Special to Page 2
When this column kicked off in 2000, Daniel Snyder was dubbed Owner/Menace to Western Civilization Dan Snyder. Many felt that understated the case. Later the gentleman was rechristened Lord Voldemort, after the sinister villain in the endless Harry Potter saga. Today TMQ assigns the Redskins' owner a newcognomen -- Chainsaw Dan, which is explained below. But otherwise I come to praise Snyder, not pummel him. This might be hard to believe, and is certainly hard to write: Dan Snyder should now be admired by anyone who loves professional football. Snyder helped rescue the league in 2006, and did so by putting his own ego and financial concerns aside.
Often what is missed about a news event is what didn't happen. What didn't happen during the March 2006 double showdown over the NFL's labor agreement and internal revenue-sharing deal is that Dan Snyder did not insist on the best possible outcome for the Washington Redskins. Instead he placed the interests of the sport first. Chainsaw Dan, Tuesday Morning Quarterback's hat is off to you.
The owners' side of the double showdown pitted some of the small-market owners, such as James Irsay of Indianapolis and Ralph Wilson of Buffalo, against big-city owners such as Snyder, Pat Bowlen of Denver, Jerry Jones of Dallas and Robert McNair of Houston. Big-city teams have more revenue -- from $50 million to $100 million more annually -- owing to larger local markets and a richer customer base for club seats and luxury-box sales. The big-city teams also tend to have aggressive, marketing-driven owners. (Snyder's career background is in corporate marketing; Wilson started in insurance.) National television revenue already is split 32 ways, and this is one of the best things about the NFL. But the small-city owners wanted the big boys to commit to increased sharing of locally-generated revenue.
Higher-net-worth, aggressive owners like Snyder were miffed at the idea that they should work like crazy for local income, then simply hand part over to small-city owners. And though any Washington team obviously has more marketing potential than any Green Bay or Jacksonville team, big-city owners also face higher costs, a fact the small-city faction likes to brush aside. In the last round of stadium-raising, the big-city teams have paid much or most of the cost themselves, while small-city teams tend to get their facilities wrapped in ribbons. Each year Snyder, Robert Kraft of New England and other big-city owners must meet the debt service on loans for construction of their fields, while the Colts' gleaming new stadium is coming as a gift from Indiana taxpayers. So though, during the negotiations, the big-city owners were portrayed in the press as ravenous and the small-city owners as aw-shucks Jimmy Stewarts, there were some points on the big boys' side.
At any rate Snyder, Jones, McNair and the rest gave in to the small-city owners, and merely argued the details of the sharing formula. This was statesmanlike. Yes, it's surprising to use the words "statesmanlike" and "Dan Snyder" in the same sentence, but there it is. Snyder and other big-boy owners might have demanded that they keep all local revenue -- there's no law of nature that says NFL owners must share. The small-city owners had the weaker hand, yet the guys with the stronger hand voluntarily gave up some of their cards. This preserved the integrity of the game. Unlike Major League baseball, where the monied teams stomp on the small-market clubs, the NFL will remain a sport where Cincinnati is the competitive equal of New York City. (Which, for NFL purposes, is located in New Jersey.) It's said that behind the scenes, other big-money owners took their cues from Snyder: If he was willing to compromise, they would too. Once again, Chainsaw Dan, TMQ's hat is off to you.
|Have a question, comment or rant for Gregg Easterbrook? E-mail him at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com.|
Now to explain the new cognomen. Snyder owns a remarkably gigantic ultra-luxe mansion along the Potomac River. Lovely greenhouse-gas-absorbing trees used to block Snyder's view of the storied Potomac waters. Then some 130 trees between the home and the river were felled, and not by Paul Bunyan. What has followed has been a running melodrama involving Snyder, the National Park Service, the local media and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the congressman from Snyder's district. (The Park Service has jurisdiction because Snyder's property abuts the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.) First the Park Service claimed to know nothing about the missing trees; then it said Snyder had permission to cut them; then it said an appraiser would charge Snyder for the property-value increase caused by the river view; most recently, the line has become that "a high-ranking National Park Service official improperly helped" Snyder secure the permission. Knowing Snyder has popularity problems, Rep. Van Hollen has hit hard on the Case of the Missing Foliage. What's hysterical about all this is that Chainsaw Dan won't simply come out and say he cut the trees down because he wanted to see the river. Snyder maintains his real goal was -- biodiversity protection! He says the trees were not native to the Potomac basin, and he has replanted seedlings of native species. Which will not, one expects, grow enough to block the view until Snyder enters his golden years. Here's a haiku:
At this team they love
Billy Kilmer, but not Joyce:
Chainsaw Dan's Redskins.
