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  • Tuesday Morning Quarterback

    Certainly the most intelligent, if not most long-winded, columnist (and yes, for the record, I find it quite worthwhile):

    Greek mythology warns Brett Favre, and why would super-advanced aliens bother to invade Earth?

    By Gregg Easterbrook
    Special to

    (Gregg Easterbrook will contribute his column to readers each week during the NFL season. He is a senior editor of The New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. His latest book, The Progress Paradox, released by Random House, is in bookstores now.)

    (Nov. 1, 2005) -- Sic transit gloria Favre? That's not quite Latin, but the splendor of one of football's best-ever quarterbacks seems fading fast. Five interceptions! Yes the Packers have injuries, but injuries did not cause Favre to throw into triple coverage on his fifth interception Sunday. All glory of this world fades away -- and as the Bible warns, moth and rust consume.

    Is Favre's problem just rust of aging, or is the vengeance of the football gods at play? A few columns ago, yours truly warned the Packers had angered the football gods by furiously running up the score to 52-3 against the hapless United States Saints. Angus Swantee of Halifax, Nova Scotia, notes what has happened to Green Bay since: A last-second loss to Minnesota, followed by Favre's worst game ever. Much as the football pantheon loves Favre, gods never let hubris go unpunished. Remember what happened to Nerites -- you do remember, right? Nerites was a sea-god and the lover of Aphrodite. Zeus invited Nerites and Aphrodite to leave Earth and ascend to Olympus; essentially, he told them it was time to retire. Aphrodite agreed but Nerites refused; as punishment, Zeus turned him into a shellfish. Brett, beware of being turned into a shellfish.

    The Packers are hardly the only ones to anger the football gods. Leading 42-21 with 30 seconds remaining, ball on the Philadelphia 6, rather than do the dignified thing and order a kneel down, Broncos coaches called a play, snickering as they ran up the score to 49-21. Sportswriters praised Denver's big winning margin -- but the Bible cautions, "Woe to you when all think well of you." Expect the football gods to punish Denver for poor sportsmanship. Overall, things are getting pretty Biblical-mythological in the NFL. In non-football news, why would super-advanced aliens bother to invade the Earth? Don’t they know we have nothing to offer but fatty foods, rap music and hurricanes? Below, Tuesday Morning Quarterback fires a death ray at alien-invasion movies and television shows.

    Stats of the Week At 1:22 p.m. ET on October 30, the Houston Texans led for the first time this season.

    Stats of the Week No. 2 Fifteen of Cincinnati's league-leading 20 interceptions have come against NFC North quarterbacks, while all NFC North starting quarterbacks have a five-interception game. Noted by Brian Spence of Chicago.

    Stats of the Week No. 3 The NFC East is 13-1 at home while the AFC East is 3-13 on the road. Submitted by Marcel Hanenbergh, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    Stats of the Week No. 4 Denver was ahead 28-0 before Philadelphia recorded a first down.

    Stats of the Week No. 5 Last week Washington had 52 points, 457 yards of offense and 24 first downs. This week Washington had zero points, 125 yards of offense and seven first downs.

    Stats of the Week No. 6 Trent Green passed for 317 yards in the second half -- and Kansas City lost.

    Stats of the Week No. 7 Since the Drew Bledsoe trade, Buffalo is 1-6 against New England.

    Stats of the Week No. 8 Washington has a winning record despite being minus-9 for turnovers, second worst in the league. Buffalo has a losing record despite being plus-8 for turnovers, fourth best.

    Stats of the Week No. 9 Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has as many touchdown passes (three) as all Jets' quarterbacks combined. Stat from Dori Reichmann, Rehovot, Israel.

    Cheerleader of the Week The Redskins Cheerleaders continue their upward surge and now rival the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders for No. 1 in the NFL, by the three essential measures of complex dance routines, aesthetic appeal and disdain for clothing. This week's Cheerleader of the Week Jennifer B. of Washington, a graduate of Towson University who works as an accountant. Hmmm -- maybe I need tax advice! According to her team bio, Jenn has been studying ballet, jazz and other dance since the age of three, which is too late to start by contemporary standards of dance obsession. Jenn reports her favorite saying is "Everything happens for a reason." Warning, serious digression: Even as a churchgoer, what gets me through the day is the belief that most things do not happen for a reason. God may be watching from afar, but tragedies past and present seem inexplicable unless most accidents, violence, sickness and other traumas are simply flaws of existence, lacking direction or larger purpose. If what goes wrong lacks purpose, then perhaps humanity may find ways to remove accidents, violence and sickness from life. Thus the idea that most things do not happen for a reason is, to me, a life-affirming thought. Digression ends. Jenn also reports a favorite saying is "Kiss me, I'm Irish." Now there is a sentiment we can all wholeheartedly support!

