Sports Nut

Newton and the Salary Cap

Every NFL team except the Houston Texans has spent the offseason complaining about being clobbered by the salary cap, and the only thing that’s stopped the Texans from complaining is that they don’t exist yet. Every coach and GM has lamented: We had to cut veterans; we couldn’t go after free agents; we were forced to let promising young players leave; we’ve got no depth. Tuesday Morning Quarterback begs to point out that it cannot be that everybody is hurt by the cap. If good players are leaving Team A, they must be arriving at Team B. Players are not spiraling down into black holes. (Note: draft choices of the Cincinnati Bengals excepted.) The cap can’t be diminishing everybody, and it certainly can’t be reducing the net amount of depth since the total number of worth-having players does not change.

Thus TMQ proclaims its Law of the Conservation of the Salary Cap: The sum of good and bad players in the league cannot equal any value other than zero. Though, certainly, players can be created and destroyed.

Under the Law of the Conservation of the Salary Cap, cap crashes at franchises that overspend have no macro effect on NFL quality since momentum (usually angular, though sometimes down-and-in) is merely transferred among franchises. Each quantum of talent cap-cut by the Vikings or Bills adds an identical aggregate to the valence level of some other team, leaving the league’s overall skills at a perfectly symmetrical null set value. The condition in which every coach complains that his team has been harmed by the salary cap—this is the current condition—is impossible and must be dismissed as erroneous data.

At the bottom of this column, TMQ offers his All Cap-Cut Team for the offseason. It’s quite a respectable squad, one that would stack up well against any club, including the defending champ Ravens. An amazing eight players on the All Cap-Cut Team made the Pro Bowl this year. TMQ thinks the NFL could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by putting the All Cap-Cut Team into play immediately as the Texans. This would have allowed realignment to begin now, avoided another of those tedious expansion drafts, and provided a direct empirical test of the Law of the Conservation of the Salary Cap. Sadly, the league front office just never thinks in terms of Newtonian physics.

Be this as it may, the hype, folly, and fumbles of the NFL will resume in but a few more cycles of the apparent motion of the sun through the sky. It’s about time! TMQ couldn’t have lasted another week. There’s been intense household pressure to take the kids to horizon-broadening cultural events or picturesque state parks and no “but I have a professional obligation to watch the games!” excuse.

Before the new season begins, here are the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Offseason Highlights:

Offseason Football-Like Substance Highlight No. 1: The March 17 XFL night game between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the Birmingham Bolts, shown nationally by NBC, achieved a 1.6 rating—making it the lowest-rated prime time broadcast in American television history.

Offseason Football-Like Substance Highlight No. 2: The New York Dragons of the Arena Football League defeated the Carolina Cobras by 99-68. In this game there were 22 touchdowns, four field goals, and a safety. Afterward, league officials said they planned to legalize the zone defense and call three-second violations on interior linemen.

Cartographic note: The Dragons are the only pro football club with the words “New York” in its name that actually plays in the Empire State, in this case on Long Island. The Arena League also has a swamp-based franchise, the New Jersey Gladiators. Why, pace the NFL, doesn’t this team claim to be the New York Gladiators?

Offseason Ivy League Highlight: Players from Yale were selected on consecutive picks during the NFL draft. This is definitely better than having three consecutive presidents with Yale diplomas!

Offseason Media Feat: Jon Dolezar of the joint CNN-Sports Illustrated Web site wrote a four-part series on the trade of Matt Hasselbeck from the Packers to the Seahawks. Dramatic tension: Green Bay and Seattle bickered over terms, and there were conflicting rumors. Kind of insider information that you can only get from in-depth reporting: Hasselbeck and his wife discussed the situation. Incredible fact! Hasselbeck’s father, also an NFL player, was once traded. Memorable quote: “Despite throwing only 29 passes in his three-year career, Matt Hasselbeck’s physical skills and knowledge of the West Coast offense give him a good chance to develop into one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.”

Offseason Patients’ Bill of Rights Highlight: Guard Mark Schlereth of Denver retired after 29 surgeries, including 15 on his left knee, in a 12-year career. He leaves as the NFL’s all-time career leader in signing medical releases and the first player ever to average more than one operation per year on the same body part. (Note: Statistic excludes attempts to adjust Jeff George’s head.) The Broncos’ HMO declared that in exchange for Schlereth agreeing to retire, all players will now receive free eyeglasses and prescription drugs.

