Sports Nut

Jax Demands a Recount!

OK, fans, the score is Bush 2,910,299-Gore 2,909,911 in the third overtime. Ball on the Florida 1. Next recount wins. But wait, the coaches are challenging the referee’s call!

TMQ feels that if the country is going to establish a new national standard that we keep altering election results until they favor whoever’s in power, two other adjustments are in order: 1) The name “United States” be changed to “Romania,” and 2) don’t confine this exciting new definition of “result” to voting. Web sites failing to do brisk business should keep changing their numbers until they report 6.8 billion unique page views per day. People with weight troubles should keeping changing the scales until they report losing 25 pounds in five minutes, just like the ads promise! Businesses that have 0.000004 percent minorities in management positions should keep recounting until they report that their upper-tier demographics look exactly like the congregation at a Desmond Tutu sermon.

And when it comes to pro football, obviously Jacksonville should demand a recount. In the standings Jax is 3-7, meaning 3-8 since the most disastrous event in franchise history, the team’s 62-7 playoff victory last January. (Which, after a hand recount of scoring, actually was a 14,980-53 win, Palm Beach County officials announced at 3:47 this morning.) Yet Jax is the party in power by NFL standards—fresh off a championship game, widely hyped, openly favored by the league with two consecutive cotton-candy schedules. Jax at 3-7? That can’t be the will of the players. They must have been confused by an improper playbook! Jax should demand a recount until it is undefeated. And what a coincidence, the recount could be held in Florida.

How could Tuesday Morning Quarterback principles be applied to the ongoing presidential controversy? First, TMQ always advises to resist the urge to blitz. Therefore the Republicans should not have sued; down-and-distance was in their favor, but when they tried to force the issue, they got caught with their legal arguments single-covered and the federal judge going deep. Second, TMQ supports the fake kick: Gore’s fake concession may qualify. Third, TMQ would sternly warn both contenders: When you get to the goal line, don’t go pass-wacky. The next presidency will come down to whether the first team to come within a yard of victory sticks with a traditional power play or panics and tries some improbable heave-ho. The pressure will be on.

Elsewhere in the league, a Tuesday Morning Quarterback law of football, Fake Kick = Victory, was on display as never before. Five teams—Dallas, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay—ran trick field goals or onside kicks and won. (The Bucs’ onside was unsuccessful but set a tone.) Stunningly, a losing team also ran a successful trick kick, the Packers scoring six off a FG fake yet still succumbing to Tampa. The presence of fake kicks on both sides of that contest seems to have disturbed the natural football order.

There were also fake-kick-looking plays by two losing teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals. But the Bengals event was a botched snap, not a called fake, and Bad Snap ? Victory. On the bizarre Cardinals play, the holder spotted the ball, and the kicker inexplicably failed to swing his leg. Kicker and holder then stood there giving each other significant looks for an instant until both were slammed into by assorted enormous gentlemen. (An instant is all you get for significant looks these days.) TMQ can thus proclaim a corollary to the kicking laws: Inexplicable Failure To Swing Leg ? Victory.

Best Plays of the Day: Best No. 1. Trailing 10-7 against Atlanta with 5:20 to go and fourth and inches at the Falcons goal line, first-game Lions coach Gary Moeller sent in the field-goal unit. Fans groaned. Tie game; on the next series the Falcons turned it over, and Detroit kicked the winning figgie shortly afterward. A good call is anything you can walk away from.

Best No. 2. Facing fourth down at the Bengals 1, leading 10-6, the Cowboys also lined up for the field goal as fans also groaned. It’s a fake! Still kneeling, the holder handed the ball off to kicker Tim Seder, who ran up the middle for the touchdown. A very classy-looking play design and Skinny Guy Feat of the Week for the 180-pound Seder.

Best No. 3. Several clubs reaching the goal line were rewarded by following the purist dictum of power-run, play-fake, or roll-out, but no regular passes. Indianapolis, Miami, and Oakland scored with power running. Minnesota and Buffalo scored when QBs faked into the line, then bootlegged left. Tampa hit a touchdown pass with play-action from a jumbo set followed by a QB roll. San Francisco play-faked, and then the QB ran it in when the TE was covered. And teams that attempted regular passes from the goal line? See below.

