|Tuesday, October 30, 2001|
Nostradamus, the voice of God, and Linda Blair's revolving head
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online
Nostradamus wrote: "In the year of a one / The Miller will come to the city of York / And upon the field will be laid many obscure references / So many that even Joey Bishop and Lynyrd Skynyrd / Will go unannotated..."
The set-up: Al Michaels noted that there had been some disappointing games on Monday night this season.
The quip: "Truth be told, the Monday Night Football vineyard has not yielded an exquisite vintage so far this year. A lot of Ripple, Thunderbird, and Boone's Farm turning up on the wine list."
The read: The trio of cheap, fruity wines is produced by Ernest and Julio Gallo. The Gallo brothers inherited their family's vineyard in the mid-'30s after their father murdered their mother and then committed suicide.
In the 1950s, 40-proof port mixed with lemon juice became a popular urban drink, and Gallo set out to emulate the flavor. The result, Thunderbird, became the high-alcohol wine of choice on the street, with an ad campaign to match:
"What's the word?
How's it sold?
Good and cold!
What's the jive?
Ripple went on to become Fred Sanford's beverage of choice, and many a teenager in the '70s got his or her first taste of liquor from the sickly-sweet fruit flavors of Boone's Farm. In the '80s, Ernest and Julio Gallo went on to create that most insidious of concoctions, the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler. However, frustrated by this low-rent reputation, Ernest Gallo turned his attention to creating finer wines and today produces a large number of wines under classier names such as Marcelina, Frei Brothers Reserve, and Ecco Domani.
The set-up: Miller mentioned talking to Philadelphia cornerback Troy Vincent, who said the Giants like to "throw one deep once they get past the 50 yard line."
The quip: "Please, give me a Nostradamus break here and do it, Kerry."
The read: For those who did not run out and rent "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow" after last month's Nostradamus WTC e-mail hoax, a few quick facts about Michel de Nostredame.
(It helps if you imagine the following being narrated by Orson Welles.)
A 16th-century French physician who also practiced astrology, Nostradamus first gained public renown in 1555 not for his boring old treatment of plague victims, but for publishing the first of 10 "Centuries" collections he would eventually write. Each "Centuries" contained 100 rhymed quatrains (four-line verses) and offered up a buffet of hit and mostly miss predictions for the future. With astrology having become the rock-and-roll of the French Renaissance, Nostradamus was soon invited to the court of Catherine de Medicis (queen consort to King Henry II), where he became an astrological superstar. He died in 1566.
And that's it. He didn't predict Hitler, or the Great Fire of London, or the rise of boy bands in the late 1990s. We hate to burst anyone's bubble, but Nostradamus wrote obscure, silly poems in archaic French that were as accurate at predicting the future as the annual New Year's issue of the Weekly World News.
We did, however, have an old college pal who, after a few bottles of Thunderbird, would stand up on the nearest bar and exclaim, "I'm Nostradamus! And I predict you're all about to see my ass!"
The set-up: In trying to discuss Philadelphia's first quarter stats, Miller found himself tripped up by the fact that zero times any number is zero.
The quip: "Get Stephen Hawking on the phone, let me see if that stat's applicable."
The read: Theoretical physicist Stephen William Hawking's name is often tossed around with those of Newton and Einstein. However, much of his recognition stems not from his groundbreaking work on general relativity, black holes, and space-time singularities, but because his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" was one of those hot best-sellers that everyone owned a copy of, but no one actually sat down and read. (Luckily Errol Morris made a film version of it in 1992, a documentary with a tinge of soap opera considering that the guy divorced his wife and married his nurse.) Hawking is a professor of mathematics at Cambridge, holding Newton's old post, but you don't see Newton doing guest apperances on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or "The Simpsons," do you?
Born in Oxford, England, Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease in the '60s and today moves about in a battery-powered wheelchair, from which he uses a computer and a speech synthesizer to communicate. (The nurse he married was the ex-wife of the guy who invented his speech synthesizer.)
Most recently Hawking warned that humans must use genetic engineering to alter their DNA or computer intelligence will take over the world. Like we don't have enough to worry about.
|The most dangerous dribble known to man.|
The set-up: Giants defensive end Michael Strahan sacked Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The quip: "These are John Facenda sacks Strahan has been laying down the last few weeks."
The read: As the narrator of many of the NFL Films productions of the 1960s and '70s, it was the deep, strong tone of the late John Facenda's voice that helped turn the weekly sporting contests into epic gladiatorial battles. So majestic and authoritative was Facenda's narration that he was often referred to as "the Voice of God."
God, on the other hand, likes to think He sounds more like Gregory Peck, maybe with a dash of Cary Grant thrown in.
The set-up: The Eagles held the Giants to a field goal instead of a touchdown just before the half.
The quip: "If they get out of this 9-nothing in the first half I think Andy Reid's in the locker room saying, 'Guys, the game is afoot.'"
The read: Though it's probably best known today as Sherlock Holmes's rallying cry to Dr. Watson when the clues of a mystery began to fall into place, the phrase "the game's afoot" is initially found, as so many phrases are, in Shakespeare.
In "Henry V," (Act 1, scene 3) the young English king Henry rallies his men to take the besieged city of Harfleur, France by crying out: "I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,/Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:/Follow your spirit, and upon this charge/Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"
The set-up: Miller noted that Eagles kicker David Akers' wide-to-the-right field goal miss reminded him of Florida State's run of game-losing wide-right field goal misses.
