Sports Nut

Act Them Out!

New NFL guidelines call for the referee, the alpha zebra who announces penalties, to explain why flags are thrown. When public-address microphones for officials were introduced in 1975, some did this informally, referee Ben Dreith once memorably announcing, “Personal foul—he was givin’ him the business down there.” Later, refs throttled back to bland legalistic descriptions that sounded as if they were written by the league general counsel’s office. The new explanation policy is an improvement.

But why just describe the infraction—why not act it out?

If it’s chop block, one official should turn his back while another hurls himself into his knees. If it’s roughing the passer, one zebra should stand still while another clobbers him. Pass interference? One shoves the other. Intentional grounding? One chases the other around the field like crazy. Late hit, holding, illegal touching—if they really saw the infractions they are calling, prove it by acting out the foul. Exception: For humanitarian reasons, “givin’ him the business down there” would not be acted out.

Football, after all, is about entertainment. The officials just got a huge raise. They should become entertainers, too.

While we’re at it, why not add a few new categories of penalties:

  • I felt that was a bit predictable. Ten yards for running a play everyone knew was coming, unless the play works.
  • Going pass-wacky. Five yards and loss of down for passing with only a yard to go.
  • Insufferable conduct. Opponent awarded ball whenever man on way to scoring begins celebrating before reaching end zone.
  • Excessive rodomontade. Fifteen-yard walk-off for a tackler who jumps up and wildly celebrates when his team is way behind or a receiver who theatrically makes the first-down gesture every time he catches the ball.
  • Finger-pointing. Automatic ejection for any player visibly blaming a teammate for a bad play, such as a cornerback pointing at the safety after a blown coverage.
  • Stat-padding. Ten yards for improving your stats to the detriment of the team, for instance, the punter who booms one through the end zone to enhance his kick yardage but allows the opponent to start from the 20.
  • Stack-blowing. Fifteen yards for the coach who screams, “WHAT? WHAT?” and gestures madly when the call is obviously correct.

In other NFL news, is it me, or do the Vikings only play well in weeks when they have been relentlessly ridiculed by the media? Maybe the reason Minnesota honked last January’s NFC championship game is that the sports press spent the prior week praising the team. If the Vikings are to bounce back, they’ve got to start urging sportswriters to attack them. Maybe they should hire someone to plant bad press. They could get the woman who used to be spokeswoman for Gary Condit!

Best of the Week. Best Drawn-Out Drive: Trailing the woeful Lions 12-7 at home with the sun setting on the stadium and on their playoff hopes, the Bucs drove 80 yards in 15 plays, all passes, for the last-second winning score. During the possession, they overcame fourth and eight, fourth and five, and third and 20. Tampa players must have motivated themselves by mentally reading what the next day’s headlines would have said had they hooted to the league’s only winless club.

Best College Play No. 1: New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks faked up the middle, then jogged left as if for a veer-option run, then flipped to RB Deuce McAllister as if making the option pitch; McAllister lofted a touchdown pass. The entire play appeared to happen in slo-mo, as if a Saturday no-pads walk-through.

Best College Play No. 2: Scored tied in the fourth, Dallas faced third and 11 on the Giants’$2 14. Erratic quasi-quarterback Quincy Carter faked a pitch right, and the left side of the line pulled right. Carter then ran left sans blocking, this naked scamper working so well he got 5 yards downfield before any New York/A defender noticed him. Dallas converted and scored the winning points on the next snap.

Best High-School Play: There’s no God-given reason why the OLs must line up together, and at the high-school level, one sometimes sees funky formations—center on one side of the field, guards and tackles on the other, etc. Attempts to use such cunning at the college and pro levels always come to woe, suggesting perhaps there is a God-given reason the offensive line should stay together.