Worst Plays of the Day: Worst No. 1. Trailing 28-7 with the ball on the Rams 40, 1:48 to play in the half, Jersey/A faced a fourth and inches do-or-die. The G-Men lined up in a wide-split, then shifted to a power formation, then sent a TE in motion back wide, then Ron Dayne ran for no gain. Rams ball. Gentlemen, this is not a dance contest; delete the choreography, please. (Maybe the call was, “American Ballet Theater left on two!”) Two possessions later the Giants reached third and goal at the Rams 1 and again ran for no gain, this time on a play that appeared to be called “stumble left.” The G-Men then settled for the field goal, effectively raising the white flag for their eventual defeat. It’s one thing to take a field goal in close when the kick ties the game, another when the kick leaves you 11 points behind the highest-scoring team in history.

Worst No. 2. At the Seahawks goal line with the game clock expired, trailing 28-21, a defensive foul awarded Jacksonville one last try. Did Jax use the power-run, play-action, or roll-out? No, the paper Jaguars ran a regular pass from a regular set, and it ended with two receivers colliding as the ball sailed over their heads. According to William Daley, however, the pass was complete for the touchdown.

Worst No. 3. Trailing Buffalo by 10 with 11:25 left in the fourth, Chicago faced third and two. The Bills sent in an outlandish “overstack” alignment of three DLs, five LBs, and three DBs, daring the Bears to throw. Chicago ran anyway and was stuffed; the Bears punted, and the game effectively was over.

Defense Budget Overrun of the Day: A B-2 stealth bomber flew above Adelphia Coliseum before the T’s-Ravens game.

Pavlovian Reaction of the Day: Tennessee lost for the first time ever at Adelphia, which opened a year and a half ago. As the final gun sounded, in a conditioned response, the crowd cheered.

Doomed To Repeat History: A week ago Jersey/B reached the Denver 2 in the closing minute, needing a touchdown to force overtime, and went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion—no attempt to run. On Sunday night the Jets reached the Colts 28 with 1:09 and a timeout and went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion—again no run. Ye gods. Redeeming virtue: The unused timeout can be donated to the Florida secretary of state.

Welder of the Week: NFLforHer, the women’s pro football Web destination (there seems to be rising female interest in football, which some Biblical scholars interpret as a sign of the apocalypse), featured Monique Beuk, who is both one of the Raiderettes and … a skilled union welder who repairs engine fan blades for United Airlines. TMQ expresses its admiration for Beuk’s career achievement. But speaking of admiration, Oakland’s Raiderettes, as purists know, consistently rank with Dallas and Miami cheerleaders for aesthetic appeal. Thus 95 percent of manly men and, if sociological trends are correct, more women than might admit it will be disappointed by the story’s distressingly tasteful photograph of Beuk cooking dinner with her mother rather than doing the calendar modeling, cheerleading, and aerobics repeatedly cited in the text. Look, nobody’s interested in the players for their minds, either.

Stats of the Day: Stat No. 1. At the Jersey/B 4-yard line, the Colts handed the ball to reserve FB Jim Finn for the first carry of his career. He fumbled.

Stat No. 2. The Eagles and Steelers combined to throw 86 passes for a net of 342 yards, or 3.9 yards per passing attempt.

Stat No. 3. In two games this season, the Saints sacked Panthers QB Steve Beurlein 14 times.

Stat No. 4. The Beaujolais nouveau release date this year was Nov. 11, and JAL air-freighted 500,000 bottles to Japan on the first day. The airline expects to fly 5 million bottles of nouveau to the home islands before Christmas, smashing last year’s record of 3.1 million. TMQ demands that those bottles be recounted!

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again: Numerous teams paid the price for blitzing. The Steelers blitzed when Philadelphia reached the Pittsburgh 44 in OT; the Eagles completed an easy circle pass to the RB whom the blitzing LB would have been covering, gaining 18 yards and position for the winning field goal. The Flaming Thumbtacks (see below) blitzed the Ravens when they had them down to fourth and two with 53 seconds left; the deep receiver was single-covered and drew a defensive pass interference flag in the end zone, setting up Baltimore’s winning touchdown. Earlier in that game, Tennessee blitzed the Ravens on third and 18, a down when the odds strongly favor the defense, and gave up a 46-yard touchdown pass to a man-covered WR. Contrapositive proves the rule: On the four straight Jets incompletions that won the game for Indianapolis, the Colts did not blitz. When the Raiders faced third and six from the Broncos 25, Denver did not blitz, and the result was an interception.