Swimsuit Calendar of the Week: Because Dan Snyder is as marketing-oriented as a human being can be, he has brought the team's cheer-babe unit to the cutting edge. The Redskins Cheerleaders now number among the league elite, every bit the equal of the Broncos, Dolphins and Eagles cheerleaders for beauty, dance-routine complexity and state of undress. (Note the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders don't even make the list anymore.) Here is the new Redskins swimsuit calendar, which is hot to the touch. In keeping with the Eagles' cheerleaders' theory that the modern thong bikini conceals way too much, the Redskins' cover cheerleader is topless. Here are the Redskins Cheerleaders in their warm-weather game-day outfits, which constitute a strong argument for warm weather.
What Woodrow Wilson and Ralph Wilson Have in Common: Ralph Wilson was one of two owners to vote against the new NFL-union deal, saying he voted no because he did not understand what he was voting on. For this comment Wilson was derided by sportswriters, but the Bills' owner was just being honest. Fine points of the deal changed so many times as the deadline loomed that none of the owners knew for sure what they were voting on. The last bargaining session was like the day before an adjournment of Congress; after weeks of foot-dragging, at midnight the final provisions of a bill are scrawled out in haste and representatives and senators are expected to say yea or nay without a chance to read the language they are voting on. Of the beginning of the deadline meeting, NFL.com reported: "Most of the first three hours was spent simply listening to commissioner Paul Tagliabue go through details of the union's proposal." It took Woodrow Wilson only 20 minutes to present the Fourteen Points at Versailles!
Wilson and other small-city owners were worried that the new revenue-sharing agreement won't work as promised. When the salary cap first went into effect in 1994, the NFL started a system called SRS that was intended to transfer moderate amounts from rich teams to lesser teams. The theory was that because the salary cap would cause all teams to spend approximately the same on players, small-city teams with lower income would have to use a higher share of their revenues on players than would big-city teams. Supposedly the SRS system would transfer enough money to small-city teams that all NFL clubs would spend roughly the same share of their revenue on players. To make a long story short, it didn't work out that way. Wilson's worry was that the revenue-sharing plan of 2006 would sound good but later quietly be dialed down.
There's still a danger that could happen, as the March deal did not finalize revenue-sharing details. It's expected the new formula will distribute about $150 million from rich clubs to small-city clubs in the first year. But that's still not ironed out: currently, the NFL has the high-status consulting firm McKinsey & Company working on the formula. The Bengals, Bills, Colts, Jaguars and Packers might or might not prove happy with whatever terms McKinsey recommends. But it all comes back to "compared to what?" The wealthy teams might have given nothing to the small-city teams; instead small-city teams get higher revenues and stay competitive. Think of all the things that might have gone wrong for the small cities if the mega-owners faction hadn't unexpectedly turned statesmanlike.
More Uncharacteristic Praise No. 1: This column has never had anything against departing commissioner Paul Tagliabue, but hasn't been nuts about him, either. Tagliabue is a corporate lawyer by training, hired by the NFL from the extremely pinstriped corporate litigation firm of Covington & Burling. As commissioner, Tagliabue acted like a corporate lawyer -- cautious, showing no personality, careful never to displease or challenge his clients, namely the owners. But at the end, Tags turned in a tremendous performance. Last week's column noted, "Money is often at the heart of folly." There is so much money in the NFL's new network deals that it would have been insane for the league and the union to fail to reach a handshake, jeopardizing the golden goose. But disaster could have happened. Some owners wanted to screw the union, or screw other owners. Some factions in the union leadership, especially its legal department, wanted talks to fail so they could boast about screwing the league. Some owners wanted to use the confusion to grab more of the pie than other owners. Some celebrity players wanted talks to fail, creating an uncapped year, because they would be paid more, though average players would be screwed. Some owners were furious that the union was insisting on a role in revenue-sharing among owners, which seemed like none of the players' business. At one point the whole thing nearly collapsed over whether players would get 59.2 percent or 59.8 percent of revenues. There was tremendous potential for fiasco -- and Tagliabue kept that from happening.
