Suppose you knew nothing about NFL teams except their records and that Week 7 just concluded. Who should be counted out, and who counted in?
Examination of season results since the 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990 finds these things: A team with a below-.500 record after Week 7 has only an 8 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. Teams that are undefeated at this juncture stand a 93 percent chance of appearing in the postseason. Teams with one loss are 88 percent likely to make the playoffs. Teams with two losses have a 67 percent chance of a postseason invitation card.
What do these numbers, compiled with assistance from Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN's Stats & Information, suggest?
First, of teams entering 2014 with legitimate hopes of being contenders, the Falcons, Giants and Saints can kiss their seasons goodbye Thirteen of the league's 32 teams are below .500 after Week 7, and nine times out of 10, that means no playoffs.
Second, there's no undefeated team this season, so that magical-sounding 93 percent postseason likelihood goes unclaimed this season. More's the pity, since an undefeated team after Week 7 has a 28 percent chance of a Super Bowl win.
Third, considering the 88 percent chance a single-defeat team has at this juncture, Arizona, Dallas, Denver and Philadelphia are the league's elite in terms of won-loss, but a meltdown is all that stands between them and the postseason. Of course, the Cowboys still have to survive December! The one-loss club has a very favorable 29 percent chance of reaching the Super Bowl. But supporters of these clubs should not get too excited about hoisting the Lombardi. Only 7 percent of teams with a single loss after Week 7 have gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Fourth, Baltimore, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and San Diego all are looking good. Two defeats means 67 percent chance of reaching the playoffs and a 6 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.
As for the defending champion Seahawks, at 3-3 after Week 7, they hold only a 38 percent chance of reaching the playoffs this season and just a 1 percent chance of repeating as champions.
Seven of 17 weeks played might not sound like much, but history suggests many dies are already cast. Julius Caesar said "the die is cast" when he ordered his army across the Rubicon River in 49 B.C. The Roman civil war still had to take place, but Caesar felt he knew what would happen. Ten more NFL weeks are to be played, but there's a pretty good chance we already know most of the answers as to whom to count in and whom to count out.
In sports-and-society news, this column has been dipping its toes into the possibility there actually is some good news. Dip your toes into this, from the Baltimore Sun: A subcommittee of the regents of the University of Maryland and other Maryland public universities has proposed a policy that would deny performance bonuses to coaches "if their players fail to meet academic benchmarks." (The full board of regents votes on the policy later this week.)
Today, big-college coaches and athletic directors are rewarded for one thing only -- victory. Human beings respond to incentives: If coaches and athletic directors had money incentives tied to education, their behavior would change. The Maryland action concerns the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate, which this column contends is phony compared to graduation rate. (No employer ever asks, "Did you attend an APR-compliant institution?" Employers, including the NCAA itself, ask, "Did you graduate from college?") But it's a step in the right direction.
In other sports-and-society news, Notre Dame at Florida State was as exciting as collegiate athletics can be. In the run-up, there was national attention to the swirl of accusations involving Seminoles star Jameis Winston. Some of the accusations are serious, others involve alleged violations of silly NCAA rules. In any event, two stories dominated: fantastic matchup, accusations against a star.
Did any sportscaster or sportswriter mention Florida State's atrocious 58 percent football graduation rate? In the larger scheme of things, that matters far more than whether Winston was paid to sign autographs. The trivial issue got extensive attention; the educational issue was ignored.
In NCAA telecasts, each college is granted time to air an image ad. Universities can say anything they please about themselves -- there is no fact-checking. Florida State's image ad during the game showed Renegade the horse bucking. "A spirit roams these parts. A spirit of respect, competition and academic greatness," the voice-over cooed about Florida State. Then it added, "Some call our spirit myth." For instance, anyone who's seen Florida State graduation statistics!
There is no academic greatness in the Florida State football program -- not even mediocrity. Students as a whole at Florida State graduate at a 75 percent rate. The football players get special tutoring, up to five years to complete their credits and don't pay tuition. For students as a whole, running out of money is the primary barrier to graduation. Yet football players graduate at only a 58 percent rate. Even adjusting for the handful who depart early for the NFL, the Seminoles' football graduation rate ought to embarrass alums, boosters and the school's board of trustees. "Academic greatness" -- what hogwash.
Stats Of The Week No. 1: Russell Wilson became the first person in NFL annals to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in the same game -- and the Seahawks lost.