Great Moments in Management: Last week’s TMQ explained in detail how Cincinnati botched the Akili Smith/Jeff Blake business. Yesterday the Bengals announced they were benching Smith, who has supplanted Ryan Leaf as the lowest-rated passer in the league. Summary of the Bengals’ canny QB transactions: Rather than having the red-hot Blake and three No. 1 draft picks, Cincinnati now has a guy who doesn’t even start. Ye gods.

Zipper of the Week: The best sideline reporter this season has been Bonnie Bernstein of CBS, who achieves the sports-chick trifecta: She is knowledgeable, an accomplished jock, and quite a babe. That Bernstein is a jock herself creates rapport with players. Interviewing Tennessee safety Blaine Bishop as he came off the field at halftime on Sunday, Bernstein said with total ease, “I noticed you got popped in the groin pretty bad; how’s it feel now?” Bishop answered, though perhaps not in complete detail.

Bernstein’s bona fide is that she was an all-American gymnast. She maintains an impressively fit physique and has admitted that when interviewing players she sometimes wears short skirts in order to flash a little skin. But the skin Bernstein wants to flash is her knee, which has a “zipper”—the distinctive scar of reconstructive ACL surgery from her gymnast days. NFL players respect people with zippers. This establishes the kind of rapport that allows Bernstein both to do her job unusually well and to get late-breaking groin bulletins.

Harmonic Convergences of the Week: Harmonic No. 1. Two defensive players with the same last name, Joey Porter of Pittsburgh and Daryl Porter of Buffalo, returned fumbles for touchdowns in the same minute, at 3:49 EST.

Harmonic No. 2. A week ago, the Raiders’ first offensive play was a fake end-around with an RB following an FB lead-block for a huge gain. Last night against the Raiders, the Broncos called an identical play on their first possession, and Terrell Davis took it 11 yards for the touchdown.

Quote of the Week: CBS commentator Mark May, trying to compliment the surging 2-8 Chicago franchise: “The Bears are a team now that just eludes confidence.”

Haiku Corner: Here are staff and reader haiku:

Harvard versus Yale
Goes OT in Sunshine State
Sudden-death recount.
TMQ, 2000

So, Enhanced TV™
Explains the Miller koans?
How lame can you get.
Harris Collingwood

Early Tuesday morn,
Perhaps greatest catch ever.
TMQ ignores.

Whether the satirical ™ in the Collingwood verse should be pronounced determines if it is structurally a haiku; Tuesday Morning Quarterback will leave this for future scholars to debate.

The catch referred to by the reader screen-named DSJ was Antonio Freeman’s falling-down, off-the-back, off-the-helmet, off-the-foot, in-the-driving-rain grab to win the Week 10 Packers-Vikings overtime contest at nearly 1 a.m. EST. TMQ winced when this play began, for Green Bay faced third and four, and it’s a blitz! Minnesota sent six gentlemen, leaving Freeman single-covered deep and ensuring doom. But yes, the column should have lauded Freeman’s effort, which might have been the greatest catch in NFL history if not the greatest catch in the history of civilization.

Previous greatest catch in the history of civilization: Mark Antony catching his breath when Cleopatra and her 100 famously nubile handmaidens greeted him topless at Alexandria harbor in 37 BC. The Raiderettes of the ancient world! (Nubile handmaiden crowd estimate proved by The Associated Press.)

Keep submitting your verse to “The Fray,” titling entries “Football Haiku,” “Football Dirge,” and so on.

Tuvok, Raise Shields: Using the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomers at the University of Maryland last week discovered a gigantic cavity within an immense cloud of hot gases that enshroud the galaxy Cygnus A, about 700 million light-years from Earth. The gigantic cavity is shaped like a football. (To view Cygnus A, click here.) If this isn’t a clue to the location of Kurt Warner’s homeworld, what is? TMQ hopes the information has been passed on to the military.