A major worry going into the showdown bargaining was that the owners would bicker amongst themselves, and Tags would prove too timid to take a position. Instead the commissioner took a strong leadership stance and forced 32 oversized egos to face the reality that if they didn't complete a deal, the world would view them as 32 fools. (Actually 31 fools, since the Packers are publicly owned.) By the standards of how corporate lawyers operate, Tagliabue's behavior in the final month of bargaining was bold. Since this column is handing out compliments, let's hand one to Tags -- he really came through for professional football. First ballot Hall of Fame, please.
Though Tagliabue's performance was impressive at the last, there is no need to exaggerate his legacy. Many credited him with the fact that 26 NFL stadiums have been built or renovated since he took over in 1989. But this is a reflection of rising national prosperity; basketball and baseball also have seen a significant building boom in the same period. News outlets exaggerated Tagliabue's legacy by not converting money comparisons into today's dollars. One story said NFL television revenues were $468 million a year when Tags arrived and $3.7 billion in 2006, while average player salaries were $343,000 when he arrived and now will be $1.6 million. A common fault of journalism is making money comparisons seem more dramatic by not adjusting for inflation. Stated in today's dollars, when Tagliabue arrived the average player income was $550,000 a year and the NFL television contracts paid $750 million annually. The numbers still went up sharply under Tagliabue, just not as much as it might seem before conversion to 2006 dollars. (See additional numbers from the new agreement below.)
More Uncharacteristic Praise No. 2: That the league and the union did not mutually self-destruct was the NFL's best news of the past year. The second best news was that owner Jeff Lurie of the Eagles made Terrell Owens walk the plank. This harmed Philadelphia's season -- perhaps the Eagles could have reached the playoffs had it not been for the Owens meltdown. But throwing Owens off the team was clearly in the league's long-term interest. So here again we have a very wealthy man, just the sort normally blasted in the press for selfishness, setting aside his own interests for the larger interest of the sport.
The me-first virus is methodically destroying the NBA, and if it spreads in the NFL, could destroy pro football, too. In the NBA, half the star players don't give a flying fig about the team -- they care only about stats and drawing attention to themselves. The NFL isn't like that, which is why the quality of competition is so good. Owens was a test case: If he'd gotten away with caring only about himself, the me-first virus might have entered the NFL bloodstream. Instead Owens was spectacularly stopped, and hard upon the spectacular stop of Maurice Clarett, who contended the entire NFL success system should be torn up to benefit him personally. That Owens lost his bid to place himself above the team was tremendous, and Lurie of the Eagles gets the credit.
Shoot the Term "Shooter": George Orwell was oh so right that we must call things what they are in order to think clearly. Recently this space has complained about calling prisoners "detainees" and illegal immigrants "undocumented arrivals." Murder is another area where the media, especially, seem unable to call things what they are. When some fiend harms multiple people, newscasters call this a "shooting spree." A spree is a gay, carefree outing! In July a sick man killed one person and injured five at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle; over and over again newscasters called his actions a "spree." It was a relief to hear Paula Zahn of CNN call the crime what it was, "a murder rampage." Some newscasters won't even use the word "murder" in connection with events like the one in Seattle. They saying "killing" -- "murder" is too judgmental. But killing is sometimes justified; murder never is. When the innocent are killed, the correct term is murder.
Equally vexing is constant media and cultural use of the word "shooter" for someone who commits murder using a firearm. Press reports regularly refer to the person holding the gun during a murder as "the shooter," which almost sounds like some kind of skilled trade. The person holding the gun during a murder is "the murderer." This came to a head in Arizona this summer when a pair of fiends prowling Phoenix was dubbed the Serial Shooter, and so referred to even by Phoenix police. A murderer isn't a "shooter," he's a murderer. Shooter is a neutral term -- there are perfectly respectable forms of shooting. (Hunting, marksmanship competitions, etc.) Please, media, stop calling murderers "shooters."
Fanned Butts of the Rich and Famous: The $180,375 Mercedes CL65 has "active ventilated front seats with eight internal fans." But you still have to push a button to turn on the eight internal fans. That's really inconvenient. When will Mercedes offer automatic active ventilated front seats? Amazingly, $180,375 gets you only a single CD in-dash -- the six-CD changer, now standard in-dash in most everyday sedans, is located in the trunk. And there's an asterisk on that $180,375 price, noting a $775 transportation fee. So this car costs $180,375 plus $775. Let's hope that $775 isn't a deal-breaker.
