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Jared Weissbrot of Baltimore writes, "Faithfully read the column, wish I could read from a printable version. Coworkers always seem to walk in when the cheerleaders are in view." Ben Brewer of Boston says, "I print your columns out and read them on my commute home. I start reading the moment I sit down on the train and usually I'm finishing when the train pulls into my station." Hmmm sounds like a 45-minute train ride. Dan Lennander of Ames, Iowa adds, "In previous years you provided a link to a version of TMQ that was just text. Now I need to copy and paste into a Word document and delete unwanted pictures so I can enjoy TMQ without the crazy yellow background that gives me a headache." Readers, your wish is my command. Scan to the bottom of the column and select PRINT. From there, either print the column complete with cheerleader swimsuit photos that are certain someday to be displayed prominently in the Smithsonian -- the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback Collection," ah yes, I can see it now -- or select PRINT WITHOUT IMAGES. The latter button allows printing of a text-only version suitable for reading during important meetings. Also, if you want Tuesday Morning Quarterback on your screen at the office without arousing suspicion, go to the PRINT WITHOUT IMAGES option and simply read that.
Malan Blum of Calgary, Alberta asks of the X-Men, "If Professor Xavier's abilities are produced by mutated genes and he teleported his consciousness into another person's body, how could he retain his powers?" Malan, I am sure your question will not be answered in the next sequel. The next sequel is apparently going to be mainly about Wolverine in any case. Maybe about his sensitive side.
Chuck Clark of Columbus, Ohio writes of my never-punt concept, "I believe we only have to wait until a coach from the Madden Generation is hired by a college or professional team before we will see one who never punts. I don't know anyone who has played the Madden series of video games who hasn't tried to play without punting. I think it is only a matter of time before someone tries this on a real field." Steve Kline, Jr. writes, "One thing you didn't mention in your analysis of not punting is that the team that never punted would have more available plays to run on third down. We all know how pass-wacky coaches are on third down, even third and short. But, if a coach knew that he was almost always going for it on fourth down, many more running plays would become an option on third and five, even third and long. This would make third down harder to defense as teams could not assume the offense was going to pass."
Raul Ortega of Nelson Township, Mich. adds, "Imagine how much less predictable NFL playcalling would be if plays were called with the understanding that there are four chances to get 10 yards, rather than three." Kyle Scribner of Nashua, N.H. offers, "The always-going-for-it-on-fourth-if-under-5-yards-needed theory appears to make mathematical sense under current conditions. The key, I think, is in what goes unstated in your article, that is, that 'the average NFL play gains five yards' occurs within the traditional football atmosphere. Never punting is not the traditional football atmosphere and average gain of plays conducted within the suggested new non-punting atmosphere might be less than five yards. I bet that the more widespread going for it on fourth down were to become, the more that four-yards-or-under rule would shrink, as average gain per play declined."
Tuesday Morning Quarterback lamented that the fabulous Steelers-Bengals contest, a playoff rematch and the obvious marquee game of the early Sunday slot, was shown in the capital of Iran but not the capital of the United States. (Washington, D.C. saw Baltimore at Cleveland. Woof woof! Here boy!) Michael Manning of Portland, Ore. writes from Seoul that he watched the Steelers-Bengals game live on South Korean television. Manning adds, "That I was able to see this game while TMQ could not is a total joke." Not to me!
Rob Eisler of Regina, Saskatchewan was among many frostback readers to note, "The Saskatchewan Roughriders versus British Columbia Lions game went into overtime. In CFL overtime teams alternate possessions, as in United States college games, but unlike in the United States, in the CFL a punt kicked through the end zone scores a single point. The Roughriders had the first possession, which ended on a missed field goal. That meant on B.C.'s possession, one point would win the game. The Lions had the wind at their backs and the coach called a punt on first down to try for the single. Even the curling-loving Canadian football gods would not put up with such a thing. The punter shanked it, the kick was returned out of the end zone, and the Riders won in the second overtime." Rob, there's a lesson here. The lesson is that this is the sort of thing that happens when a football team is named the "Lions."
Bryce Christensen of Salt Lake City wrote, "Isn't it possible to have a reverse with a single handoff, or a double-reverse with only two exchanges, if the play initially looks like a quarterback sweep? Especially if the QB has a reputation as a runner and sells the keeper reasonably well?" Many readers including Alicia Krupen of Keuka, N.Y. noted that when Donovan McNabb was at Syracuse, he often ran a sprint-out one way with a flip handoff to a receiver going the other way, which could qualify as a true reverse because the ball changed direction, even though there was only one handoff.
On why rising income does not cause rising happiness, Ramesses Surban of San Diego reminds us of the 1998 Notorious B.I.G. song "Mo Money, Mo Problems," which contains this couplet: "It's like the more money we come across/The more problems we see."
