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Was Sunday the ultimate proof of TMQ's law of cheer-babe professionalism? The Kansas City cheerleaders danced in almost nothing despite a kickoff temperature of 40 degrees, while the Broncos' cheerleaders were all bundled up -- and the day ended with the Chiefs pulling off a thousand-to-one unlikely playoff rally as heavily favored Denver blew its chance. Bill Olson of Kansas City writes, "I was delighted to see winter coats and heavy pants concealing the assets of the Broncos' cheerleaders. I pointed out the outfits to my wife and filled her in on TMQ's crusade against such abominations. At the conclusion of the game, she had gained appreciation for the correlation between cheerleader professionalism and team performance." Of Tennessee honking its shot to seize the slot Denver vacated, James Donnelly notes, "It was 63 degrees at kickoff of the Pats-at-Titans game, and got sunny in the second half. The Titans' cheerleaders wore pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tennessee would be playing next week if the cheerleaders had shown professionalism." Jeff Flowers of Acton, Mass. adds, "How huge were the odds against everything Kansas City needed to happen on Sunday actually happening? They needed the Chiefs win; Tennessee to lose at home; Cincinnati to lose at home; and Denver to lose at home. If one had bet a parlay of all four games at $10, one would have walked away with $7,000. However, knowing the rules of cheerleader professionalism, I had no doubts the Chiefs were in. Early in the day I saw a clip of the Chiefs' first touchdown, and the Kansas City cheerleaders were in short-shorts. I watched the New England at Tennessee game, and beheld the Titans' cheerleaders in pants and long-sleeved shirts. It seems the Cincinnati cheerleaders were also overdressed. So Kansas City wins while Tennessee and Cincinnati lose, all predictable based on cheerleader attire. Then the local affiliate switched to the San Francisco-at-Denver overtime, and I saw the Broncos' cheerleaders bundled up in ski parkas. I knew the Chiefs were in, and could turn off the TV and head out for New Year's."
I wondered if tobogganing would be the next frontier in televised sports-like events. Chance Farago of Camden, Maine wrote, "Each year hundreds of serious tobogganers come to Camden, Maine for the Toboggan Nationals. If ESPN wants to air it, we'll welcome that!" John Tatusko of Boston adds, "I take issue with your grossly ill-informed characterization of toboggan racing as only being sport-LIKE. In an age where bowling and driving fast while turning left are considered sports, I argue that riding a three-person toboggan down a mountain through an ancient ice-caked wooden chute, only to be shot out onto an often far-slushier-than-one-would-hope-for lake, must be a sport as well. Even after several years of competition, I have yet to figure out how to steer a toboggan." Well, I was thinking of toboggan runs in the park, but how about it ESPN2 -- this sounds air-worthy! Here, a toboggan cam shows the latest chute conditions in this winter when all the snow is in the Great Plains, none in New England.
Rachel Arbeit of Katonah, N.Y. writes, "A note on the Brett Favre retirement. Can we put a time limit on these things? Officials only have so much time to make a decision about a challenge, how about players only have a week to decide once having openly contemplated retirement?" Rachel, there is a time limit -- it's as long as the media remain interested! The instant the interview requests stop, Favre will make up his mind. Tim Johnston of Fort Wayne, Ind. notes the NAIA championship was University of Sioux Falls 23, University of Saint Francis 19. Not only could this score have been abbreviated USF 23, USF 19 -- both teams are Cougars, so the final was Cougars 23, Cougars 19. Donovan Gilletti of Reno, Nev. notes, "In the Hawaii Bowl, with 3:14 left and trailing by 34-24, Arizona State elected to punt from their own 30, effectively ending the game. The football gods retaliated by allowing Hawaii to score again, turning the final into a 41-24 embarrassment. Buck-buck-brawckkkkkkk!"
Recently I revealed the existence of Blast Gold, a devastating play I developed for my sons' county-league flag football teams. In two seasons I've called Blast Gold nine times, resulting in seven touchdowns and an average gain of more than 40 yards. And I've never seen a high school, college or pro team run the play! Many readers including John Martin of Dallas asked, "If Blast Gold is so good, why didn't you call it more often than nine times in two seasons?" At one point my assistant coach did ask, "Should we just run this constantly?" Lots of plays are run constantly -- the toss, the square out, etc. -- for moderate gains, but using Blast Gold only occasionally preserves its potential for a quick-strike touchdown. Also I offered to sell a diagram of Blast Gold to the highest NFL or Division I bidder. Strangely, I received no offers, although many readers involved in flag and high-school ball, including Tzvi Schlissel of Israel's flag football league, asked for diagrams. Do you suppose I will simply give away the most innovative new play since the veer option? So the secret of Blast Gold remains with me. My sons know the play; perhaps it will be their inheritance. Meanwhile Don Simpson of North Babylon, N.Y. suggested I start calling myself Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the flag team. Mr. Data, make it so!