Stats Of The Week No. 2: Visiting San Diego, the Chiefs held the ball for 25 of the 29 plays of the third quarter.
Stats Of The Week No. 3: At 5:37 p.m. ET on Oct. 19, the Arizona Cardinals threw their first interception of the season.
Stats Of The Week No. 4: Minnesota is on a 1-10-1 road streak.
Stats Of The Week No. 5: The Browns, who just lost to 0-6 Jacksonville, next face the Raiders and Buccaneers, combined record 1-11.
Stats Of The Week No. 6: Matt Ryan is 38-11 as a starter at home, 24-28 on the road.
Stats Of The Week No. 7: The Bears are 3-1 on the road, 0-3 at home.
Stats of the Week No. 8: (College stat.) At Florida, Missouri scored 42 points on 119 yards of offense.
Stats Of The Week No. 9: (College stat.) West Virginia held Baylor to 464 fewer offensive yards than Baylor gained the previous week.
Stats Of The Week No. 10: Since advising Packers' fans to R-E-L-A-X, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Sweet Plays Of The Week: The Rams leading the defending champion Seahawks 14-3, Seattle lined up to punt. Scouts know Seattle punter Jon Ryan usually booms to the left or right sideline. Running downfield with their backs to the ball, Seattle coverage guys watch the reactions of the receiving team to determine where the kick is going.
Les Mouflons lined up Tavon Austin as the return man at the center of the field and Stedman Bailey to jam a gunner on the punter's left. As the punt boomed, Austin ran toward the right sideline, looking up into the air as if the punt were traveling that way. Austin's blockers came with him. This caused the Seattle coverage team to head toward Austin, who looked up, up -- but there was nothing there because the punt was headed to the opposite sideline. Bailey had run into that position, shagged the punt and went 90 yards untouched for the touchdown. Very sweet -- a trick play on which the other team has the ball at the snap! The Bears used this play three years ago versus the Packers.
Now St. Louis lead 28-26 and faced fourth-and-3 at its own 18 with three minutes remaining. Punting was the "safe" tactic, though it would give the Seattle offense, which had come alive in the fourth quarter, three minutes to reach position for the winning field goal. Thus punting wasn't really safe, it was risky. The Rams lined up to punt; the gunner on left became a man-in-motion toward the formation, followed by the guy who lined up to jam him; at the snap, slotback Benny Cunningham ran a flare to the area the gunner and jammer vacated. First down as punter Johnny Hekker got his fourth career pass completion off a fake. Sweet!
St. Louis faced basically the same situation New England faced five years ago when Bill Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots' 28 at Indianapolis, in the endgame with the Colts' offense hot. Belichick's decision to go for it was correct, the play just failed. Jeff Fisher made the same calculation and the play worked, leaving the defending champions reeling at 3-3.
Sweet Record-Tying Play: Peyton Manning's 509th touchdown pass, to Demaryius Thomas, set the NFL career record and sent Thunder the steed, ridden by Ann Judge-Wegener, cantering across the field at Denver.
Manning's 508th, tying the mark, was sweeter. Thomas lined up far left with Wes Welker in the slot, a formation from which Denver often throws the hitch screen to Thomas while Welker blocks. At the snap, Thomas stepped backward and turned his hands to Manning for the hitch screen; Welker ran toward the defensive back closest to Thomas and lowered his shoulder as if to block; then Welker shot up the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown completion. Every high school that has the hitch screen in its playbook sometimes fakes the action and sends the purported blocker deep. With high school tactics -- shotgun spread, quick-snap -- taking over the NFL, it was fun to see a high school play go into the record books.
Sour Defense Of The Week: Last season's fourth-overall finish for the New Orleans defense must have been a misprint. The Saints' defense was torched again, unable to hold a 23-10 lead with the Lions facing third-and-14 deep in their own territory with just under four minutes remaining. When Detroit's Golden Tate outjumped New Orleans corner Corey White for a catch and then started up the sideline, White barely bothered to jog after him, making no attempt to run him down. No for-real NFL defense gives up a 73-yard touchdown pass late in a game.
Now New Orleans leads 23-17 and has the Lions facing fourth-and-5 near the two-minute warning. Incompletion, but Saints safety Rafael Bush is called for holding -- automatic first down, and Detroit wins points three snaps later. The Saints have invested heavily in the past two offseasons in defensive backs -- first-round choice Kenny Vaccaro, mega-contract for free agent Jairus Byrd. Yet their pass defense is bottom-quartile, and the Saints have just four takeaways despite playing a gambling style. New Orleans has the second-overall offense, and a 2-4 record. Don't tell me about injuries: in the NFL, everybody has injuries.