Michael Thiede of Maple Grove, Minn. notes that the "Briscoe High School" team in the Nike commercial has Michael Vick, Brian Urlacher and LaDainian Tomlinson, yet trails 14-10 with 10 seconds to play. He asks, "How on God's green earth is this team getting beat?" TMQ adds -- especially since the team has the adult versions of these players, not their teen selves. The commercial asks you to believe that a team with several Pro Bowl players in their primes would need an improbable last-second Hail Mary to defeat high schoolers. It's video nonsense of course, but nonsense of a high order. And Tuesday Morning Quarterback wonders about those NFL stars, plus Don Shula -- did they actually meet at a high school to film the commercial, or is the entire thing computer-generated with faces digitally imposed? If any reader knows, please advise.
Last Feb. 18, gamma radiation from a distant supernova that exploded 470 million years ago reached Earth. Had the explosion occurred in our galaxy, the radiation would have been many orders of magnitude stronger. I opined that had the supernova been within the Milky Way, "Life on Earth would have ended February 18th." Dave Maloney of Candia, N.H. counters, "Had the explosion happened in our galaxy, it would not have been so far away. So life on Earth would have ended 470 million years ago."
Travis Rathert of Vancouver, British Columbia notes something that struck your columnist too. In the new Superman movie, when Supe in the last reel finally figures out something TOTALLY OBVIOUS, that Lois Lane's little boy is his son, he slips into the sleeping child's room and says, "The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son." This, Rathert asserts, is incomprehensible gibberish regardless of your planet of origin. On other Hollywood points that make no sense, Thomas Lamme of Houston adds, "In 'Batman Begins,' the final story line hinges on the Caped Crusader's ability to stop a machine that is vaporizing Gotham City's water supply by disrupting the molecular structure of water. Yet all the people around, who are 60 percent water, are unaffected by the sinister machine. How did this story line make it through an entire production of the movie without somebody asking the obvious question?" Superhero note: TMQ recommends the fun new book "Up, Up and Oy Vey" by Simcha Weinstein, which speculates on the religious beliefs of comic book characters.
TMQ noted that in the Stargate shows, the Air Force has built four enormous faster-than-light starships using plans supplied by friendly aliens. I scoffed that this was impossible from a financial standpoint: "Hundreds of billions of dollars would be involved, and not even Congress could lose track of that much money." Tom Hitchcock of Costa Mesa, Calif. counters, "It has been shown that our government can lose hundreds of billions of dollars." He points out that at this 2001 press conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon could not account for $2.3 trillion in past spending. One recent Department of Defense internal auditor's report said $1.1 trillion in expenses were "unsupported or improper." They can't even agree on how many trillions they've lost -- but trust them, they're the experts? Hitchcock asserts that the Pentagon has lost or hidden more than enough to finance a crash program of starcruiser construction.
On the running-up-the-score front, Danny Lawhon of Saint Joseph, Mo. notes that two weeks after beating Lincoln 78-0, Central Missouri State University lost 14-10 to Washburn. That same weekend Pittsburg of Kansas, which had beaten Panhandle State 87-0, lost 48-35 to Missouri Western. The football gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly small. Bully teams that run up the score on weak opponents not only are engaging in poor sportsmanship; they are setting themselves up for a fall when they meet an equal opponent.
TMQ wondered if two bolts, recently let go by astronauts during spacewalks, may someday pose deadly hazards to starships, since at extreme speeds collisions with even tiny amounts of matter can cause huge detonations. Many readers including Chelsea Ravenwood of San Francisco countered that two bolts are hardly the only problem: There are an estimated 9,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth, much dating to Moon-race days. By the time the first starcruiser makes the first jump to quadraspace, the junk should be gone, says Erin Weaver of Champaign, Ill. Objects in low-Earth orbit gradually lose speed and fall back into the atmosphere -- the space station occasionally fires small rockets to prevent this. So presumably by the time quadradrive ships exist, all bolts, fairings, shrouds and Tang containers will have burned up in the atmosphere on their own. Space agencies are now working to avoid adding new junk to the debris.
Last week's column lauded Bucknell for doing that which so many universities pretend is out of the question -- playing Division I sports and graduating athletes. Kevin Blackwell of Catonsville, Md., writes, "I am a former basketball player at Bucknell, and have been associated with the university since 1981. My junior and senior years, we were 43-16 and had nine engineering majors on the team. In my 25 years involved with Bucknell, we have graduated EVERY basketball player. I am more proud of that than our victories over the last two seasons in the NCAA men's tournament. We bring this up to every recruit -- 'Don't be the first one not to graduate' -- and it resonates." Universities: If you take education seriously and set high expectations, competitors respond. If you view education as a technicality and set expectations low, which is the case in most Division I football and basketball programs, don't claim to be shocked by the results.
Finally I wrote, "Because the Raiders had a bye, it will be October before Oakland scores its first touchdown of the 2006 season." Rachel Lovenheim of Milpitas, Calif. countered, "What makes you so sure Oakland will score a touchdown in October?"
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.