percent chance of two points. Had
Jersey/B done the straightforward thing and taken the singleton, its
last-second field goal would have won the game, rather than forcing
an overtime that the Jets lost.
Best Play by a Quarterback Who Actually Wants to Be in San
While Eli Manning was finishing his first season 1-6 as a
starter, high-priced holdout Philip Rivers finally got off the
Bolts' pine and Drew Brees was catching rays on the sidelines;
42-year-old Doug Flutie also threw for a touchdown and ran for a
touchdown. I don't wish to alarm you, but the Chargers finished 12-4
and Brees finished as the third-rated quarterback in the league.
Attack of the Gambian Pouched Rat!
In October, yours
truly saluted the Gambian giant pouched rat for its noble
efforts in sniffing out land mines from the Mozambique civil war.
But now, reader Matt Peterson points out, some Gambian giant pouched
rats have found their way to the Florida Keys and are
eating everything that is not nailed down. Apparently if
well-fed, the rats grow so large that cats just shrug and let them
Ernest Wilford Play of the Week
"ERN-est WIL-ford, ERN-est WIL-ford" yours truly and Spenser, the
Official Youngest of TMQ and a Jax fan, chanted as Wilford made an
incredible one-handed leaping 46-yard catch to set up the touchdown
that proved the winning points for the Jaguars. On the season,
Wilford totaled 19 catches, two of them game-winners -- Spenser and
I will root for a different Jax gentleman next year.
Repeat of Last Week's Complaint -- Since the Problem
Wow, look at the monster games on the Sunday card! Jets at Rams
and Saints at Panthers: Both essentially playoff contests, pitting
two teams in must-win situations to advance to the postseason.
(Jersey/B ended up losing and advancing because Buffalo also lost,
but the Jets started the game assuming they were in a must-win
situation.) Which of these monster contests, both of which went down
to the final tick of the clock, was shown on television in our
nation's capital, where yours truly lurks? Neither. But we did see
the meaningless Cowboys at Giants collision Sunday night, combined
record 11-19 at kickoff.
As Tuesday Morning Quarterback said last week when none of
Sunday's big games were shown in Washington, the league and the
networks must come up with a better system for deciding which games
air. And the problem isn't just Washington -- only 46 percent of the
country saw Jets-Rams, the marquee matchup of the day. The NFL
spares no expense to stage monster games of tremendous interest,
then often makes it impossible for most viewers to see the monster
games. The paid service Sunday
Ticket is the solution for those who can receive satellite
signals, but for those who don't or can't, which is the majority of
Americans, choices regarding what airs over regular broadcast
television simply must improve.
Philadelphia Omens and Portents
The Eagles just let themselves be blown out by Cincinnati. The
week before that, they let themselves by trampled by the Rams. The
week before that, Philadelphia struggled to beat a weak Dallas team.
The week before that, Philadelphia struggled to beat a weak
Washington team. And now the Eagles get a bye. When they take the
field again on Jan. 16, it will have been almost six weeks
since their last impressive victory, on Dec. 5 against Green Bay.
This is such bad karma, not even nearly naked cheerleaders may be
able to save the Eagles. Two sloppy wins over second-echelon
opponents; then two games which Philadelphia didn't even try to win;
then a bye. And note that after Terrell Owens went down against
Dallas while the team was locking home-field advantage, that meant
the Eagles had two no-pressure outings in which to try to establish
a running game. What did they do? On Sunday, the Eagles threw 54
times and rushed 16 times. Philadelphia might as well have punted on
first down! TMQ has a bad, bad feeling about all this.