Sweet 'N' Sour Drive: Minnesota leading 16-10, the Vikes had the Bills facing fourth-and-20 with 1:27 remaining. Minnesota seemed surprised when the Bills, holding time outs, didn't call one and rather ran to the line to quick-snap, 24-yard pass, first down. Some incompletions and penalties later, the Bills faced second-and-20 on the Minnesota 30 with 25 seconds remaining, now out of timeouts. Twenty-eight-yard completion to the undrafted Chris Hogan, spike, then winning touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins with one tick remaining. Sweet for the home team.
Sour for the visitors was that the Buffalo winning drive started on the Bills' 20 and was the host team's longest drive of the game.
In Praise Of Gina: Your columnist thinks the first female president will be elected soon, and it won't be Hillary Clinton -- see more below. Who might it be? Keep your eye on Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.
She's the Democratic candidate for governor in the Ocean State and stands a good chance of victory. As Rhode Island's general treasurer, she was the motive force behind a pension-reform initiative that made interest groups furious but prevented state pensions from veering into insolvency. In the Democratic primary, Raimondo, a liberal calling for strict fiscal discipline, defeated a do-nothing candidate who stood for kicking all cans down the road.
Raimondo is running as a liberal who unsettles public-sector unions, usually the liberal's best friend. But public-sector unions tend to want money to come down from the sky to fund higher benefits. Higher benefits mean more borrowing, and that's a formula for national decline, to say nothing of a formula for bankrupting the young. New Jersey, Illinois, California, Detroit and other states and cities have severe fiscal problems tracing to unfunded pension liabilities. Somebody's got to deal with this.
And while at the federal level the annual deficit is declining, that only means national debt is rising more slowly. National public debt is not being paid down; there isn't even a plan to pay it down. On the current track, public debt will hit 100 percent of GDP in 25 years, a level that would suffocate the economy.
What the United States might need as a leader is a liberal who's willing to look the national-debt monster in the eye. Should Raimondo win the Rhode Island governorship, she will enter the national-leadership conversation. And be hysterically denounced by interest groups, which is a good sign.
Rhode Island postscript: Go Local Prov is a hard-working, independent news site, the kind of nimble little guy that's growing as the MSM contracts. Check its story on the nearly 50 retired Providence city employees, who collectively draw more than $5.5 million a year in pension money despite the city's poor financial condition. Or its story showing that an impossibly high percentage of Providence public officials are awarded special disability pensions.
Cheer-Babe Professionalism Watch: As cool weather arrives and leaves begin to fall, cheer-babe professionalism becomes a factor.
Professionalism in this context means skin or at least skin-tight; scantily attired cheerleaders propitiate the football gods.
Kickoff temperature in Maryland was 55 degrees with a gusty breeze, and the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons cheerleaders came out in two-piece, bikini-beach numbers. This professionalism inspired the faltering Persons to a last-second win.
Three Touchdowns in 73 Seconds, That's All? Pittsburgh roared back versus Houston by scoring three touchdowns in 73 seconds. That's pretty flashy but not unprecedented.
Versus the Broncos in 1990, the Bills scored three touchdowns in 77 seconds. First, a blocked field goal attempt returned for a touchdown. After the kickoff, Denver's first snap was a John Elway pick-six. Following the next kickoff, on Denver's first play, Elway fumbled the snap; Buffalo recovered and scored a touchdown on its first snap.
Versus the Jets in 2012, New England scored three touchdowns in 52 seconds. First Tom Brady threw an 83-yard touchdown pass. On the second Jersey/B snap after the kickoff, Mark Sanchez fumbled, and the Patriots returned it for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff -- "ensuing" would go out of usage were it not for sports -- the Jersey/B return man fumbled, and it was returned for six. New England also gained 137 yards in those 52 seconds.
This 2007 Bears-Broncos contest included three touchdowns in 27 seconds, though not by the same team.