Offseason Jennifer Lopez Highlight: On its Web site, the Los Angeles Times ran a gallery of photographs of celebs arriving for the Academy Awards. Lopez was the sole luminary awarded two images, the icons of which were helpfully labeled, “Jennifer Lopez/Front View” and “Jennifer Lopez/Rear View.” You’ll just have to guess which one TMQ clicked on first! Ominous sign of marital settling down: J. Lo’s Oscar dress was borderline tasteful.

Offseason Philanthropy Highlight: The league awarded Arizona, Cleveland, and San Diego bonus seventh-round draft selections for … being bad.

Offseason Presidential Highlight: The Ravens went to the White House and shook W.’s hand. Now that Bush has met with Ray Lewis, will he meet with Yasser Arafat?

Offseason Star Trek Highlight: After the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine serials expired with clunker finales, Voyager stumbled to the third straight letdown for the Roddenberry franchise. So many minutes were wasted on tedious exposition regarding the last-episode “surprise” plot twist guessed by every viewer in the first 30 seconds that when, at the closing moment, Voyager finally arrived above Earth after seven years of wandering and syndication, there was only enough time left for Janeway to say, “Hey look, it’s Earth!” Boom, series over.

In space, no one can hear you yawn.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback’s official scoreboard of the Voyager series:

  • 186 of the ship’s two shuttlecraft were destroyed. Every week a shuttlecraft crashed or blew up, and every following week, a gleaming new complement of shuttlecraft sat on the hanger deck. Apparently there was a button somewhere on Voyager that said: “Copy shuttlecraft? Yes/No.”
  • Twenty holodeck episodes, which was 20 too many. How is it that Voyager wielded such incredible energy that its holodeck system could spontaneously materialize mass—moving mass—and yet Janeway complained that she couldn’t make coffee because of shipwide power restrictions? Why, on several occasions, did we see holodeck figures talking amongst themselves whenno one was there, considering that holodeck figures are just computer simulacrums generated to interact with the crew? TMQ especially liked the episode in which the holodeck created an entire World War II French village, including church steeples and a multiple-story building. That is, the holodeck became larger than the space that enclosed it.
  • Least convincing kiss in television history. A holographic double of B’Elanna is loose on Voyager. Tom, her husband, gives her a full-face smooch and fails to realize she’s a computer image. What, the hologram was warm and had saliva in its mouth?
  • The warp engines, shields, and phasers failed in every episode while Harry constantly yelled, “Hull breach on deck eight!” Yet the following week, Voyager was always in perfect condition, although spare parts and Federation shipyards were 70,000 light years away.
  • There were 3,872 takeovers of the ship. Apparently when visitors board Federation vessels, they are handed a brochure that says, “Helpful Hints for Seizing Our Starships.” Aliens who took over Voyager knew exactly how to use its systems and exactly what codes to punch in to lock out the crew. At one point even The Doctor took over the ship. But The Doctor is a manifestation of the ship’s master computer, which was unable to stop him although it projects him! TMQ’s favorite takeover came when a Hirogen broke free of security, ran into the galley, ripped a panel off the wall next to Neelix’s wok, punched a couple of buttons really fast, and instantly had control of the ship. Not only did the Hirogen know exactly where to look for the secret panel and exactly what codes to use, apparently Voyager was designed so that the bridge is subservient to the kitchen.
  • Uncountable instances in which the past was altered via time travel at the end of an episode but at the beginning of the episode, which would have come after the alteration chronologically, the past had not been altered.

Meaningless Sports Quote Highlight: “We haven’t taken any snaps together, so we’ll build on that.” Arizona guard Pete Kendall on the fact that late into training camp, all five members of the team’s overpriced OL had yet to appear on the field simultaneously. We’ve done nothingso we’ll build on that? Of course, this kind of thinking is in keeping with Cardinals team policy.

