Sports Nut

Oh Darling, Your Eyes Are Like Limpid Logos


The NFL just fined Denver guard Dan Neil $53,000 for using illegal blocks, two weeks after fining teammate Matt Lepsis $15,000 for the same offense: Neil and Lepsis each broke an opponent’s leg while cheating. People wonder why Denver has such an effective running game despite low-draft-choice RBs and undersized OLs. One reason is the Broncos’ single-cut rule for RBs, described in a previous TMQ, which bans “look-Ma-I’m-dancing” running; this rule works so well it is a small mystery all other teams do not adopt it. But equally important is that Denver offensive linemen are coached to try to injure opponents, by diving at their knees and backs of their legs. As a result, defenders must endeavor to protect their knees and legs, which prevents them from focusing on stopping the runner.

Broncs coach Mike Shanahan protests that the league has reviewed Denver tapes and found only a few illegal hits. But this is because defenders are not standing like statues waiting to be harmed the way bad guys do in Chuck Norris movies; defenders are trying to evade efforts to hurt them. (Kung fu flicks and TV kick-boxing scenes would not be possible if the actors “fighting” did not elaborately cooperate with each other, including by leaving themselves open for blows, hurling themselves backward when hit, and so on.) Because defenders are defending themselves, Denver OLs rarely succeed in deliberate injury moves. But by forcing defenders to protect their legs and knees, Bronco blockers do succeed in making the opposition front seven less effective. TMQ hopes the league crackdown continues. Johnnie Cochran to the Broncos: If you cheat on the line, you must pay the fine.

Here is what it would sound like if Cochran were hired to defend the Broncos linemen:

MARCIA CLARK: The state would like to introduce game film of guard Dan Neil …

COCHRAN: Whoa now! How was that film obtained?

CLARK: (Puzzled.) From ESPN.

COCHRAN: Did my client grant permission to be filmed? Did you have a warrant to film him?

CLARK: The game was played before 82,000 people!

COCHRAN: That’s what you say. His privacy rights have been violated! The game film is tainted evidence and must be suppressed.

CLARK: Your Honor, the linesman threw a flag …

COCHRAN: All we know for sure is that a flag was found at the scene of the penalty. The official could have picked up a flag elsewhere and moved it! And how do you know that is my client in the game film?

CLARK: The state enters into evidence a game program listing player No. 62 as Dan Neil.

COCHRAN: Can you prove that was Dan Neil wearing No. 62? Mr. Neil, put on Denver jersey No. 62. Does it fit?

NEIL: (Struggles with jersey.) Too loose.

CLARK: He’s not wearing pads!

COCHRAN: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if the jersey is too XL, then the prosecution must go to hell.

CLARK: (Desperate.) But your Honor, on the game tape, you can hear Dan Neil yell at the injured player, “Take that, f*****.”

COCHRAN: Whoa now! Are you saying there is such a thing as a white man’s voice?

In other NFL news, Coopervision, a maker of specialty eye wear, has begun selling contact lenses that surround the pupil with the symbols of NFL clubs. Wearing the lens makes the eye appear to be a team emblem. Logo lenses are being marketed first in Bills, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Titans, and Vikings colors. Note that this means a big company’s marketing department believes these teams have a significant number of fans of who have taken leave of their senses.

Worst Play Ever After Midnight: At 12:43 a.m. ET this morning, Tennessee needed 1 foot to win on the game’s final snap at the goal line. Did the Flaming Thumbtacks follow TMQ’s immutable law of the goal line, choosing from among the three plays that work? (Power run, play-fake, or roll-out.) No, it was a quarterback sneak: The same play Tennessee called at the goal line in the closing seconds a week ago against Jax, so it’s not exactly as if Baltimore had not seen this on film. And the Titans ran the sneak from a four-wide set—meaning with the game and their collapsing season on the line, five Titans stood around watching and doing nothing while Steve McNair threw himself into the pile. (Doing nothing were the four wideouts plus Eddie George, who inexplicably stood watching rather than run-fake or at least throw himself into the pile, too.)