Monday night's score-a-palooza began with Ben Roethlisberger connecting with rookie Martavis Bryant for a touchdown pass that made the count Houston 13, Pittsburgh 10. Then the key play: Houston return man Danieal Manning should have stayed in the end zone, but instead tried to come out and fumbled the ball. Houston recovers, but the drive starts on its own 5. There was 1:22 remaining before intermission, with Pittsburgh holding two timeouts. Two consecutive plays went to Arian Foster, who is sure-handed. But light rain had begun, and as driving instructors warn, in the minutes after light rain starts, the road is deceptively slick. So too the football. On the second play, Foster lost a fumble.
Now Pittsburgh has possession on the Houston 3. Wide receiver Antonio Brown takes a pitch running right. It looks like an end-around, an odd call at the goal line. But Brown -- a college walk-on who received no scholarship offers -- was a star quarterback in high school and coming in had attempted four NFL passes on gadget plays. Brown slammed to a stop and reversed course; TMQ readers know this column extols the planned-cutback action. Now the play looks like a reverse, and Roethlisberger throws a block: For a reverse to succeed, the quarterback must get a block. Then Brown, running left, threw leftie to Lance Moore crossing from the right -- touchdown. Sweet play and a gutsy call for embattled Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who would have been lampooned had this gadget ended in fiasco.
Kickoff, Houston possession on its 20, trailing 17-13 with 1:03 before intermission. Pittsburgh is down to one timeout, so the Texans could kneel. But Houston has three timeouts, so trying to reach field goal range is a good tactic here. A Ryan Fitzpatrick pass is tipped, intercepted and returned to the Houston 2. The PA system should have struck up Fight Fiercely Harvard! The Houston defense looks discombobulated coming back out onto the field. Presnap, Pittsburgh shifts tailback Le'Veon Bell far wide to the right, outside the wide receiver. There is only one Houston defensive back on that side -- a classic busted coverage. Call timeout! Call timeout! Houston does not call timeout, and Roethlisberger throws an uncontested lob to Bell. Three touchdowns in 73 seconds.
In case you think football can't get any wilder, let me replay a 2007 comment: "Reader Doug Matkins of Livermore, California, once attended a high school contest that featured five touchdowns in five plays: 'My nephew's team, York High of York, Nebraska, was facing Fairbury, which scored touchdown #1 and kicked off. York returned the kickoff for touchdown #2. York onside kicked, and Fairbury returned the onside for touchdown #3. Fairbury kicked off, and York returned for touchdown #4. York onside kicked again, and once again the onside was returned by the receiving team, touchdown #5.' Five touchdowns in five downs"
Fermi's Question Gets Steadily Stronger: Astronomers continue to find indications there are billions of planets in our Milky Way galaxy, probably a far larger number beyond in the vastness of the universe. As many as 6 percent of red dwarves, the most common star in the Milky Way, might have reasonably Earth-like companions. That would suggest several billion reasonably Earth-like worlds circling the galaxy's red dwarves. Even if only a small share of them are habitable, that's still a very large total number.
Yet there's no hint -- no confirmed artificial broadcast or other indication -- that distant worlds have civilizations. Should exoplanet discoveries cause a revisiting of the Fermi Paradox?
Proposed in 1950 by Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi, this concept holds that if planets are ubiquitous and Earth is young compared to most of the Milky Way -- both propositions now seem true -- then other intelligent life should already have evolved. Yet we don't hear from other worlds or see any firm evidence other species have visited here.
Of course, it could be that other worlds don't wish to make contact; presumably an advanced civilization could disguise its existence. It could be there is no way around the light-speed barrier, rendering interstellar travel highly impractical. But that would not necessarily rule out one-way trips in suspended animation. One-way ships traveling below the speed of light could colonize vast regions of the Milky Way in a few million years, which is a lot of time to us but not much to the cosmos. Despite this, in our part of the Milky Way there's no indication of any outposts. Fermi would say: Where is everybody?
It could be that once civilizations become technological, they rapidly destroy themselves. It could be -- this your columnist finds most tantalizing -- that the technological phase of civilizations (building rockets and telescopes) is very brief compared to the evolutionary phase, then is followed by a beyond-technology phase in which physical structures mean little. In that case, even if there's a lot of life in the Milky Way, the odds would be against two relatively nearby planets both being in the technological phase at the same moment.
The new book "Our Mathematical Universe," by MIT physicist Max Tegmark, supposes that as humanity begins to explore nearby star systems, we should hope to find only lifeless worlds. Why? If we don't find any sign of other life, Tegmark supposes, that could mean we are not fated to destroy ourselves -- others didn't destroy themselves because there weren't any others. By contrast, finding the radioactive ruins of once-great civilizations would be a depressing message about the human prospect.