Nickname Perfection Achieved: Nashville reader James Bagwell, a Titans fan, proposes that TMQ should really call his favorites the “Flaming Thumbtacks”—check the team logo closely at to see what he means.

Just Plain Doomed: Last night in that face-in-the-box feature for player presentations on Monday Night Football, Raiders DT Darrell Russell introduced himself as “defensive game-plan focus Darrell Russell.” The football gods note such things and are rarely amused; one boasts after games, not before. Russell is doomed, doomed!

Historical Perspective of the Week: The New Orleans six-game winning streak brings the franchise overall record to 195-310-5. This means that to reach .500 all-time as a franchise, the Saints need only go undefeated from now until December 2007.

Hidden Indicator of the Week: Through the last two weeks of NFL play, there have been 13 instances in which teams have had a chance to win or tie on the final play of regulation or overtime, and 10 times the attackers have succeed over the defenders. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider’s understanding of the sport. Unfortunately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has no idea what it means.

Running Items Department

Obscure College Score of the Week: Muhlenberg 45, Moravian 20. Bonus Obscure Score: Mount Union 60, Heidelberg 7. Harmonic Obscure Scores: Bethel of Kansas defeated Sterling 28-19 while Bethel of Minnesota was beating Augsburg 25-20.

Obscure College Stats: On Saturday, Charles Roberts of Sacramento State, a player no one has ever heard of, passed Tony Dorsett, Ricky Williams, and Ron Dayne to become the all-time NCAA Division One rushing leader with 6,553 career yards. Roberts is 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighs 171 pounds. The week before, Roberts’ Sacramento State defeated Cal State Northridge by the basketball-like score of 64-61. It was the highest-scoring Division One game ever with 125 combined points and 18 touchdowns, or a touchdown every 3.3 minutes.

Also on Saturday another player no one has ever heard of, R.J. Bowers of Grove City College, became the all-time NCAA all-divisions leader both in rushing, with 7,353 career yards, and in scoring, with 562 career points. Bowers is a 26-year-old former player in the Houston Astros farm system.

Here are the top five all-time NCAA rushers: Bowers, Brian Shay of Emporia State, Kavin Galliard of American International, Dayne of Wisconsin, Damian Beane of Shepherd College. Here are the top five all-time NCAA scorers: Bowers, Shay, Carey Bender of Coe College, Scott Pingel of Westminster of Missouri, Trevor Shannon of Wartburg. Nine of 10 record holders from small schools. Obscure colleges rule!

Most Embarrassing Dennis Miller Moment: Suspended out of respect for Theresa LePore, the Democratic elections supervisor who approved the Palm Beach County ballot. Though Miller’s infantile habit of giving everyone “-y” diminutives grows increasingly wearisome. Last night he repeatedly referred to Mike Shanahan as “Shanny,” which no one ever calls him. Maybe “-vich” or "-chen” would be tolerable, but "-y” is baby talk. Miller also calls Cornelius Bennett “Corny.” Bennett’s nickname is Biscuit: TMQ would not want to be the one who had to fill out the health insurance claim forms if Miller ever called Bennett “Corny” to his face.

Most Embarrassing Don Ohlmeyer Moment:MNF ratings have sunk to their lowest ever despite a run of fabulous games. Let’s see: Ohlmeyer and Dennis Miller arrive, games are fabulous, ratings decline. In this case, the square of one plus the cube root of 27 probably equals four.

New York TimesFinal-Score Score: Once again the Paper of Record goes 0-15 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-158 for the season. Times predicted: Jersey/A 24, St. Louis 21. Actual: Rams 38, Giants 24. Times predicted: Chiefs 38, Niners 30. Actual: Niners 21, Chiefs 7. Times predicted: Steelers 11, Eagles 6. Actual: Eagles 26, Steelers 23. Reader Brad Hammill’s attempt to predict a generic final score—Home Team 20, Visiting Team 14—also goes 0-15, bringing this item to 0-72 since inception.

Honored Guest Predictions: Today’s Honored Guest is the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which also engages in a quixotic attempt to predict exact final scores. This weekend the Times-Picayune went a perfect 0-15. But check one prediction: Broncos 27, Raiders 21. Actual: Broncos 27, Raiders 24. Awfully close, Times-Picayune, but not exact.