The quip: "I heard wide right, I had that Rorschach association."
The read: Growing up in Switzerland in the late 19th century, Hermann Rorschach wanted to be an artist, so much so that in school he was called Kleck, or "inkblot" by his friends. (No, we're not making this part up.) But alas, little Inkblot chose medicine instead and focused on psychoanalysis. In 1918 Rorschach began experimenting with using random inkblots on cards to assess patients' personalities and diagnosis disorders.
The idea is that humans tend to project their thoughts and emotions onto the world around them, affecting how they perceive random events and images. For example, if a patient is shown an inkblot and says it looks like a happy little bunny playing in a field with his friends, then he or she will grow up to lead a satisfying, productive life raising rabbits on a farm. On the other hand, if the patient sees a little bunny that got hit by a Peterbilt truck while trying to cross the interstate, he or she (probably he) will grow up to be a film producer.
The set-up: Giants punter Rodney Williams, known for his big punts, angles off a short "pooch" punt intentionally.
The quip: "Even his pooch is a Saint Bernard."
The read: The alpine pass between Switzerland and Italy was already known for its large rescue dogs when an Italian priest named Bernard De Menthon came along in the 12th century and founded two hospices in the pass to aid and protect travelers. The working dogs were probably descended from a Roman Molossian breed, and over the centuries they have been credited with helping save the lives of more than 2,500 people who were lost in the treacherous pass.
Originally, Saint Bernards, as they came to be known, were a short-haired breed, but they were crossed with Newfoundland dogs in the early 1800s to produce the longer-haired version we're familiar with today. However, Saint Bernards did not have little casks of brandy tied around their necks to help revive frozen travelers -- that myth was begun in the 19th century when British animal painter Edwin Landseer painted a Saint Bernard with the cask.
And, no, Saint Bernards cannot play poker.
The set-up: After Miller asked him what the odds were that both tonight's game and the Mariners-Yankees playoff game would both have scores of 9-3 at that moment, Al Michaels rattled off a precise (made-up) number.
The quip: "I've seen you on a crap table -- you can figure those odds like Rain Man."
The read: The 1988 film "Rain Man" earned Oscars for Best Picture and for director Barry Levinson, star Dustin Hoffman (as Raymond "Rain Man" Babbitt), and writers Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow. It also proved that Tom Cruise could appear in a movie without a flight control stick, cue stick, or cocktail shaker in his hand.
But most important of all, it replaced the politically incorrect term "idiot savant" with the politically correct term "autistic savant." In the film, Raymond's autism affected his social and language skills (and gave us ten years of people stammering "I'm an excellent driver," "K-mart sucks," and "definitely time for Wapner"). But his savantism allows him to perform large mathematical calculations and remember enormous amounts of systematic trivia -- a skill Cruise's character puts to work counting cards in Vegas.
The character of Raymond was based on several real-life savants, but writer Morrow's main inspiration was Kim Peek, an autistic savant he met at an Association for Retarded Citizens convention. (Morrow was in attendance because he had written an earlier Mickey Rooney film, "Bill," about a real-life mentally retarded coffee-shop worker at the University of Iowa.) Like the character of Raymond, Peek has an encyclopedic memory for dates, names, places, and a special affinity for numbers. He was able to memorize books read to him at 16 months old and can recall the some 7,600 books he has read since then. On Oscar night as Hoffman accepted his award, he thanked Peek from the podium.
The set-up: Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb looked around frantically for an open receiver.
The quip: "Think they had coverage there? His head was going like Linda Blair."
The read: When director William Friedkin and author William Peter Blatty made "The Exorcist" in 1973, they didn't have all those fancy CGI effects all you kids see today in your movies. No, in those days if you wanted to spin a young demon-possessed girl's head around 360 degrees you darn well went out and built a life-size doll with a pivot for a neck. Or more accurately you got master makeup artist Dick Smith to do it for you. Smith was also responsible for the design of the horrific makeup that transformed Regan MacNeil (12-year-old Linda Blair) into the human incarnation of the demon Pazuzu. Smith rigged a tube on Blair's neck to spew pea-soup "vomit" at Father Karras, while Friedkin filmed some of the bedroom scenes in a large freezer to get the actor's breath to show. Later the sinister voice of Pazuzu was provided by aging actress Mercedes McCambridge, who Friedkin encouraged to smoke and drink in order to achieve the right gravelly timbre.
|"I'm a little Warthog, short and stout..."|
The set-up: Eagles offensive tackle Jon Runyan had Giants defensive end Michael Strahan by the neck of his jersey.
The quip: "Runyan tying a full Windsor on Strahan."
The read: The hefty Windsor necktie knot was inspired in the first part of the 20th century by Edward, Duke of Windsor. Originally the style made its way to the United States when American soldiers from the Great War saw fashionable upper-class friends and devotees of young Edward wearing the knot.
Rumor was that the knot was passed down to Edward by his father, King George V, but whether that was true or not, Edward never cared much for having the knot named after him. Edward became King Edward VIII in 1935, but abdicated the throne a year later so that he could marry an American divorcée, Wallis Warfield Simpson. Prized for its hefty size and symmetry (we're back to talking about the knot now, not Ms. Simpson), the Windsor is a tricky knot to tie, but worth the practice and effort, because even if you're king of England, a clip-on ain't gonna cut it with the ladies.
Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.
Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld
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