But last night against the Horsies, the Marine Mammals pulled off a high-school play. Leading 14-0 late in the second, in a field-goal situation they lined up with center, kicker, and holder on the left, other OLs and RB Lamar Smith far to the right. The ball was flipped to Smith, who ran for the first; Miami scored a touchdown a few plays later, and the rout was on. Indianapolis defenders had no idea what was happening—and also seemed to have no idea that when you don’t know what is happening, you form your arms into a T and yell, “Timeout!”

Best Tactic: Philadelphia, which depends on the rushing of Duce Staley, repeatedly lined him up as a wide receiver against San Diego. Usually RBs lined up as WRs are decoys. The Bolts certainly thought so, allowing Staley to catch five passes for 88 yards and to run a classic flanker fade route for a touchdown.

Best Play Invisible in Stats: Defensive stars often boast about being triple-teamed; actual triple teams are about as common as actual double reverses because three guys blocking one means 10 defenders chasing eight. With the ball at midfield and seconds remaining in the half, Arizona trailed the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons 7-3. (See below if that team name confuses you.) The Cardinals actually had three men block Bruce Smith. All hell instantly broke loose in the pocket as other rushers came unchallenged; a crazy heave-ho pass was intercepted and returned 43 yards to set up a Persons field goal as the half expired. By appearances, Smith did nothing on this down—just stood there being pummeled by a trio of hostile gentlemen. Actually, he made the play.

Worst of the Week. Worst Defensive: On the game’s decisive play, making it 21-7 just before the half, the Niners allowed the Rams to complete a 3-yard touchdown from a regular passing set: though regular passes (as opposed to roll-outs, play-actions, or fades) from such short range are nearly impossible because the defense has so little territory to defend. St. Louis sent out four receivers. The Niners dropped seven into coverage. Nevertheless, Marshall Faulk got open with seven defending four in a tight space.

Worst Awareness: Trailing Bay of Green 17-7 with three minutes remaining, Chicago faced third and 10 on its 36. Two quick scores were the Bears’ only hope. Jim Miller threw a short under pass that did not even get the first—as WR David Terrell streaked down the sidelines open on a “go” route that could have made it 17-14. The Bears then turned it over on downs, and the rest was silence.

We’re All Professionals Here: Warming up on the sidelines, Buffalo punter Brian Moorman missed the kick-catch net.

Best Officiating: As Saints WR Joe Horn—knocked down last week on a fly pattern by Zebra/Self-Propelled Disaster Area Phil Luckett—streaked deep against the Falcons, back judge Scott Green jumped way out of his way. Fifty-yard touchdown catch.

Best Use of ESPN Highlights Show: Rams coaches had seen the Pittsburgh fake on which, on fourth down, the QB walks away from the line as if disgusted and about to call timeout—technically, making himself the man in motion—then as the defense relaxes, the ball is direct-snapped to a running back.

St. Louis executed this charade to perfection on fourth and one against the Niners, adding the thespian touch of Kurt Warner unbuckling his chin strap and throwing up his hands as if to say, “Coach, it’s not may fault!” Can Warner, obviously a space alien in human form, get an Actors’ Equity card? But San Francisco had not seen the highlights show. As soon as Warner began his little performance, three of the Niners’ front seven—including former Defensive Player of the Year Dana Stubblefield—unbuckled their chin straps, too, and started chatting with each other.

Stats of the Week: San Diego lost though Doug Flutie personally outgained the entire Eagles team.

Stat No. 2: Kansas City lost though Priest Holmes personally outgained the entire Raiders team.

Stat No. 3: Oakland put up 258 return yards on eight runbacks, a 32-yard-per average, allowing it to beat Kansas City despite the Chiefs having huge edges in offensive yardage and turnovers.

Stat No. 4: The Falcons are 2-5 at home, 4-1 on the road. In Atlanta the home crowd relentlessly boos QB Chris Chandler, wanting Michael Vick but serving only to create a negative atmosphere in which fans pay to see a loss.