Four-wide with a foot to go! Can’t anybody call a power run anymore? A spread formation leading to a QB sneak can work at the goal line ifit causes the defense to spread, too, leaving five OLs pushing four defenders. But at 12:43 a.m., the Ravens did not spread. Seven purple gentlemen lined up in the “box” directly across from McNair, leaving five Tennessee linemen pushing seven defenders, and the fiasco ensued. Apparently the play had no “automatic” (mandatory audible) to a roll-out if the defense did not spread. And Tennessee can’t claim it had no time to ponder what play to call since action was stopped almost 10 minutes while zebras sorted out the confusing ruling on the previous snap, also a QB sneak.

Ye gods.

Best Plays of the Week. Best CLEAN-Blocking Special: As Marshall Faulk turned upfield for his 71-yard TD run, fourof Carolina’s front seven were lying on the ground. The Rams line simply “blocked down,” slanting to the direction of the run, with a short pull by frostback guard Tom Nutten, who sealed the corner. (TMQ was not aware that Canadians were allowed to be 6 feet 5 inches tall, 304 pounds.) Sportscasters extolled Faulk’s scamper, but blocking was the greatness of this run.

Best CLEAN Blocks No. 2: Fourth and inches on the Kansas City 25, seconds left in the half, the Jets handed off to Curtis Martin, who ran for six. As Martin hit the hole, all sevenof the Chiefs’ front seven were sealed at the line by the Jets OL, which simply blocked down with a short pull by guard Kerry Jenkins. Sportscasters extolled Martin’s scamper, but blocking was the greatness of this run.

Best CLEAN Blocks No. 3: As Travis Minor of the Marine Mammals turned the corner for his 56-yard TD run, fourHorsies defenders were on the ground. The Miami line simply blocked down, with a short pull by guard Todd Wade. Sportscasters extolled Minor’s scamper, but blocking was the greatness of this run.

Best Officiating: Cleveland’s safety was correctly called in a situation which zebras often get wrong. Jerome Bettis was hit in the end zone; his knee touched; he lunged and stretched the ball across the line. Safety, because the knee was down. Officials often look only at the ball and spot it at the 1. But the rule for getting out of the end zone is the same as the rule for getting in—progress ends when the knee touches. Lost in the tale of Buffalo’s Super Bowl woe was a second-quarter play of the Bills-Washington matchup in which Earnest Byner was tackled in the end zone, went to a knee, then lunged across the line; officials spotted it at the 1, rather than giving Buffalo points and the ball at a time when the game was close. It’s easy to make the safety call correctly by imagining the runner is trying to get into the end zone, not out. Had Bettis or Byner been trying to score, it would be obvious they were stopped short.  

Best Because the Officials Didn’t Notice: Leading New Orleans by a point with three minutes remaining, San Francisco faced third and long. Rookie TE Eric Johnson from Yale ran a short cross with Terrell Owens. As his teammate cut under, Johnson elbowed Owens’ defender to knock him off stride without drawing the pick-play flag. Owen caught for the first down, and the Niners ran out the clock. They teach that sort of thing at Yale?

Worst Plays of the Week. Worst Sideways: Repeatedly on third downs against the Packers, the Bears ran sideways: Receiver hitches, a wide pitch for loss of 6 on third and two, end-around for loss of 4 on third and one.

Worst Pass-Wacky: Trailing the Browns (Release 2.1) by three at the end of the third, Pittsburgh reached first and goal at the Cleveland 2. Did the Steelers—the No. 1 NFL team in rushing—pound, pound, pound the ball? It’s a pass! Kordell Stewart scrambles, fumbles; Browns recover.

Worst Defensive: Bears 6, Packers 3 with Bay of Green on the Chicago 41 and 55 seconds in the half. The Bears rushed three, Green Bay sent out three, meaning eight defenders covering three receivers. Packers WR Bill Schroeder sprinted down the field unmolested for a touchdown catch, numerous Chicago DBs having a clear, unobstructed view of the back of his jersey.

Plug of the Week: Segue to the incredibly cleverly titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback, now in stores, or you can buy it here. The book is new stuff you haven’t seen, not a collection of past columns, and contains this haiku:

My opponent’s back.