    As TMQ has noted, apparently the modern thong bikini covers way too much, as today many women modeling for cheerleader calendars or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue pose with tops undone or fingers hooked into the bottoms of their suits, suggesting imminent nudity. In the Redskins' calendar, traditional males will be pleased to hear that nearly half the cheerleaders pose this way.

    Sweet Play of the Week "Influence" actions are high-risk, high-reward -- a lineman pulls one way and then the rusher goes through the hole the lineman just vacated, offense gambling the defense will react to the pull and vacate the area. Dallas leading Arizona of Mexico 17-10, the Cowboys faced second-and-goal on the Cards' 10. Both offensive linemen on the right side pulled left, then tailback Marion Barber ran right -- directly toward a place where there were no blockers -- for the touchdown that turned the game into a walkover.

    Sweet Special-Teams Play One of Tuesday Morning Quarterback's causes is that conservative NFL coaches don't go after the punter enough, rarely sending more than a token rush. Game scoreless in St. Louis, the Rams rushed seven against a Tennessee punt -- and Die Morgenmuffel rushers were jumping around before the snap, too, another tactic neglected on punts. Block, touchdown return.

    Sweet Player of the Week No. 1 The undrafted Antonio Gates is the best tight end in the league; is he the best receiver in the league? On two of his three touchdowns against Kansas City, Gates was double covered. On the third, he ran through tacklers. Ten receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns -- yes, that will be adequate, Antonio.

    Sweet Player of the Week No. 2 Third-string quarterback Cody Pickett not only saved the day for San Francisco by playing the fourth quarter , but he made a special-teams tackle on the punt-coverage unit.

    Sweet Player of the Week No. 3 As noted by Danny Groner of Silver Spring, Md., Tiki Barber ran for more yards on his first carry than the Redskins ran for in the entire game. Between his loyalty to the Giants, his pleasant public persona and his steady climb up the Giants' all-time rushing chart, Barber is now "The Toast of New York."

    Sweet Play of the Week No. 2 Sometimes the first snap of the game is as important as the last. On the first snap of the Jersey/A-Washington collision, Barber took a toss 57 yards down the sideline behind perfect blocks by OLs Luke Pettigout and David Diehl. Barber had motored 50 yards before a defender touched him. It's pretty fun to run 50 yards on the first play when everyone in front of you has already been knocked to the ground.

    Sour Player of the Week Extremely overpaid Minnesota corner Fred Smoot, who got an $11 million bonus in the offseason, not only was fried by Carolina's Steve Smith, who caught 11 passes for 201 yards, but Smoot also committed five illegal contact, holding and other penalties in trying to guard Smith.

    Almost Sour Play of the Week The winless Moo Cows lead Cleveland 19-16 with 50 seconds remaining, the Browns facing fourth-and-17 on the Houston 47. All Houston has to do is stop one play and it's finally in the win column. But look -- Antonio Bryant is streaking single covered into the end zone -- Aaaaaiiiiiiiyyyyyyeeeee! The pass was there, just barely deflected by corner Philip Buchanon. How can a receiver possibly get behind everybody in that situation?

    Hey, My Name Only Comes 174th! I Was Promised 158th Billing! This column noted the ridiculous number of authors who attach their names to scientific papers, citing a Science magazine article that listed 28 authors for 1,225 words. Maureen Long, a doctoral candidate in geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports that author-to-words ratio has been blown out of the water by a 2,889-word paper in Science that lists a preposterous 209 authors. That's 14 words per author. Maureen adds, "Most of the work of a research paper comes in doing the science. Papers with dozens of authors are actually written by a small subset of those authors, but they describe work all of the authors contributed to substantially -- one hopes, anyway." Could 209 researchers (at 84 institutions!) really have played a substantive role in one study, or is this just a record-setting case of resume padding?

    Never Run Backwards! There is one player in the NFL who should be allowed to run backwards, and he is Dante Hall. Everyone else, it's pretty simple -- run forward, not backward. Miami leading 6-3 and the United States Saints facing third-and-6 in Dolphins territory, Aaron Brooks of the Saints reversed his field backward three times and ended up being sacked for a 25-yard loss. Later, Miami leading 9-6 and New Orleans facing third-and-17 on its own 8, Brooks ran backwards into his end zone and was sacked for a safety. Not only is it nutty to run backward toward your own end zone, it's especially nutty to do this on third-and-17 when a punt on the next snap is likely. New Orleans ended up with 68 yards lost on sacks in a 21-6 defeat.

    Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, the 2-4 Vikings faced fourth-and-1 on the Carolina 48. In trotted the punting unit, and it took the Panthers just three snaps to pass the point where the ball would have been had Minnesota gone for it and missed. You're 2-4! You're behind by two scores! You're in opposition territory! If you can’t make one single yard, you deserve to lose! And now you are 2-5.

    "Hi, I'm Bob Schieffer, and Here Are Tonight's Fantasy News Stats" Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports, was named to head CBS News. This development is going to be heavily mined by comedians, so let me get my lines in fast:

    Scantily clad cheer-babes on CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer is going to have a lot of trouble keeping his eyes on the Teleprompter.

    Halftime show during State of the Union address.

    Fantasy draft of politicians. I'd steer clear of Tom DeLay unless you can get him cheap in the last round.

    Note: there's no reason only television types should have Teleprompters. This website sells them to anyone for as low as $799. Check the "presidential style prompter" of precision machined aluminum, whose "screen display will flash to tell presenter to speed up or down." But where do you jack in the device that lets your staff control what you say?

    Can You Give Up 418 Yards and Also Have a Great Defensive Day? San Diego 21, Kansas City 10, the Chiefs had third-and-12 on the Bolts' 13. Rookie end Shawne Merriman "rip" rushed Kansas City tackle Jordan Black. The rip is the hardest move for the defensive linemen: You must push the blocker away with the outside of your arm, and the triceps are not naturally strong. Merriman ripped so well that he blew past Black and caused a fumble, even though Black was holding; recovery by San Diego and the threat ends. Now it's San Diego 28, Kansas City 13 late in the fourth quarter, the Flintstones have second-and-goal on the Chargers' 3. First snap, runner stuffed. Second snap, sack. Third snap, pass incompletion; the rest is filler. Note to Kansas City: The final call was a play fake. Who's going to fall for a play fake on fourth-and-goal from the 9?

    Martians: Even Dumber Than Humans Aliens, computers, clones -- at the movies they're all trying to take over the Earth. Why would they want to? And I don't mean just because of pop music. In the Matrix movies, sinister computers enslaved humanity, sustaining men and women in elaborate racks tended by medical droids, while an incredibly complicated simulation tricks everyone into thinking they are experiencing normal life, thus preventing revolution. Why did the sinister computers do this? Because, the Matrix movies explained, the computers depend on human body heat as a power source. This makes absolutely no sense. First, body heat isn't a "source" of energy -- body heat originates with food, which requires sunlight as its energy source. If the malevolent computers wanted heat, it would be far easier and cheaper to build nuclear reactors, or even burn the crops grown to feed the captive people who give off the heat.

    In Independence Day, Earth is attacked by aliens who live in space aboard an ultra-gigantic starship, calling no world home, using planets solely for resources. Why do they want to conquer Earth? To seize its resources. Maybe Earth-like planets are rare, but the likelihood is there are thousands, if not millions, of Earth-like worlds in the galaxy. Wouldn't it be far more appealing to mine an uninhabited Earth-like world than to stage an elaborate global military assault -- which, even if successful, will consume resources?

    Hark back to the television miniseries V, in which aliens land in California and pretend to be friendly in order to buy time to position forces for the conquest on Earth. Their sinister objective: They want our water. Water is among the most common substances in the cosmos! The immense Oort Could of comets that surrounds the solar system has an estimated 40 times the mass of Earth, and most of that mass is water. Super-advanced aliens could simply pull their starcruisers up to the Oort Cloud and take all the water they could carry without having to stage an elaborate invasion and overcome armed resistance. Meanwhile, we don't yet know why outer space beings are trying to take over the Earth in Threshold and Invasion, the new network aliens attack series. All we are sure of so far is that aliens are obviously attacking, yet government is doing nothing. Maybe FEMA is in charge of alien response, too.

    Now to Steven Spielberg's The War of the Worlds. We're told that thousands of years ago, super-advanced aliens buried hundreds of attack tripods across the Earth to be activated during an invasion. But if the bad aliens were here with overwhelming force thousands of years ago, why didn't they just seize the Earth then, when there was no resistance? Meanwhile, humanity has engaged in centuries of excavation for sewers, tunnels and subways, yet no one has ever stumbled across even one of the alien machines. Plus, since the tripods are buried under cities how, thousands of years ago, did the aliens know where the cities were going to be built? Anyway, it turns out the sinister aliens want to drain human blood for use as fertilizer for some hideous plant-thing that will turn our world into a planet like theirs. But if the goal was to turn our world into a planet like theirs when they came here thousands of years ago, why didn't they just deploy the hideous plant-thing then?