Stat No. 5: Peyton Manning—Peyton Manning!—leads the league in interceptions with 20.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk:Trailing 20-0, Indianapolis had the ball on the Marine Mammals’$2 17 with two ticks left in the first half. The Horsies kicked. Yes, that’s a higher-percentage play than a shot at the end zone, but what did 20-3 accomplish? And when you’re 4-7, what have you got to lose? Indianapolis had to win last night, or its season was Over. That meant it had to take chances. Instead Horsies coaches were timorous, and Indianapolis’s season is: Over.

(Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk also applies for Jim Mora’s decision to kick on fourth and five at the Miami 22 on the opening drive of the second half, making it 20-6. His last hope was to take a chance on altering the momentum of the game. Instead, the final was Marine Mammals 41, Horsies 6. Maybe the BCS computer will give Indianapolis credit for those field goals.)

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading by five with 53 seconds left, Detroit had Tampa facing second and 10 on the 13 and down to one timeout. It’s a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line. Keyshawn Johnson, who was red-hot, is one-on-one for the winning touchdown.

Bonus Comparison: With $18 million, Randy Moss is the only NFL player this year to draw a higher signing bonus than Bill Clinton, who got $12 million from Knopf. Everybody’s asking why Moss’ play has declined since the moment he got the money. Tuesday Morning Quarterback says, you have to ask?

What TMQ wants to know is what the Clinton deal will do to the Knopf salary cap. You can bet veteran authors will be waived from the backlist to clear space. Any publisher who needs a journeyman minimalist or a reserve ghostwriter should be able to pick one up at Elaine’s for the veteran minimum.

It’s a Double Reverse! That’s what announcers said of the Sunday night play on which Broncos rookie Kevin Kasper ran 27 yards against the Seahawks. But it wasn’t a double reverse. Denver handed off to a receiver running an end-around right, who handed off to Kasper coming back left. That’s a single reverse—the ball changed direction once. Maybe there should be a special name for the play in which an end-around leads to a reverse, giving the illusion of a double reverse. Tuesday Morning Quarterback suggests this action be called a squamish. Announcers would yell, “It’s a squamish!” Get the obscure reference? If so, explain it in the “Fray.”

Realignment Follies: Florida’s Bucs, 0-19 lifetime when the kickoff temperature is below 40 F, travel to Chicago this week, where one hopes a howling Polar Express gale will greet them. But next year it’s hakuna matata as Tampa is realigned from the frosty NFC Central into the sunny new NFC South. And Tampa’s hard-nosed style, which didn’t necessarily impress anyone in a division where all teams play hard-nosed, may stand out when shipped to warmer climes. Since 1995, Tampa is 20-27 against the NFC Central but has a winning record against teams it will face in the new division.

Plug of the Week: Segue to the incredibly cleverly titled book Tuesday Morning Quarterback—which is new stuff, not a collection of columns. It’s now in stores, or you can buy it here. This is the book’s haiku on Chicago’s Soldier Field:

Snow and freezing wind

off lake. Then, weather gets bad.

Away team shivers.

—TMQ, 2001

More Frostback Infiltration: The Bengals signed long-snapper Randy Chevrier of McGill University in Montreal. Avez-vous verrouillé vers le haut de vos beignets? (Have you locked up your doughnuts?)

TMQ’s Christmas List: As the holidays approach, TMQ pulls out his favorite seasonal CD, Rosemary Clooney’s Jersey Turnpike Christmas, one song for each rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. For a list of rest stops on the Jersey Turnpike, click here. TMQ loves the high-class names: the Walt Whitman Service Area, the Joyce Kilmer Service Area (trees were cut down to clear land for it!), the Alexander Hamilton Service Area. Be sure to stop at the Grover Cleveland Service Area, which offers a Roy Rogers, gift shop, and lottery tickets. AllJersey Turnpike state-run rest stops sell state lottery tickets, which are intended to separate you from your money and provide nothing in return. At least Roy Rogers will give you a somewhat recently cooked burger.