Clear view of his name, number:

The DB’s nightmare.

—TMQ, 2001

Stats of the Week: Playing only the first half, Marshall Faulk outgained the entire Panthers team: Faulk 183 yards, Carolina 146 yards. Playing only the second half, Faulk’s backup Trung Canidate matched the entire Panthers team: Canidate 146 yards, Carolina 146 yards.

Stat No. 2: Antowain Smith, cut by Buffalo in June, ran for 100 yards against the Bills and scored a last-minute touchdown. It was the second time in three weeks Buffalo lost on a last-minute touchdown by a player the Bills recently released. (Doug Flutie, Smith.)

Stat No. 3: The Bears, who play division rival Tampa this Sunday, have gone 18 straight quarters (4.5 games) without a touchdown against the Bucs defense.

Cheerleader of the Week: After the Dolphin, Bronco, and Dallas squads, TMQ rates the Raiderettes next in aesthetic appeal—must be the proximity of California beaches. Check out Raider babe Michelle Parmley, whose bio notes, “A terrific all-around athlete, she was named Most Valuable Player in a touch football game last fall.” Raider babe Jenny Barnes “works as a nanny.” Hmmm, TMQ has young kids, and we’ve been looking for some help around the house; Jenny’s duties would have to be very carefully defined. Raiderette Wendy Barman “is a free lance writer,” possibly the only one in America who has not contributed to Slate, and a fitness buff who runs the Boston Marathon. Read elaborate detail about her workout, including her philosophy of bench-presses and lat pull-downs. But if you can clink on just one link this week, TMQ urges you to click on her cheesecake photo.

This press release  describes the rigorous selection process by which Raiderette swimsuit calendar photos were vetted. TMQ feels moved to quote:

Raiders executive assistant Al LoCasale said, “We started out with 2,500 slides trying to pick out the most beautiful shots. We got it down to somewhere in the mid-80’s. I let the pictures talk to me.”

His Job: Study Beer: A researcher at England’s Leeds University has produced a study showing men might feel “unfulfilled” if they do not make frequent trips to the pub. “Dr. Colin Gill said rather than complain, women should encourage men to pop out for a swift half,” noted a Reuters dispatch.  

He Could Just Mouth “Hi Mom”: Is it me, or does the Campbell’s commercial make Donovan McNabb’s mom seem like an incredible jerk? He’s filming a razor endorsement; she breaks in to extol Campbell’s soup. When the director objects that they have work to do, she sprays the guy with shaving cream, then stands over him laughing. McNabb’s “mom” in this ad is an actress, as is Kurt Warner’s “mom.” TMQ wonders if their real moms signed off on having themselves depicted as rude idiots.

Anthony Presta of Hamilton, Ontario—frostbacks infiltrate TMQ!—offers this cautionary haiku regarding the link between Campbell’s and injury:

Eagles’ McNabb risks

curse of the Chunky Soup ad.

(See: Davis, Warner.)

His Head Is Expendable Anyway: Last season the Buffalo running game faltered while Ravens rushing improved after the Bills cap-cut lead blocker Sam Gash, and Gash signed with Baltimore. This season the Tennessee running game has faltered after the Thumbtacks cap-cut lead blocker Lorenzo Neal, who signed with Cincinnati.

General managers show little appreciation for anonymous fullbacks who lead RBs into holes, but statistics reflect this shocking premise—it’s better to run behind blocking. Why has Eddie George gone downhill, and why at 12:43 a.m. did Tennessee call the fiasco sneak rather than a George power run? One reason is no experienced lead blocker. Neal hurls himself into holes with such abandon that already this year he has broken two helmets and needs the Bengal stripes on his helmet repainted after every game.

Reader Haiku: Submit via the “Fray.” The second verse refers to the modest draft status of Patriots battery Tom Brady-to-Troy Brown. Several haiku concern the Kyle Turley meltdown in the Saints-Jets game, which can be semidefended on the grounds that he was protecting his quarterback, Aaron Brooks. One haiku features the recent dual senior’s moment by Pat Summerall and John Madden, who yak-yak-yakked oblivious to a touchdown being scored. The penultimate concerns four consecutive double-X-chromosome TMQ cap winners.