As many readers noted, for Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial
Field, the who-needs-clothes Eagles cheerleaders came out in bare
midriffs and sprayed-on leotards, despite a kickoff temperature of
43 degrees. But seeing their champions immediately falling behind
17-0 and making no attempt to win, the Eagles cheerleaders jogged
back into their locker room and put on track suits. Who can blame
Meanwhile Jeff Zielonka of State College, Pa., was at Ralph
Wilson Stadium, where he witnessed the Bills defeat by the Steelers
junior varsity. Zielonka provides this account: "During the first
half, the Buffalo Jills wore heavy suits of the sort that would not
appease the football gods. Result at halftime: Steelers 16, Bills
10. After the intermission, the Jills came out in much nicer short
skirts that attracted my attention from my seats near the top of the
stadium. What happens? Interception returned for a touchdown,
Buffalo 17, Pittsburgh 16. Now we're approaching the end of the
game, and the Bills have a chance to win if they recover the onside
kick. The Jills had just gone back to the locker room and returned
to the field wearing ponchos. End result: Steelers 29, Bills 24."
Specialized Magazine Report
A shockingly long time ago, TMQ got his start in journalism at a
trade magazine actually called Waste Age . It was about the handling of toxic
wastes, and I like to think it was the very best magazine about
toxic wastes out there! (Free samples were a big bennie of the job.)
Anyway this placed into my heart a soft spot for specialized and
My current favorite is
Technology . The magazine is for firefighters and
emergency-services personnel -- the sort of relaxing reading you
flip through in the staff lounge while waiting for something to
explode or sink. I first encountered this magazine in a ranger's
office at Denali
National Park in Alaska; rangers apparently sit flipping through
Advanced Rescue Technology while waiting for calls regarding
stranded climbers on Denali, also known as Mount McKinley. Calls
about stranded climbers come with distressing regularity. During
climbing season, you can check here to see how many climbers are on
Denali and nearby Mount Foraker. For the 2004 climbing season, the
success rate of reaching the summit was 51 percent at Denali and 25
percent at Foraker.
|Don't worry! If you
get stuck here, someone will read something and save
One recent issue of Advanced Rescue Technology contained
an article headlined -- I am not making this up -- CEMENT TRUCK
ROLLOVERS, A PICTORIAL ESSAY. Accompanying the photo-essay were 10
lovely, high-quality photographs of rolled-over cement trucks
surrounded by EMS teams. The article's cryptic byline: "David
Powers, AHS, NREMT-P, runs the Museum of Unnatural History in South
Carolina." The cover story of another recent issue was, LARGE ANIMAL
As interesting as the stories in Advanced Rescue
Technology are the ads. SEARCHCAM EYELINK CAN BE YOUR EYES AND
EARS IN A HAZARDOUS SITUATION, promises one ad showing a man in a
moon suit holding a gizmo. SHOULDN'T YOU USE THE NT RES-Q BAG? asks
another, in this case a two-page four-color spread, so the NT Res-Q
Bag must be a hot seller. And you'll want to make sure you own
Rescue Randy, the "Official Manikin of the Firefighter Combat
Challenge." Firefighter combat challenge -- are they shooting
at each other as they try to save the manikin? Check out Rescue
Randy and his pal Rescue Rudy at the website of Simulaids. TMQ notes the heaviest
Rescue Randy weighs 165 pounds -- apparently for training purposes,
fire departments don't take into account expanding national
waistlines. Surely some who live in cities where highways have
carpool-only lanes have been tempted to buy a Rescue Randy and seat
him as a simulated passenger, though the $995 pricetag may be a
The subscription price for six issues of Advanced Rescue
Technology is listed as $12.50, but when you order, $5.95 for
"shipping and handling" is added. So it's really a $18.45
subscription. Charging "shipping and handling" to make magazines
seem less expensive is a trend in marketing. For instance
Vogue currently offers 12 issues for $12, but another charges
another $4 to mail them. Presumably, you can save that $4 by driving
to Vogue's office each month and picking up your issue in
In Another Environmental Gesture, the Jets Will Recycle Game
The Jets continue to pursue a $1.4 billion proposal to build in
Manhattan the world's first self-powered environmentally friendly
stadium, complete with 25,000 solar collectors and 34 wind
turbines. On an exclusive basis, Tuesday Morning Quarterback
has learned that secret plans call for the wind turbines to run in
reverse whenever the visiting team has the ball, creating an
Now as everyone knows, for NFL purposes, New York is located in
New Jersey. Suppose the junior Jersey team succeeds in returning to
any of the five boroughs of New York. This would present TMQ a
problem: What to call the clubs yours truly currently designates
Jersey/A and Jersey/B? An obvious new nomenclature would be New
Jersey Giants and New York Jets. But I refuse to take the simple way
out! TMQ's marketing department is considering Hudson/West and
Hudson/East as the new cognomen. A reader expresses the dilemma in
TMQ would hate
Jets' move: Jersey/B no more,
just plain old
-- John Karp, Palo Alto, Calif.