TMQ will ask Santa for the Tingler, which you must view at to appreciate. The catalog copy (sadly, not available on the Web) boasts that the Tingler is “a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow and Deepak Chopra.” Well, that may explain why Chopra’s brain works that way. TMQ just loves the picture, imagining that the unseen person holding the Tingler is slowly repeating, “Give me your wallet, Judy. Give me your wallet, Judy. …”

Try the Sauron Shake: In a bad omen for TheLord of the Rings movies, Burger King started running ads for tie-in cups a full month before the first installment premieres. TMQ already has the Rings press packet and finds it less than encouraging that every still from the movie looks exactlylike a scene from the low-budget Sam Raimi quasi-satire Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

Reader Haiku: Submit yours via the Fray. The first concerns yet another local affiliate outrage—Fox stations in Boston, where our revolution began; Philadelphia, our cradle of liberty; and Washington, our nation’s capital, on Sunday aired neither the fabulous Niners-Rams matchup (combined records 18-4) nor the playoff-like Bears-Packers contest (combined records 17-5), despite there being no local team playing on Fox when these games were available. Boston and Philadelphia rewarded viewers with the utterly meaningless Persons-Cardinals tilt (both losing records).

East Coast stations shun

Niners-Rams and Packers-Bears.

DirecTV plot?

Dumb network game picks,

no dish. Still, TMQ sees

and knows all. Scary.

Pat and JaneLuckett not great, but

MusicCity Miracle

was a legit play.

SimonEight straight at Soldier!

Will Champaign also be Pack’s

home away from home?

—Richard Green
Johnny Unitas

played football for Baltimore,

not Irsay’s turncoats.

HeatherFourth and one fake try,

Hut-one, hut-two—then timeout.

Dumb play, fools no one.

—”Boss Snake”

This Week’s Star Trek Complaint: What “warp speed” means has varied from show to show, but the malleable definition reaches a new low with Enterprise. In the series pilot, Capt. Archer announced it would take four days to travel from Earth to Kronos, homeworld of the distant Klingon Empire, at the 22nd-century maximum of Warp 5. Each additional warp number is supposed to increase velocity 100-fold; by the Capt. Picard episodes, set in the 24th century, Warp 9 is routine. Hundred-fold progression would make Warp 9 100,000 times faster than Warp 5. That means if four days are required to transit from Earth to Kronos at Warp 5, at Warp 9 the trip would take three seconds.

All-Injured Reserve Team: The root cause of increasing U.S. health-care spending may be the NFL because an awful lot of players are hurt. So many, in fact, that the current All-Injured Reserve Team could defeat most actual clubs. Here is TMQ’s All-IR Squad:

OL: Tony Boselli, Willie Roaf, Barret Robbins, Mark Dixon, Leon Searcy.

WR: Ed McCaffrey, Marcus Robertson. Herman Moore, lifetime appointment.

TE: Mark Bruener.

RB: Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis.

FB: Howard Griffith.

QB: Steve Beuerlein.

DL: Trace Armstrong, Michael McCrary, Daryl Gardener, Jason Ferguson.

LB: Sam Cowart, Stephen Boyd, Andy Katzenmoyer.

DBs: LeRoy Butler, Alex Molden, Antuan Edwards, Dainon Sidney.

Hidden Indicator Player: The Bills are cover-your-eyes awful now, but this time last season they were 7-4 and pounding Tampa on the road. Then the above-cited Sam Cowart—who some purists felt was having the best season of any NFL defender last year, including Ray Lewis—went down for the count with a knee. Buffalo honked its lead in Tampa and spiraled toward the water for the remainder of 2000. In this season’s opener, Buffalo was pounding New Orleans, holding the Saints to one first down in the first half. Then Cowart was lost for the season to another injury; the Bills again honked and spiraled toward the water. Since Cowart joined Buffalo, the team is 28-17 when he plays, 3-14 when he does not.