    My main death-ray blast against The War of the Worlds movie is that it represents another case of Hollywood buying the name of a famous work, then producing dreg with only passing resemblance to the famous work. H.G. Wells' 1898 book presented a complex struggle between humanity and its attackers; Spielberg's version presents human beings as appalling fools who practically deserve to be wiped out, while reveling in scenes of slaughter of the helpless and destruction of U.S. cities. Somehow Spielberg manages to glamorize violence, dumb down great literature, be misanthropic and be anti-American all at once -- quite a feat even by Hollywood standards. Wells' book was written at the peak of the imperial era, when European powers were seizing African and Asian lands under the pretext that industrial superiority gave Europe a right to conquer. Wells wrote a parable to ask: If superiority justifies conquest, why shouldn't another world conquer ours? In the book, the Martians believe their technical superiority entitles them to seize whatever they want and kill whomever stands in the way -- exactly what European imperialists believed. Wells' 1898 War of the Worlds was an indictment of the notion that might makes right, and played a role in turning European public opinion against imperialism. The Spielberg movie is just explosions and screaming, every last trace of intellectual merit squeezed out -- quite a feat even by Hollywood standards.

    Death ray update: MIT students recently used cheap mirrors to prove it is possible, at least, the Archimedes built a solar-powered death ray that set Roman warships aflame 2,200 years ago.

    Crazy Pass Watch Every quarterback sometimes throws a bad pass; crazy passes are another matter. Game tied at 13 in overtime, Detroit faced third-and-5 on its 18. Jeff Garcia was flushed out of the pocket right; sprinting right, he threw back across his body left toward the center of the field. Interception, Chicago touchdown, Bears win. There are times when the smart thing to do is simply heave the ball out of bounds.

    Cheer-Babe Professionalism Watch Last week TMQ complained that the Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders, unaccustomed to high-pressure big-game situations, failed to show professionalism by over-dressing. The football gods were not appeased, and the Bengals lost. This week, despite a kickoff temperature of 58 degrees, the Ben-Gals came out in skimpy two-piece summer numbers. Lesson learned, and needless to say the football gods smiled on Cincinnati.

    Harmonic Convergence of TMQ Obsessions Buffalo led New England in every statistical category, but lost the game -- and why not, since the Bills violated TMQ immutable laws left and right. Through most of the first half Buffalo played disciplined defense and shut down the defending champions. Late in the second quarter Buffalo started blitzing; New England immediately flew down the field, though for a missed field goal. Buffalo big blitzed on three straight snaps to start the second half; New England immediately flew down the field for a touchdown. Taking a 16-7 lead with 10:02 remaining, Buffalo big blitzed on the Flying Elvii's first snap; 37-yard gain sets up a Pats touchdown. On the offensive side, the Bills rushed for 147 yards, yet went pass-wacky in pretty much every key situation. Game scoreless, Buffalo had second-and-goal on the New England 4 in the second quarter on a night Willis McGahee would run for 136 yards against an injury-depleted Pats defensive line. Did the Bills pound, pound? Incompletion, incompletion, field goal.

    Scouting note: TMQ has done not one, not two, but three items on the fact that England throws a wide receiver hitch left at the goal line. Yet defenses still haven’t caught on. Trailing 16-7, New England had second-and-4 on the Buffalo 6. Hitch left to Tim Dwight, who advances to the 1, setting up a touchdown.

    Running Up the Score Update John Dellaportas of New York City notes the New York Times just had this Page 1 story asserting incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg should stop campaigning in order to avoid beating his challenger by too wide a margin. Bloomberg leads in polls by 27 percent. Last week, yours truly supposed teams should stop trying to score when ahead by 32 or more in the second half, since the greatest comeback in pro or college football history was from a 32-point deficit. By this reasoning, if Bloomberg gets ahead 32 percent in the polls, he can stop campaigning.

    Car Ads Update Nissan recently withdrew a television commercial in which its Titan mega-pickup was shown while the title music from the movie Bridge on the River Kwai played. The movie is about Japanese mistreatment of prisoners during World War II, which is perhaps not the best subject to remind people of when trying to convince them to buy Japanese. Volvo has been running commercials that make safety claims for its cars, while the Donovan song "Catch the Wind" plays. But "Catch the Wind" is about wanting something you can never have. Is Volvo saying you may want a safe car, but you'll never have one? Toyota has been advertising its Tundra mega-pickup as getting "up to 450 miles per tankful." This may sound like a fuel-efficiency measure, but all it means is the Tundra has an unusually large gas tank, holding 26.4 gallons. At $3 per gallon, that tank will cost you $80 to fill -- and you're going to be filling it often, because Toyota's own "up to 450 miles per tankful" means the company estimates maximum mileage for the Tundra is 17 MPG. Buick is running ads proclaiming, "We'll stand behind you." How will you back up?