Explanation: Impossible: We shouldn't ask for an explanation of why, in the climax of "Mission Impossible III," the supervillain, previously shown commanding a heavily armed private militia and protected by bodyguards even when at the Vatican, nevertheless travels nearly alone to Shanghai to confront Tom Cruise, world's greatest secret agent. My 11-year-old, Spenser, whispered, "Dad, if he's so powerful, how come he's creating a chance for Tom Cruise to get him?" How come, indeed. Nor should we ask why considerable gunfire during the lengthy Shanghai sequence never results in anyone calling the police. Nor should we ask about the scene in which Cruise sprints across rooftops of Chinese houses in the old city area of Shanghai. Rooftops of traditional Chinese homes won't support anyone's weight; he would have crashed through the first one.
Certainly we shouldn't ask for an explanation of the bridge battle. Cruise captures the supervillain at the Vatican, then immediately leaves with him in a jet bound for Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. At Oceana, the supervillain is put into a prisoner transfer truck which heads north, surrounded by SUVs full of agents. The destination? The headquarters of Cruise's employer: An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than the CIA. As the convoy is crossing the bridge portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the supervillain's private army attacks with helicopter-borne commandos and a drone that launches air-to-ground missiles. The attacking mercenaries, we are told, came from Germany. How did they leave Germany after Cruise's plane left Italy, yet arrive in Virginia many hours sooner -- time enough to get into position, plus uncrate their helicopters?
Nor should we ask if you really can drive a Lamborghini directly to the front door of the Vatican and find a parking space there. This scene is warranted because it gives Maggie Q an excuse to wear a three-ounces-of-fabric evening gown.
Fans of the old "Mission Impossible" television series wistfully recall it was based on elaborate ruses in which bad guys were tricked into doing something; violence was rare and the viewers' challenge was to figure out who was tricking whom at what point. The three "M.I." films have been little more than random strings of explosions, screaming and killing. Contemporary movies make much of their returns in the overseas market, where explosions, screaming and killing require no translation. "Gotta dumb it down for the overseas market" has become an all-weather excuse for Hollywood to produce dreck. Yet in its prime weeks, the box-office competition of "M.I. III" was "Ice Age II," a dialogue movie. "Ice Age II" has outsold "M.I. III" overseas with more than $170 million at the box office, according to Boxofficemojo.com, proving dialogue movies can succeed in the international market. But then again, Sid the Sloth has more personality than Tom Cruise. And here I refer to the actual Tom Cruise, not his film characters.
What's really bothersome about "M.I. III" is it's yet another movie in which, once you know the shocking revelation at the end, nothing that occurred previously makes any sense. Indolent directors and scriptwriters have taken to constructing films in which mysterious events happen, and then in the last reel audiences discover that nothing was what it seemed. But once you know the shocking revelation, if you go back and watch the movie again, characters were busily doing things that made no sense based on the true motivations eventually revealed. In the listless 1994 flick "Maverick," the Big Shock at the end is that James Garner, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, who spent the previous two hours trying to double-cross each other, were working together all along. Then why did they spend the previous two hours trying to double-cross each other? (Amazon or any similar store will sell you, for 10 bucks, a DVD of the three best episodes of the wonderful "Maverick" television series from 1958 -- buy one and reminisce about the bygone time when Hollywood understood the word "subtle.") Or consider that in "X-Men III," audiences learn the previously saintly Jean Grey is not only the most powerful mutant but harbors an evil-twin personality bent on destroying the world. When we find out Professor Xavier has known this all along, significant aspects of the previous two films cease to make sense. In the previous movies, Xavier made Grey the sole person besides himself with a password to activate the super-dangerous Cerebro machine; while warning none of the others about Grey's hidden psyche nor preparing any contingency plan to contain her evil personality if it broke free. Which of course it does in "X-Men III," creating much of the action.
Now to the Big Shock at the end of "M.I. III." Throughout the movie it appears Brassel (Laurence Fishburne), head of the Agency Far, Far More Secret Than the CIA, is a traitor in league with terrorists. It appears his deputy, Musgrave (Billy Crudup), is the sole patriotic high official at the agency, and that Musgrave is risking his life by helping Cruise move against Brassel to defeat the supervillain. As you have guessed, the shocker at the end is that Musgrave turns out to be the traitor and Brassel the patriot. Once you know this, NOTHING THAT HAPPENED BEFORE MAKES ANY SENSE.