Running Items Department

ObscureCollege Score: Bridgewater 29, Rowan 24, Division III semifinal. Formerly known as Glassboro State College, Rowan acquired its current name in 1992, when Henry and Betty Rowan gave the school $100 million. TMQ thinks it would have been classier to rename the college Henry & Betty, in the Washington & Lee tradition.

Bonus Obscure Score: North Dakota 17, Grand Valley State 14, Division II championship. Located in Allendale, Mich., cartographically vexed Grand Valley State calls its sports teams the Lakers despite neighboring Minnesota being the Land of Lakes.

BonusCollege Stat: The BCS ranked Nebraska second in the nation, though the Cornhuskers finished third in their own conference.

New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again the Paper of Record goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-187 this season and 0-447 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Many, many readers wrote in to vent their dismay that TMQ implied, merely implied Florida was obtained from France during the Louisiana Purchase. Here is the complaint in haiku:

Florida was Spain’s

until Eighteen Twenty-One.

Ask Andrew Jackson.

—”Alabama Al”

Arggghhhhh, can’t I get away with anything? As Disraeli said to Joan d’Arc in Yalta during negotiations over the Kellogg-Briand Pact at the height of the War of the Spanish Succession between Austro-Hungary and Carthage, “History, yeeesh, too many details.” (The Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by the Western powers in Paris in 1928, is TMQ’s all-time favorite treaty, outlawing war and foul language.)

The issue grabbing readers’ attention was whether Miami University of Ohio, founded in 1809, was established while Florida still belonged to Spain. TMQ merely reminded that the Louisiana Purchase came in 1803, and the deal put someof what is now Florida into U.S. hands. TMQ reader David Head, a professor of history at John Tyler Community College, writes, “The United States did purchase the Louisiana Territory in 1803, and although there were claims at that time and following that the Florida panhandle was part and parcel of Louisiana, it was not until 1819, via the Adams-Onis (“Transcontinental”) Treaty, that the U.S. purchased Florida from Spain.” The Adams-Onis treaty was ratified in 1821; here is a chronology.

Reader Vesa Varhee wrote to complain that Tuesday Morning Quarterback sometimes does not appear in Finland until it’s Wednesday. Vesa, Microsoft is working on altering the laws of physics, I can assure you.

Several readers protested that Catawba College honors not the wine but the tribal nation. Reader “OlongapoJoe” said that when he served on the Catawba, a U.S. Navy seagoing tug, he assumed it was named after something more noble than a beverage. (That vessel would be the USS Grog, perennially off-course.) Reader Joseph Britt even had the details, explaining that all Powhatan-class sea-going tugs bear American tribal names. Anyway, about Catawba College—it just made the joke work. About Catawba wine, my advice is to pass.

A reader haikuized,

Dennis Miller jives

with Samuel Jackson, in hat.

TMQ says naught?

Sabin of Springs

Yes, it was excruciating to watch Miller wagging and schnuffling around Jackson’s feet more shamelessly than your favorite dog would consider dignified. At this point, though, it’s piling on to keep pointing out how verily they hath taken a good comedian and rendered him into a bad announcer. Miller’s opening monologue last night was 29 seconds, shortest ever, and crossed the line from cryptic to incomprehensible. Aye carumba. 

Reader Michael Donner asked why I refuse to say “Washington Redskins” but will say “Kansas City Chiefs.”

First, the “Washington” team practices in Virginia and performs in Maryland, lacking so much as a token office within the District of Columbia. This is much wackier cartography than the many clubs whose stadiums are outside their city limits though in the same counties or states. But the key part of TMQ’s appellation, Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons, is the last.

“Redskin” is a derogatory term; today’s fans may not mean it that way, but that is the word’s origin. “Chief,” on the other hand, is a term of respect, as is “brave.” Of course terms of respect can be used condescendingly—a person might say, “Now listen here, chief” as a mild insult. But no system can account for all possible uses of words; even “Your Honor” can be spoken as an insult. So what matters is the dictionary meaning of the term.