Readers whose hometown papers predict final scores are invited to alert TMQ. Send a message to The Fray titling it “Hometown Paper Predictions.” Realistically, it must be a paper that posts its predictions on the Web or that you, this selfsame reader, would volunteer to e-mail to TMQ.

Reader Animadversions: Many, many readers caught TMQ suggesting that the Rams might have tried highly dependable kicker Jeff Wilkins for the field goal rather than punting from the Panthers 35 in Week 10. As the many, many readers pointed out, this particular gentleman was on the inactive list for that game; past-his-prime Pete Stoyanovich was suited up. TMQ blames confusing roster cards designed by Democratic election officials for his error.

The reader screen-named DSJ protests both TMQ’s anti-blitzing bias and his item complaining that the Jets used only regular pass plays on their final series against the Broncos and registers his protest in haiku:

Sage counsel twists facts:

Not only did Vinny roll,

Denver also blitzed.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback is duly impressed by a haiku complaint! But DSJ, I’m going to twist out of this one slicker than Clinton twisted out of the Paula Jones deposition.

First, Vinny did roll out on the final, fateful play but only because a Denver rusher forced him to; the play was called as a dropback pass. Second, the Denver rusher was a blitzer, LB Glenn Cadrez. This was the only play on the four-down sequence on which Denver blitzed (one earlier play was a “dog,” but this is so common at the goal line it can’t count as a surprise), and this blitz did work in that it ended the game. But it depends on what the definition of “worked” is. Cadrez, the blitzer, would have been covering Jets RB Richie Anderson. Because Cadrez blitzed, Anderson was by his lonesome in the corner of the end zone, waving his arms for the ball. Cadrez caused a broken play on which Testaverde rolled right to escape the blitz, saw Anderson all alone a mere 10 yards away, and simply honked the pass, throwing it to his teammate’s feet. Had this relatively easy pass been on target, the blitz would have caused Jersey/B to score the tying touchdown.

TMQ Trivia Challenge: TMQ readers may adapt faster than Borg drones, but TMQ can adapt, too. Having figured out that certain types of trivia questions can be answered using Web sites and search engines, Tuesday Morning Quarterback worded one in a way that required such antiquated practices as thinking and looking at books. Here it was:

Among the rarest species in the NFL are players who hold all-time marks for more than one team. Last month Morten Andersen joined that elite group when he became the career-leading scorer for the Falcons; he was already career-leading scorer for the Saints, who dumped him as washed-up 582 points ago. Two running backs hold the all-time single-season yardage records for two different clubs. Name these gentlemen.

Many, many incorrect answers came in—meaning readers were reduced to using their noggins rather than Web searching. TMQ found this gratifying. Many readers suggested Marcus Allen, John Riggins, and George Rogers, backs who chewed up lots of turf for two different teams, but none among them double team-record holders. On a completely arbitrary basis, this Trivia Challenge goes to reader Steve Place, who correctly answered Eric Dickerson (Rams and Colts) and Curtis Martin (P-Men and Jersey/B). Place even had the presence of mind to use TMQ terminology in his reply.

Once again a tip of TMQ’s maybe-it-will-exist cap goes to über-trivia-meister Mark Longbrake, who answered correctly in haiku:

Eric Dickerson

Curtis Martin hold records

For multiple teams

The über-trivia-meister also points out that of the 31 team single-season rushing records, only three were set prior to 1977. A phenomenon of increasing the season to 16 games, surely.

Which inspires TMQ to compose another page-flipping-required Trivia Challenge based on historical changes in NFL format. Here is this week’s question:

Everyone knows pro football at one time did not allow the forward pass. (At least, everyone with priorities in order knows this.) Of the following, identify any inaccurate statement about pro football days of yore:

Grabbing the facemask was legal.

A field goal was worth five points.

A field goal was worth four points.

Balls deflected off the officials remained in play, leading to the famed “zebra bounce” trick play immortalized by the Massillon Tigers.

For night games, the ball was white with black stripes.

There was a team called the Pottsville Maroons.

There was a team called the Kenosha Steam Roller.

Submit your answers via The Fray slugging replies “Trivia Answer.” And remember to include your e-mail address in the extremely remote chance that you win. Note: Trivia Challenge finishes are never recounted. All decisions are completely arbitrary, just like in Florida.