To begin the movie, Musgrave calls Cruise out of retirement and directs him to Germany to rescue an Impossible Mission Force operative being held by the supervillain. But Cruise is the greatest secret agent in the world. If Musgrave was in league with the supervillain, why did he go out of his way to put the greatest secret agent in the world on the trail of his ally?
After Cruise loses the supervillain during the battle on the bridge, Brassel sends Impossible Mission agents to seize Cruise by force. This makes moviegoers think Brassel must be the traitor. But if Brassel is actually the good guy, what possible reason would he have for having armed men threaten to kill his best agent? At headquarters, Brassel declares Cruise to be the traitor and orders him imprisoned; our hero escapes following an extremely improbable fistfight in which he requires mere seconds to knock unconscious three much larger agents. If Brassel was the good guy it made no sense for him to order his best agent imprisoned, plus it would have been obvious to Brassel that Cruise would not orchestrate an all-out attack against himself. Ridiculously, Brassel has Cruise gagged before our hero is brought inside headquarters. This scene is designed to make viewers think Brassel must be totally evil -- the seeming reason for the gag is so that Cruise cannot yell out, "The director is a mole!" But if Brassel is the good guy then the gag makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, since it prevents Brassel from asking Cruise what the heck happened at the bridge.
Nonsense bonus No. 1: In "M.I. III," not only do the good guys' radios work deep inside buildings where there are no "repeaters," and not only are the radios never overheard by bad guys, the radios appear to work telepathically. Cruise and his pals speak to each other over long distances continuously -- yet they aren't carrying any radios, batteries or microphones, and there are no earpieces in their ears.
Nonsense bonus No. 2: In "M.I. III," Cruise steals from the Chinese military a bioweapon substance that is supposedly ultra-deadly. The stuff is held in a glass cylinder that ends up dropped, kicked, rolling down the street and so on. If you possessed an ultra-deadly substance, would you keep it in a glass cylinder? And if you knew that secret agents from around the world were trying to steal your bioweapon, would you store it in a small container that a person could grab and run away with? Maybe you'd use a 10-ton chamber set in concrete. In many recent movies, ultra-deadly substances have been depicted as stored in easily grabbed, easily broken containers. For instance in "The Rock," after Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery single-handedly defeat dozens of heavily armed mercenaries, they reach the laboratory where the ultra-deadly bioweapon is hidden. The substance is kept in little globes of what appears to be the most delicate Lomonosov porcelain.
Superheroes Note: That previous action makes no sense in light of subsequent revelations is the reverse of "retcon" or "retroactive continuity." Retcon is the lifeblood of movie sequels and comic-book universes. More on retcon in a later column.
Semi-Defense of John Madden: Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News argued last week that John Madden's entrance into the Hall of Fame has "lowered standards" so much that now half the coaches in the NFL can consider themselves Canton-caliber. Of Hall of Fame entrant coaches, Madden is on the bottom rung for on-field accomplishments. Madden coached only 112 wins and one championship. Vince Lombardi had fewer total wins, but those dazzling five championships; Bill Walsh -- slightly fewer wins, but three championships; statistically, Madden clearly bests only Greasy Neale. Lincicome asks if Madden wasn't really given the garish yellow jacket in return for his prominence as an announcer.
But nearly all the Hall of Fame selectors are print journalists. Print journalists commonly feel Madden is a mediocre announcer, and some think Madden harmed pro football with the loud-mouthed-buffoon act he used early in his broadcast career. Some Hall selectors also resent Madden's condescending attitude toward the little people of print, and while personal feelings aren't supposed to matter in awards selections, they matter anyway. Tuesday Morning Quarterback believes Madden does belong in the Hall -- but for his football game, not his booth work. Maybe computer football would have become just as chic if EA's 1991 path-breaking game had been called Wayne Fontes Football. But Madden was there first, and the incredible popularity of electronic football has been a factor in the NFL's ever-rising popularity. The combination of an above-average coaching career and helping launch the electronic football universe is what qualifies Madden for Canton.
Last week Lesley Visser became the first woman to win the Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Award, given annually for contributions to radio and television coverage of football. In 2005 the award went to Pittsburgh radio voice Myron Cope, and he delivered such a lengthy, incoherent oration at the Hall of Fame annual dinner that producers cued the orchestra to drown him out -- pretty embarrassing. With Visser, things went a lot more smoothly. Here is Tuesday Morning Quarterback praising Visser years ago.