The Patriots win!

Brady does what Bledsoe can’t,

for a lot less dough.

—Adam Conner-Sax
While stars are injured,

round six passes to round eight:

One more Pats TD.

—Aaron Schatz
Marching in to score?

No! Gentleman blows gasket.

Helmet flies, Saints lose.

Turley’s tantrum tops:

averts Aaron’s autopsy,

fierceness for friend’s foe.

Craig Stark Turleyburly and

surly. Hair somewhat girly.

Look! Helmet hurly!

Brit Baker ’Girls promote young Leaf.

With management skills like that,

Jones should start dot-com.

—Marc Wilson
Redskins win three games.

Schottenheimer is still coach;

I fear four and 12.

Adam Magazine Bengals fan clings to

hope of .500 season,

helped by Week 8 bye.

“KamaSue” Madden missed TD;

Summerall needs glasses, too.

Pat, John—retire please!

—Steve Wolfram
Bills and special teams:

a lethal combination.

Tasker—where are you?

—Leah Archibald
TMQ’s married?

So why does he send all those

stylish caps to chicks?

Clever TMQ

limits verbose submissions

by pushing haiku.


Haiku of the Week: Chris Lepley, a double-X from Ann Arbor, Mich., reports, “I took a random poll of other women in my football-watching vicinity, and they, like me, agreed upon a salient point,” which she summarizes in haiku:

Athletes in tight pants,

bent over in a long line.

Keep your cheerleaders.

So the chicks are gawking. TMQ knew it all along! Official TMQ brother Neil, a professor at Texas Christian University (whose  Horned Frog page  points out that “when frightened, horned frogs can squirt a four-foot stream of blood from their eyes”), often during NFL games, as the camera shows a close-up of the center’s butt before the snap, intones in a faux-announcer voice, “And now, for the ladies in the audience. …” Chris Lepley’s admission that the chicks aregawking will be used by TMQ to rationalize more obsessing over the aesthetic qualities of cheerleaders.

Fashion note: Between the Horned Frogs’ upswing and the Ravens’ Super Bowl, suddenly purple uniforms are chic. Thousands of high-school players breathe sighs of relief.

Local Affiliate Outrage: The flip side of the laser-target-designator-like ability of CBS and Fox affiliates to skip top matchups and instead broadcast woofer games between cellar-dwellers is the “switch away” issue. If the scheduled telecast becomes a blowout while another game is hot, affiliates can switch. You’d think they would have a ratings incentive to do so, to prevent viewers from turning off the blowout to go rake the leaves.

Not in our nation’s capital, where TMQ lives. While most of the country saw the highly attractive Saints-Niners matchup, Washington’s Fox affiliate chose woofer Vikings at Philadelphia. It was Eagles 48, Vikings 10 in the fourth while the Saints-Niners game became a barn-burner, yet Fox affiliate WTTG did not switch away. Pans of the stands showed that thousands of the paying home fans had already gone home, but the nation’s capital kept seeing this snore-fest until mere seconds reminded, Fox shifting to the Saints-Niners game only as the Niners began kneeling on the ball.

Has your local affiliate failed to switch from a (non-home-team) blowout to a great game? Let TMQ know via the Fray, providing specifics.

Buffalo OL Cantos: Reader Michael Kovaka goes haiku one further by offering the below stanza on the recent Bills-Horsies contest, in which Buffalo started frightening waiver-wire gentlemen Jon Carman, Corey Hulsey, and Marques Sullivan at OL. At least it may be said these gents know their manners: Whenever an Indianapolis pass rusher approached, Carman, Hulsey, and Sullivan politely stepped aside. For one afternoon, the Horsies’ bottom-quartile front seven got to feel like the 1985 Bears. And it’s true that Rob Johnson gets sacked a lot, but you’d get sacked, too, if rushers were arriving in the backfield with the snap.