I noted quarterback Jon Kitna took every snap this season for the Lions. Many readers including Seema al-Haq of Toronto countered that J.P. Losman, Eli Manning and Alex Smith also took every snap for their teams. Kitna trumps them because he heave-hoed every Detroit pass attempt of 2006, while other Buffalo, Jersey/A and San Francisco players put the ball into the air on trick plays.
Jonathan Zimmerman of Bethesda, Md. writes, "Say what you will about Mike Shanahan, his goal is the Super Bowl, and for that reason it made sense for him to play to win in the overtime on Sunday, rather than play to tie, even though playing to win ultimately caused him to lose a postseason slot via tie. If the Broncos had won on Sunday, they would have faced New England in the first round. Shanahan is 9-3 against New England, 4-1 in New England, and 5-1 against the Brady/Belichick combo. Denver is the only team to beat those two in the playoffs. If the Broncos had gained the postseason via tie, they would have played Indianapolis. Since 2002, the Broncos are 2-4 against Indy; Peyton Manning destroys the Broncos. The Broncos have had a lot of success against Belichick and Schottenheimer, much less against Manning and Billick. For that reason, they had a better chance of gaining the Super Bowl playing New England and then San Diego, with Indy and Baltimore facing each other in the divisional round. I can't prove Shanahan was aware of all these seeding ramifications, but present this as a possible explanation for his decisions late in the overtime."
I suggested Peyton Manning stop doing TV commercials and golf tournaments and concentrate solely on football till he makes the Super Bowl. Giuseppe Cadel of Milan, Italy noted, "Back in 2000, Shaquille O'Neal told ESPN The Magazine that he had walked away from endorsement offers worth several million dollars in order to focus on basketball and try to win his first NBA title: the plan worked, as that year Shaquille O'Neal, then 28 years old, capped the best season of his career with the NBA ring. Peyton Manning, now 30 and with all the financial security in the world, seems not to have learned this lesson."
Skip Longen of St. Paul, Minn. writes, "You have been talking about gender-confused mascots. Think about the University of Delaware Blue Hens. Has to be tough to be a male Hen." Jay Kenworthy of Zionsville, Ind. writes, "The Vincennes Lincoln High School sports teams are known as the Alices, after a famous song, 'Alice of Old Vincennes.' The crazy thing is that the boys teams are the Alices and the girls teams are the Lady Alices."
Michael Berheide, a professor of political science at Berea College in Berea, Ky., wrote, "Loved your point this week about Harvard and its endowment, asking them to consider free rides for everyone. Just thought you'd like to know we at Berea College have been doing that since 1855. We've never charged tuition. If we can do it, so can Harvard!" Berea College is a sainted place, founded to educate the Appalachian poor and always tuition-free, though all students are expected to work to support the college. Many institutions of higher education give lip service to equal opportunity. Berea really means its motto: "God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth."
TMQ has asked why big TV networks accept advertising that urges the viewer to watch a competing network. Jay Neumann of Fergus Falls, Minn. explains, "I used to work for a video production company that produced ad insertion commercials for local cable providers. Many network contracts allow local cable providers to sell ads as part of the agreement to include the network in the cable lineup. These ads appear in bunches once or twice an hour, inserted by an automated system into the network's predetermined spots reserved for cable-carrier sales. Sometimes as a network goes into a commercial break, you'll hear a series of quick electronic tones. Those tones trigger the system. If your cable provider hasn't sold all the available spots to local advertisers, they'll fill those spots with promotion for shows produced by the parent company of the cable provider. That, in all likelihood, is why you saw 'Anderson Cooper 360' being advertised on NFL Network -- not because NFLN sold a spot to CNN, but because NFLN's contract gave the local cable provider the right to fill that spot, and the cable provider transferred the time to Time Warner, which owns CNN."
It's only January 3rd and Barbara Grunwald of Clovis, Calif. has already made my year with this word: "One of the high schools in our local school district, Clovis Unified, a large urban district with powerhouse football teams, was recently featured in an article in the Fresno Bee for never punting. The school is Clovis East, and obviously the coach reads TMQ!" The article, by Andy Boogaard of the Bee, reports that Clovis East coach Tim Murphy rarely punts, even in his own territory. Suicidal strategy, as so many big-deal coaches seem to believe? Clovis East finished 12-1 in 2006, ranked sixth in California.
Finally, TMQ wonders why yesterday was officially a National Day of Mourning. Gerald Ford was a fine American who served the country well in war, in Congress and during his brief presidency. As George W. Bush said of Ford at yesterday's memorial, "He belonged to a generation that measured men by their honesty." Are you saying, President Bush, that generation passed with him? Ford lived a rich, accomplished life; was granted wealth; was granted 93 years, more than most are granted; then left the Earth peacefully, surrounded by family. When someone dies young or by violence, sorrow is appropriate. When someone dies naturally at the end of a long and full life, what is there to mourn? Throw a party! Also Ford was a Christian, and if his beliefs are true, now exists eternally in the love of his Redeemer. Most of the politicians who mourned Ford call themselves Christians -- don't they believe their own tenets of salvation and grace? The idea that Christians, especially, should mourn for a good person who dies in old age: well, it tests my faith.
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.