Thus I think the NFL’s Redskins should change their name, as Ohio’s Miami University Redskins recently changed to the Red Hawks. This isn’t runaway PC; it is respect to others, to say nothing of awareness of the wrongs done during the mostly glorious course of American history. But I don’t have a problem with the Kansas City Chiefs or Atlanta Braves for the same reason that nobody objects to Boston Celtics. All these by-names have minority-group meaning but are not inherently offensive.

Which leaves us with the Cleveland Indians, and for that matter the Indiana of Pennsylvania Indians (who recently changed their mascot to a bear, but kept the moniker), and the Catawba College Indians. Is “Indian” disparaging? “Indians” use the word to describe each other, but perhaps because there is no generally accepted alternative. Native American hardly works; I’m a Native American, as are most readers of this column. Even “indigenous American” is chancy, since we’ve no idea whether anyone was indigenous prior to the Clovis people of about 12,000 years ago. Clovis artifacts are simply the oldest found so far.

Provisionally, TMQ suggests that “Indians” be known by the acronym AHBE—Ancestors Here Before Europeans. The Cleveland AHBEs sure doesn’t sound catchy. So for Tuesday Morning Quarterback’s proposed solution to the problems of all Indians and Redskins team names, see the end of this column.

Last Week’s Challenge … was to name the mega-babe over which TMQ should obsess for the remainder of the season.

By the volume of entries, readers were extremely interested in this pressing question. Many nominated Jaime Pressly, Maxim cover babe and star of B-grade, straight-to-video bouncing-boob epics. Reader Jacob proposed the highly three-dimensional Brooke Burke, who swears was a tomboy. George Rigokas suggested model Adriana Karembeu, whose press kit claims she has the “longest legs in the world.” Longer than Manute Bol? From the photos, they do seem to reach all the way to the floor.

Patrick Reddy of Sacramento, Calif., nominates in haiku,

Hot Anna Falchi:

Italian-Finnish model,

kicks soccer-style.

Well, that’s vaguely related to sports. Reddy receives this week’s stylish TMQ cap because he once actually beheld Falchi at a Los Angeles party and officially reports she is “quite a sight.” Gawk at Falchi at here.

Reader “Cal” suggests Ivy League graduate Famke Jannsen, who’s certainly got the right attitude,  posing  in a leather harness and wielding a riding crop.

Reader Paulie Walnuts suggests TMQ could appear much more sophisticated than he is by choosing Italian art-house-film tomato Maria Cucinotta.

Others nominations via haiku,

Renée Zellweger

not on TMQ’s babe list?


“lewsdarren”  Lips, lips, lips, and more:

Jolie is perfect—but for

husband Billy Bob.

Heather Locklear’s hot;

I hear she’s a right-winger.

Sorry, TMQ.

—Mark Romoser
Mega-babe Ali

Landry of Doritos fame,

from same world as Kurt.


The time has come to choose, and TMQ’s new favorite mega-babe must be: Jessica Biel. She’s hot. She’s topless. She’s spiritual. And the clincher, from this cheesecake shot found by reader Brad: She plays football.

This Week’s Challenge: Here is the solution to the problem of offensive team names: replace Redskins and Indians with words from real AHBE languages. There must be terms in the Algonquinian or Iroquoian or other language families—for a tree of AHBE tongues, click here—that are short, snappy-sounding, and mean strong or swift or courageous, or have similar sporty meanings.

Imagine if all Redskins and Indians exchanged their current by-names for a Blackfoot or Cherokee or Navajo or Catawba word that had a great ring to it and a sports-related meaning. This would be up-to-date, cool, respectful, and surely good for the teams’ marketing.

This week’s challenge is to propose cool-sounding words, from any AHBE language, suitable for replacing Redskins and Indians team names. Submit via the Fray, in hopes of a stylish TMQ cap and perhaps some recognition as well—if the results are good, usable names, Tuesday Morning Quarterback will promote them.

CREDITS. Act-it-out idea by official TMQ brother Neil Easterbrook of Texas Christian University.