Kovaka offers his verse with apologies to early-century poet and humorist Franklin Pierce Adams, author of one of the best-titled books of all time, the 1911 Tobogganing on Parnassus.

These are the saddest of possible words:

Marques and Corey and Jon.

Nimble as lawn jockeys, savvy as blurs,

Marques and Corey and Jon.
Bought with the leavings from John Butler’s purse,

Turning each D-lineman into Jevon Kearse,

Pall-bearers attending on Rob Johnson’s hearse:

Marques and Corey and Jon.

Hidden Indicator: Of Sunday’s 14 winning teams, nine had backs (Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Ahman Green, Curtis Martin, Travis Minor, Antowain Smith, and Duce Staley) who personally outrushed the entire other team. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider’s understanding of the game, and in this case everybody knows what it means. 

Running Items Department

ObscureCollege Score of the Week: Gustavus Adolphus 51, Saint Olaf 21. Adolphus, a Lutheran school in Saint Peter, Minn., is an ultra-serious liberal arts institution whose info page announces “two conferences held on campus annually promoting peace and justice.” The conferences promoting war and suffering just didn’t draw.

Bonus Obscure Score: Millersville 30, Indiana of Pennsylvania 26. Still mentally celebrating its shutout of California of Pennsylvania in last week’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year, Indy of Pa. honked its undefeated season to Millersville. The latter, located near Harrisburg, Pa., is home to the Loeb Costume Collection, which offers for rent more than 12,000 used theatrical costumes from Broadway to “flowers, fruits and vegetables.” Millersville is currently promoting tolerance of Arab-Americans, and its briefing paper on same lists as a prominent Arab-American … Doug Flutie. Recently Flutie told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he is at most 1/32nd Arab; the majority of his ancestors were Irish.

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Central Washington 42, Simon Fraser 0. British Columbia’s Simon Fraser numbers among the few frostback schools that take on U.S. colleges in football. Owing to snow, the school posts a regular update of road conditions.

New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again the Paper of Guesses goes 0-15 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-128 this season and 0-388 since TMQ began tracking.

Check out the incredibly scientifically advanced generic predictions of MIT student Bob Mellen, who likes Home Team 24, Visiting Team 17—though that hasn’t happened this season either.

Reader Animadversion: Many readers have written to note that a TMQ immutable law, Fake Kick = Victory, has been violated. The ‘Girls and Saints both executed successful fake kicks and lost.

I was hoping people wouldn’t notice this, but now must wriggle out somehow. Explanation: Unknown forces are tampering with the laws of physics. Don’t take my word for it. A recent study published in Physical Review Letters, described here, suggests that one of the best-established values of physics—”alpha,” a mathematical relationship linking the charge of electrons, speed of light, and Planck’s constant—appears to have been slightly different in the ancient universe. Hmmm. Is some mysterious force tinkering with “alpha” today? If you wore a pair of the special glasses that allow you to see the cloaked starcruiser hovering over the stadium, all this would be clear to you.

On TMQ’s contention that no NFL team in the “modern era” had run an actual double reverse, several readers pointed out there was an actual double reverse in Super Bowl XII, Dallas versus Denver in 1978. (The play resulted in a fumble.) See the Sporting News archive here. How to wiggle out of this? I could dispute the definition of “modern.” No, wait, entire university departments already exist to do that. OK, so there was one. Readers are invited to submit archival documentation of others.

On the point that the numerous bottomless pits in the Star Wars movies lacked guard rails, reader MarkD notes that the Skywalker galaxy was, after all, under the control of an evil Empire that did not respect workplace safety! Official TMQ brother Frank counters that since only bad guys—Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine—end up being thrown into the bottomless pits, their purpose is to trap bad guys, and therefore safety railings would be counterproductive. If so, what Afghanistan needs is a good bottomless pit.

Reader Fletch suggests that, since some object to calling the Dallas team the ‘Girls (in saying that we certainly do not mean to insult girls!), TMQ try instead the Dallas Bovine-Americans.

Reader Brian Stokes notes that the on-campus golf course at Emory & Henry is referred to by the college’s Web site as a “nine hold” course. Stokes asks, “Did they fire the English department to pay for it?”