Frostback Preposterous Punt: Trailing Calgary 16-6, Saskatchewan faced third-and-2 -- the CFL equivalent of fourth-and-2 -- on the Stampeders' 48 with 6:37 gone in the fourth quarter. You cannot seriously be sending in the punt unit! Boom went the punt, and though it rolled into the end zone for a CFL single, anyone taking notes should have written "game over" in their notebook. There's barely even a need to add that the Stampeders required just four snaps to take the ball the other way for the touchdown that iced the game at 23-7. It's the fourth quarter, you're down by two scores and in opposition territory. Why are you punting?
Rules note: In the CFL, zebras throw the flag for "objectionable conduct." Check the CFL rulebook, which bans "equipment or apparel that may confuse opponents." Hey number 76! You take off that moose mask right now or it's objectionable conduct!
Another Defense of Dan Snyder!: Washington-area television stations and newspapers -- bearing in mind the "Washington" in Washington Redskins means Maryland and Virginia -- are upset that Chainsaw Dan is slowly asserting control of the team's media presentation. Coaches and players are shunning interviews with local network affiliates and with the Washington Post, appearing instead on Redskins TV, a streaming video broadcast controlled by the club. Redskins TV is offering original team programming, plus live broadcasts of training camp and press conferences. Snyder reasons, why do you need the local sportscaster to filter the press conference for you if you can just watch the whole thing yourself on the Redskins' site? The Skins' local radio agreement expired this year, and rather than put the contract out for bid, Snyder bought three radio stations and will broadcast the games. Finally, Chainsaw Dan has declared war on the Washington Post, openly criticizing the paper and prohibiting the Post from buying season tickets. Ostensibly Post season tickets were canceled because Redskins personnel found some being re-sold on services such as eBay. The real reason was to retaliate against the Post for not granting Snyder the sort of reverential coverage enjoyed by the team's previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke.
The Redskins taking over their own broadcasting might or might not be a good idea; my guess is that it's not. Chainsaw Dan wants to control the way the team is presented to the world, and also to sell the accompanying ad space. He figures, why should the Post or a local network affiliate get the revenue from ads that accompany stories about the Redskins, instead of the Redskins getting that revenue? The danger is that long-term, Redskins-produced Redskins media will be bland in-house stuff, and audiences will lose interest. Sports owners tend to see sportswriters and sportscasters as mere stenographers. But in economic terms, the sports media adds considerable value -- value in this case being anything from smart analysis to snarky complaining. Audiences for Redskins' in-house productions won't get smart or snarky, they will only get the company line. That might not be good for the Redskins long-term. It's the same basic problem the league faces with the NFL Network experiment. Short-term, the NFL Network diverts to the league advertising revenue that would otherwise go to ESPN, Fox and so on. Long term, NFL-produced NFL coverage might cause a reduction in enthusiasm for the sport.
These things said, if Snyder wants to try controlling his message, why shouldn't he? The same technological trends that are significantly improving and democratizing fan access to football -- broadband Internet, cheap computers, falling costs of communication -- also make possible Redskins TV. Yours truly doesn't like Redskins TV. I'd much rather watch the local sports anchor or some really sharp ESPN person making Joe Gibbs squirm, or read a clever Washington Post sportswriter doing the same. But you can't have the parts of the Web you like without the parts you don't like. You can't have ESPN Motion without also having Redskins TV. Technology is allowing practically any content to move cheaply across the Internet, and in general this is great. If it also leads to Redskins TV, isn't it Snyder's prerogative to try the idea and see what happens?
As for Chainsaw Dan's campaign against the Washington Post, this seems pretty stupid. The Post is a fine newspaper with a top-notch sports section -- if Snyder were to go on a charm-offensive, his coverage there would rapidly sweeten. Regardless, someone in a high-profile position like his must learn that criticism comes with the territory, and 99 percent of the time it's more effective to ignore critics than retaliate against them. Maybe the Post would like the Redskins' owner better if he styled himself Daniel Marc Snyder!