Offseason Thesaurus Highlight: Len Pasquarelli of used the word “novitiate” in a football column. This was erudite, to say nothing of punctilious, except the word was employed as a synonym for sports rookie. In linguistic usage, the term “novitiate” is most associated with ancient Baal worship rituals. These rituals are the ones historians discreetly call “fertility rites”—live sex shows that, 2,500 years ago, rivaled in enthusiasm and creativity anything now available on adult pay-per-view. (Babes wishing to participate in re-enactments of novitiate initiation ceremonies are urged to contact TMQ immediately. Historical accuracy assured.)

Offseason Deion Highlights: After taking an $8 million bonus last summer from Owner/Dupe Dan Snyder of the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons, then playing poorly and being a negative locker-room influence during the team’s self-destruction, over the winter Deion Sanders announced he was offended because he had not been consulted before Snyder hired a new coach. Then Deion switched back to baseball. Later he quit baseball (the words “quit” and “Deion” have been occurring in the same sentence a lot in recent years) and averred he would “click my heels” if the Persons waived him so that he could sign with another NFL club and cash yet another bonus. Finally Deion agreed not to play in the NFL this year and gave back $500,000 of his bonus in return for Snyder’s waiving pursuit of a larger recovery.

My, that Owner/Dupe sure drives a hard bargain, since under the league’s Barry Sanders precedent, the Persons could have asked Deion to return as much as $6.8 million of the bonus. Not that anyone should care about Snyder being out a huge amount of money, but the failure to get more back from Deion means the Persons will be hit with a crippling multimillion-dollar penalty when 2002 arrives and the residual of Deion’s bonus crash-lands onto the salary cap.

Only good to come of all this: “Deion agreed not to play in the NFL this year.”

Offseason Football Physics Highlight: During the World Bowl broadcast, Fox announcer Brian Baldinger, a former NFL lineman and Duke graduate, upon observing a high-speed collision between two enormous ill-tempered gentlemen, attributed their resulting dazed looks to the principle, “Force equals mass times acceleration.” What, at Duke they make jocks go to class? Baldinger was correctly citing Newton’s Second Law of Motion, usually written as åF = ma. Inexplicably, Baldinger failed to add that

m1V1+m2V2+m3V3+ … = 0

Which law of motion is this? Readers are invited to reply via “The Fray,” slugging entries “Post-Baldinger Newtonian explication.” The most amusing entry may be quoted and might even earn the author one of the incredibly stylish new TMQ caps. (We promise nothing, and all decisions about entries will be made on a completely arbitrary basis.) Yes, TMQ caps finally exist! Just putting one on makes you an instant babe magnet/beefcake magnet/unconventional gender preference magnet. If submitting a reply for quotation, be sure to include your e-mail in the extremely unlikely event your submission is honored.

All Cap-Cut Team: The squad includes free agents their original teams could not retain for cap reasons and players who were cap-cut but later resigned with their original teams for less. Asterisk indicates made the 2001 Pro Bowl.

WR: Jerry Rice, Bobby Engram 

TE: Andrew Glover

OT: Todd Steussie, Leon Searcy

G: Jeff Hartings, Pete Kendall

C: Jeff Mitchell

QB: Elvis Grbac*

FB: Sam Gash

RB: Charlie Garner*

K: John Carney

KR: Michael Bates*

DE: Trace Armstrong*, Marcellus Wiley

DT: Ted Washington*, John Randle

OLB: Mark Fields*, Sam Rogers

MLB: Levon Kirkland

CB: Eric Davis, James Hasty

S: Rod Woodson*, Marcus Robinson

P: Dan Stryzinski

ST: Larry Izzo*

TMQ Season Premiere! Tuesday Morning Quarterback will officially resume with its regular-season première on Tuesday, Sept. 11. I’ll drop all these vanilla items and start using my true column game plan! Read the season première to find out:

  • Will fake kicks still equal victory?
  • Will the Ravens allow parole officers on their sideline?
  • Will budget cuts cripple the attack fleet from Kurt Warner’s homeworld?
  • Which half-clad mega-babe will TMQ obsess over? (J-Lo, you’re making a terrible mistake with that nuptial thing.)
  • Who is fated to commit the Single Worst Play of 2001?

Don’t miss the incredible season première of Tuesday Morning Quarterback!