Reader Joe Angelelli reports he has met Angelo Armenti Jr., president of California of Pennsylvania, and “he’s a good guy.” But TMQ continues to think that since Armenti authored the mad scheme to change Cal. of Pa.’s name to make it sound more like a prestigous university, Armenti should change his own name to “R. Gresham Hollingsworth III” to make himself sound more like a prestigous president.

Reader “Foobarski” reveals, from close textual analysis of the babe pictures at the Broncos’ cheerleaders site, that seven appear to have pierced navels. He finds this a sociological indicator of “the ‘alterna-babe’ quotient among NFL cheerleaders.” TMQ finds it an excuse to stare at the pictures—though they’ve never talked to me.

Several readers report that Bossier City, home of the Battle Wings of Arena 2 football, is in Louisiana. At the civic Web site, Mayor George Dement describes Bossier City as blessed with “easy access by major highways.” Reader “Currus” explains that the mystery name Battle Wings derives from nearby Barksdale Air Force base.

Finally, reader Murray reports the heartening news that for a second straight week, Boston Public opened with a totally gratuitous cheesecake scene of former Star Trek Voyager mega-babe Jeri Ryan. This time, for no plot reason, Ryan was featured flouncing in nothing but an unbuttoned man’s shirt. Despite the handy sci-fi facet that one can posit future attitudes about nudity will be uninhibited, Ryan was on Voyager for five years and never disrobed. No wonder the show was canceled.

Last Week’s Challenge … was to find an embedded Bard quote and embedded book titles.

Scott Schiefelbein supposed the phrase “sal-cap deletions” is found in King Lear, where Lear laments,

Oh, to gaze upon my dwindled legions

Brought well nigh by sal-cap deletions!

Many readers caught that “men are April when they woo and maids are May when they are maids” is spoken by Rosalind in As You Like It. Ed DeJesus noted that TMQ’s trademark “Ye gods!” is spoken by Caesar in Julius Caesar. (Act III, Scene 4, when Caesar watches game film of the Titans’ final play.) Reader Stephen suggested that “Erect a Guard Rail Around Your Bottomless Pit” could be the title of the Philip K. Dick story, while Bonnie Bernstein’s comment, “I noticed you got popped in the groin pretty bad,”would make a fine title for a Raymond Carver collection: I Noticed You Got Popped in the Groin Pretty Bad,by Raymond Carver, ISBN 0865 890234.

Several readers caught the reference to Kyle Turley as The Illustrated Man, title of the Ray Bradbury book in which tattoos come to life. One even got the pub date into haiku:

Illustrated Man,

Bradbury 1951.

Tattoos tell the tale.


No reader caught the single-word book title—Hyperion, part of a recent sci-fi epic hinged on time-travel paradoxes that make absolutely no sense—and only one caught the reference to games being played under “Friday night lights,” Friday Night Lights being the excellent book about Texas high-school football by H.G. Bissinger. The reader who made this catch vented, in haiku, the standard Texas objection to the book: that it frets about such silliness as whether schools should emphasize academics over football!

HGB views game,

worries ‘bout priorities.

It’s a Texas thing.

—”LFA Kevin”

On a completely arbitrary basis, the stylish TMQ cap goes to John Bush of Blacksburg, Va.

This Week’s Challenge: Tuesday Morning Quarterback called Kyle Turley’s surly-hurly meltdown the “lowest IQ play in NFL history.” Reader “Captain Ron Voyage” countered that the lowest IQ play occurred in the famed Dolphins-Dallas Thanksgiving game of 1993. The ‘Boys (then actually ‘Boys) blocked the Marine Mammals’ last-second field goal attempt and needed only to watch till the rock rolled to a stop. But Dallas tackle Leon Lett chased the ball 20 yards downfield and touched it, allowing Miami to recover, kick again, and win—though Lett was surrounded by teammates shouting to him the highly encrypted secret-code message, “DON’T TOUCH THE BALL!!!!”

What would you nominate as the lowest IQ play in NFL history? Submit via the Fray, and include your e-mail address in the remote event your submission is chosen.