News from Space: Ray Jayawardhana of the University of Toronto led researchers who recently discovered a tiny almost-star whose companion is a Jupiter-sized planet; the two orbit each other, rather than orbit a true star. The objects have been designated Oph 162225-240515 -- "Oph1622 for short," as the university's press release dryly notes. What's interesting about the pair is that they are not part of a conventional star system with a massive sun at the center. This calls into question standard theories of how stars and planets form. Since Pierre-Simon LaPlace published "Celestial Mechanics" in 1799, the assumption has been that star systems form out of large swirling nebulae of interstellar gas and matter. The light elements end up in the center and ignite as a sun, while the heavy elements end up farther out on the disc and coalesce into planets. Standard theories hold that tremendous amounts of matter, and thereby tremendous gravity, are needed to form a star, while planets can form only on the star's outer boundary. Yet the Oph1622 pair appear to have formed in the absence of tremendous gravity, plus with star and planet sharing the same orbital track. Asked by Napoleon what role in the creation of star systems is played by God, LaPlace famously replied, "Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse," -- "I do not need this hypothesis." Now it seems there is something very basic unknown to LaPlace and his modern counterparts -- some way stellar objects can form without a nebula of great mass. Perhaps God is chortling, "Je n'ai pas besoin de l'hypothèse de LaPlace."
Meanwhile astronomers at the University of Chile discovered a "brown dwarf" about 16 light-years from Earth, close in galactic terms. Brown dwarfs are small star-like bodies similar to the star-like body in Oph1622 -- made of the stuff of suns, but not engaged in nuclear fusion. The new discovery, designated Den 0255-4700, is another of many recent findings suggesting that the galactic neighborhood close to Earth is significantly richer in stars, planets and other cosmic objects than astronomers only recently assumed. Here, for example, is another newly found brown dwarf about 12 light-years distant. These discoveries suggest that once people devise the means to journey out of our solar system, there will be many relatively nearby destinations from which to choose.
New Deal Details: Stated in today's dollars, the first salary cap in 1994 was $44 million; the 2006 cap is $102 million. That's a 132 percent real-dollar increase in player earnings. Over just a dozen years, the NFL golden goose more than doubled the real-dollar sum earned by players -- no other sport comes close. Nor does any white-collar profession. During the same period when NFL pay was rising 132 percent, inflation-adjusted earnings by surgeons rose 29 percent, for example. Now consider that two franchises have been added since 1994, meaning more players have access to the much larger pot, while pension benefits for retired players have steadily increased. Overall, in 1994 about $1.5 billion was paid to NFL active and retired players; in 2006, about $3.7 billion will be. Remember, I'm stating all figures in today's dollars, so the huge increases are after inflation.
(Here's the fine print. Most teams do not max out the salary cap, but on the other hand playing-time bonuses for low-paid players, plus pension and health-care benefits for retired players, do not count against the cap. In 2006, about $18 million per team will be spent on retired-player benefits, this money moving outside the cap framework. When retired players are added to the calculation, total spending on players is somewhat above the salary cap.)
There is also now a cap floor that mandates minimum spending. This year the floor is 84 percent of $102 million, meaning teams must spend a minimum of $86 million on players -- and $86 million was last year's maximum! Next year the salary cap floor will be 90 percent of $109 million, mandating teams spend at least $98 million on players. Owing to the new cap floor, total monies paid to active players will rise by at least 20 percent in the first two years of the new agreement, which is simply outstanding. And that $3.7 billion in payments to players in 2006? If that number strikes you as familiar, it should -- $3.7 billion is the amount the league will earn in 2006 from its rich new network deals. In effect every dollar paid to the NFL by ESPN, CBS, DirecTV, Fox and NBC goes directly to the players. Ticket sales cover the clubs' non-player expenses, while owners make their money on the third and least lucrative category, all the miscellaneous other stuff.
TMQ in the News: Last week your columnist was on "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," PBS's ultra-serious evening news show, talking about global warming. Note they identified me as "Gregg Easterbrook, Brookings Institution." Not "Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN."
Bonus Movie Complaint: The new "Miami Vice" movie was promoted with the weird tag line, "Crime without compromise." What was this supposed to mean, that the movie was unafraid to glamorize crime? Surely it could not have meant the movie depicted crime realistically, since "Miami Vice" is about as realistic as a Pokemon film. Consider just the body count. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, there were 54 murders in Miami last year. That's plenty bad enough, but the murder rate depicted in "Miami Vice" projects out to thousands per annum. Also according to the FBI, three law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in Florida last year, none in Miami-Dade County and none in drug-related incidents. That's plenty bad enough, but compared to the movie
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com. Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise.
Next Week: My AFC preview, plus Paul Bunyan demands a retraction.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse," and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here or Gregg here.