On the Other Hand, If Gravity Is Malfunctioning, That's Good
News for Ted Washington
Joel Pliskin of Oakland, Calif., points out this Los Angeles Times story on a researcher
who has shown that the two Pioneer deep-space probes -- the only
artificial objects to have left our solar system -- have begun
moving in ways that are impossible if standard theories of physics
Is something wrong with gravity? Is some unknown force acting on
the probes? This seems another indicator of my own pet theory that
science has barely begun to grasp what's going on in the universe,
and that in centuries to come, people will chortle regarding what we
consider knowledge, in the same way we today chortle about those of
past centuries who thought the Earth was flat or the air was full of
phlogiston. (Conversation in the year 2105: "Can you believe that in
2005, people at Harvard actually thought the entire universe emerged
as an explosion of a point with no dimensions?")
Hats Off to Jim Irsay
The sports commentary world has not given sufficient due to the
fact that just before Christmas, the Colts signed a 30-year agreement to remain in Indianapolis.
A new stadium will be built with a mix of public and private
financing; the stadium will feature lots of club and box seats,
these being essential to modern NFL team financing because premium
seat revenue is the one major form of income that NFL teams do not
share amongst themselves. TMQ, who is anti-gambling, is not thrilled
that some of the public money for the project will come from
allowing slot machines in Indianapolis and taxing the proceeds; but
yours truly is impressed that the deal includes a provision that
6,000 seats at the new stadium be reserved for $25 tickets, so
average people can afford to attend a game. The Colts could have
high-tailed it to the glamour, sun and beach babes of Los Angeles:
Instead they showed loyalty to the small-state local fans of
Indiana. Loyalty -- I thought that went out of style!
Congratulations to the Colts for doing the right thing.
Running Items Department Disaster Play Law -- College
LSU leading Iowa 25-24 with nine seconds remaining, the Hawkeyes
pinned on their 44, receiver Warren Holloway ran a fly pattern from
the middle of a trips set. The LSU corner across from Holloway made
no attempt to cover him, or anyone, simply standing there like a
piece of topiary as Holloway went deep for a 56-yard touchdown pass
as time expired. As TMQ has been pointing out lately, "If you break
down a disaster play, you find one or more gentlemen standing around
doing absolutely nothing on the team that is struck by the
Got a comment or a deeply felt grievance? Register it at TMQNFL@yahoo.com. Include your
name and hometown, and I may quote from your email and cite your
name and hometown unless you instruct me otherwise.
A recent item noted a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., hotel on Excelsior
Avenue, and marveled at a street named after wood shavings. Adam
Martignetti of Newburyport, Mass., reports there is an expensive
restaurant in Boston named Excelsior, where the wacky food includes
Berkshire pork rack with maple-ginseng lacquer and
truffle-potato puree for $34. "A restaurant named after wood
chips," Martignetti joins me in marveling. But many readers,
including Alyssa Richard of Seekonk, Mass., explained that excelsior
means "ever upward" and is the state
motto of New York. She also points out that in one of the
Star Trek movies, Sulu commands the starcruiser
Excelsior: "Do you really think Sulu captained a ship named
after wood shavings?"
My computer spell checker got its revenge again last week when I
referred to the San Diego team as the Lighting Bolts. A reader notes
Lighting Bolts a team --
Fluorescent or halogen?
strikes once more.
-- David Hamilton, Arcata, Calif.