    Best Fast-Forward Drive Dallas went 80 yards in three plays in 1:07 for a touchdown.

    Best 99-Yard Drive Chicago staged a 99-yard touchdown drive despite committing two penalties and allowing a sack.

    For Halloween, Two Passing Teams Came Dressed as the Steelers and Ravens Baltimore meets Pittsburgh, and it's sure to be a purist battle of power rushing -- arrgggghh. Seventy-five passes, 55 rushes. With 6:12 remaining and holding a 17-16 lead, Pittsburgh had first-and-10 on its 45 -- surely the fabled Steelers rushing game will take over and grind the clock! Incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt formation. Technically four consecutive incompletions as punter Chris Gardocki attempted to pass after a botched snap.

    Why Certain Teams Are 2-6 Trailing Oakland 17-12 in the second quarter, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced third-and-12 on their 7. Steve McNair sprinted backward into his end zone -- a crazy tactical call by Tennessee coaches, since it's a close game in the first half and this is no place to act panicky. As McNair is hit and fumbles, Oakland recovers for the touchdown that breaks open the game, and Titans offensive linemen Brad Hopkins and Zach Pillar are just sitting on the ground, watching the Raiders' rush, making no attempt at all to protect their quarterback.

    Coaching note: Now it's the fourth quarter, Tennessee trails 27-22 and faces fourth-and-1 on the Oakland 6. Kick Early Go For It Late -- now it's late, go for it! Plus you're playing at home and averaging 5.6 yards per rush on the day. Mincing fraidy-cat field goal, and Oakland scores on its possession to ice the game. Coaches have good and bad games just like players; Jeff Fisher, one of the NFL's top coaches, has had several bad games this season.

    Best Blocks Screen blocking is an art many offensive linemen don't grasp; many is the time a screen receiver has two huge offensive linemen ahead of him, and neither of them ever hits anyone. Oakland leading Tennessee 10-0, the Raiders had second-and-9 on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 18. Screen right, and blockers Adam Treu and Ron Stone get perfect blocks that enabled LaMont Jordan to waltz in for the touchdown. Jax leading St. Louis 21-17, the Rams had second-and-12 on the Jacksonville 19. Screen right, Andy McCollum got a perfect block that enabled Steven Jackson to waltz in for the touchdown.

    Why Are You Punting??????? Last week the Bills, trailing by two touchdowns with eight minutes remaining, punted on fourth-and-6 from their 31; the game ended at that point. Sunday the Eagles, trailing by two touchdowns, punted on fourth-and-6 from their 37 with nine minutes remaining, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

    Game note one: Boy that was a sweet catch by Stephen Alexander to put Denver's lead at 28-0.

    Game note two: Falling behind 28-0, Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first four possessions, then threw on interception on its fifth. This is one of the dangers of a pass-wacky offense.

    Obscure College Score of the Week Black Hills State 8, Mary 6. Of course an entire team defeated one woman! Located in Spearfish, S.D., Black Hills State sponsors a Center for Tourism Research. Tourism research! Presumably the center produces incredibly scientifically advanced explanations of why tourists avoid South Dakota.

    Obscure College Feat Central Washington University of Ellensburg, Wash., set an NCAA record by scoring 27 points in 79 seconds, as noted by Andrew Pima of Tampa. This gives me leave to boast that last season my kids' high school scored 21 points in 75 seconds in a playoff game. That link is to a description of the game on the NFL's high-school football web site, which is incredibly useful to anyone involved in the prep version of the sport.

    Generic Predictions in the News Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal Online, who writes a brainy column about use of numbers in the media, notes my generic prediction of Home Team 20, Visiting Team is doing better than expert NFL predictions. Richard Adams of Dallas cites this Associated Press sports dispatch predicting such statistically unlikely finals as Dallas over Arizona 15-11 and Jags over Rams 20-18. Adams asks, "Where's the 18 points supposed to come from?" Nine safeties, would be my guess.

    Next Week Here in Indianapolis we're undefeated, we're red hot and -- oh no! The schedule says, "At New England."

    Official Sponsor: Tyler Hansbrough and the North Carolina Tar Heels

  • #2
    Geez, that dude likes to watch himself type more than Jayson Stark.
    Official sponsor of Mike Shannon's Retirement Party


    • #3
      QUOTE(ElviswasaBluesFan @ Nov 1 2005, 12:16 PM) Quoted post

      Geez, that dude likes to watch himself type more than Jayson Stark.
      Or Peter King.