Regarding my complaint that neither of Week 16's marquee games,
San Diego at Indianapolis and New England at Jersey/B, were shown on
television in the nation's capital, Bob Chesteen of Belgrade,
Serbia, writes to advise Washington, D.C., residents to move to
Serbia. Both those games, he reports, aired live there. Last week's
related item about NFL Sunday Ticket prompted many, including Matt
Sampson, to ask what readers always ask -- if I can't get Sunday
Ticket, how can I see every play of every game? Let me offer the
two-word answer that is the only thing I ever say about this: Trade
To last week's eerie list of correct predictions of exact final
scores, Donna Valko of Mesa, Ariz., adds that the Arizona
Republic correctly predicted the final of Seahawks 24, Cardinals
21. How to explain so many correct final score predictions in the
same week? A starcruiser from "Kurt Warner's" homeworld must have
been in orbit above Earth and exhausting anti-muons, which, as
everyone knows, alter time-space causality. By the way, the alien
entity that was once "Kurt Warner" has pretty obviously jumped hosts
and is now "Ben Roethlisberger."
Last week, yours truly noted that Christmas trees, Santa Claus,
elves and the rest, while obviously associated with Christmas, are
not themselves religious symbols -- you don't find a lot of flying
reindeer in the Bible. Many readers, including Crista Morrow of San
Francisco, countered that Santa "is a modern - reinterpretation of
the Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas," who lived in Asia Minor in the
fourth century. TMQ proposed that Dec. 25 be renamed Spendmas and
"become exclusively a secular holiday that celebrates consumerism,
spending, presents and credit-card debt." Some other date would be
chosen to observe Jesus' birth, since Dec. 25 was picked arbitrarily
in the first place. Michael Swartwout of St. Louis suggests
religious Christmas could be Jan. 7, the feast of Epiphany, which
symbolizes the moment the celestial nature of the baby Jesus was
revealed to the three Magi, and is already the day on which the
Russian Orthodox Church observes Jesus' birth. The revelation to the
Magi occurs in the Gospel of Matthew, which presents one of the two,
mutually incompatible scripture birth accounts for Jesus. I have
always preferred the birth story in the Gospel of Luke, for it is
the account in which the heavenly host announces the Redeemer's
arrival to shepherds watching over their sheep. This is very
powerful: penniless shepherds camped in a field, not kings, are
asked to receive the divine child into history. Anyway, here's the
refined proposal. Dec. 25 becomes Spendmas, a totally secular
national holiday based on worship of Best Buy. Jan. 7 becomes
religious Christmas but is a regular day for offices and schools --
people would go to church on their own and expect no favors from
Lee Bienkowski of Jacksonville, Fla., notes that the animal in
the Jaguars' team logo has a blue tongue -- maybe from too many
last-second finishes this year. He haikuizes,
Jag with a blue tongue.
Gasping for breath -- Cyanic
-- Lee Bienkowski, Jacksonville, Fla.
Greg Johnson of Kansas City, Mo., reports he has begun to use
standard Tuesday Morning Quarterback strategy -- rarely blitz, run
on short-yardage downs, pass only on first down at the goal line,
don't punt in the Maroon Zone -- when playing EA Madden football.
His winning record has shot up, he says. In haiku,
with TMQ strategy
means fewer losses.
Greg Johnson, Kansas City, Mo.
Apropos my item on Julie, Amtrak's hated computer voice, José
Arana of Hollywood, Fla., says his local Pizza Hut inflicts on
callers Sally, a computer voice that takes delivery orders. "After
10 minutes of responding YES and NO, I nevertheless got the wrong
pizza," Arana reports. José, at least the wrong pizza arrived:
you're lucky Julie and Sally did not get together to ship your wrong
pizza to another city via train.
This Week's Challenge
Elizabeth Whitman of Bangor, Maine, writes to protest this
football announcer cliché, used after a quarterback throws an
interception: "He wishes that he had that one back." Whitman says,
"You think?" She suggests this Challenge -- name the worst announcer
cliché. Use the link at Reader Animadversion.
Darwinian forces exert selection pressure on the playoff teams.
Which ones will fall extinct?