In any case, the Hundred Year Starship won't answer any of these questions. It's is a business-plan project, not an engineering concept.
HMS Pinafore Comes To Baseball The World Series throws out the first ball tonight, creating a moment to mention that pro baseball clubs are becoming as overstaffed as pro football organizations. Excluding sales, marketing, clerical and stadium operations staff, the Houston Astros have a chairman, a president, five senior vice presidents, six vice presidents, a general manager, an assistant general manager, many managers, five special assistants, four senior directors (including a senior director of risk management), 21 directors (including a director of decision sciences), two assistant directors, 21 coordinators, eight coaches, five specialists, a senior technical architect, a head athletic trainer, an assistant athletic trainer, three administrators, three team physicians, a team chiropractor and a massage therapist. These are just the ones who do the baseball part -- 81 people with titles to administer a maximum of 40 players.
R-E-L-A-X: Green Bay started the season sputtering but now has scored on 25 of 27 red zone trips. Early against Carolina, the Packers had first-and-10 on their 41. Aaron Rodgers play faked, Panthers corner Antoine Cason bit on a stutter-go, Jordy Nelson made the catch and faked Roman Harper out of his athletic socks on the way to a 59-yard touchdown. The Carolina defense seemed unconcerned with Nelson, though he entered the contest as the league's No. 1 receiver. On the next Green Bay possession, Nelson wham-blocked Harper out of the picture as Eddie Lacy scored an untouched touchdown, and the rout was on.
The Panthers are on the cusp of a lost season. Their defense, second-ranked in 2013, has plummeted to 26. Cam Newton was 14-0 as a starter in college and is 27-27-1 as a starter in the pros. College seems so, so long ago.
Wacky Food Of The Week: A short time ago the New York Times declared that high-end Texas brisket was the foodie trend sweeping New York City. That trend sure didn't last -- now it's high-end chicken wings. They include "Sichuan peppercorn and sea salt wings" and "pro-citrus, high-acid perspective" wings served with lime wedges; mole wings; wings cooked in bay leaves and coconut milk; wings that are "Abstract Expressionist splatters of crema, cotija cheese and Anson Mills benne seeds."
Perhaps chicken wings "in a honey sriracha glaze on a bed of pineapple chutney" would be more your style. That's from Bluegrass Kitchen in West Virginia.
TMQ Continues To Like The Colts For The Super Bowl: The Colts sacked Andy Dalton four times on the way to a shutout victory, twice forced Dalton to throw the ball at a receiver's feet to avoid sacks, and hit him hard on Cincinnati' fourth-and-goal, causing a bad pass that fell incomplete. Even without Robert Mathis, on full-season injured reserve, Indianapolis is putting pressure on the opposition passer. Andrew Luck is on a pace for 5,328 passing yards, which would be third-best all time, and the Colts lead the league in offensive yards.
Concussion Watch This new academic study, first reported by "Outside the Lines," finds there is only one chance in seven that a college football player will tell a coach or trainer that he feels concussion symptoms.
That's concussion symptoms. Broadcasters and sportswriters tend to say "concussion-like" symptoms. But there is no distinction between concussion symptoms and "concussion-like" symptoms, just as there is no difference between flu symptoms and "flu-like" symptoms. Blinding head pain right after an impact is a concussion symptom; there might not be a concussion, but it's a symptom of one. Fever and chills are a flu symptom; the person might not have the flu but has the symptoms. Saying "concussion-like" symptoms is a needless qualifier that soft-pedals the problem.
The startup Brain Sentry has engineered a simple, cost-effective tool that seems likely to reduce neurological harm from football. Players wear an accelerometer on the outside of the helmet. If the player registers a high-force head impact, the accelerometer begins to flash. Officials signal the player out of the game to be evaluated for concussion symptoms.
This idea is attractive because it's simple and affordable. More complex systems exist, ones that send telemetry to data devices that alert sideline physicians. But there must be a sideline physician, and most high schools don't have one. So are high schools lining up to get Brain Sentry? No, they are shunning it. Many high school administrative organizations seem to believe -- wrongly, in the view of legal experts this column has consulted -- that if coaches are aware of concussion symptoms, the school district becomes liable for any harm that later occurs. But if they are blissfully ignorant, they are not liable. Needless to say in this scenario, avoiding litigation cost is more important than protecting health.
At the NFL level, teams have extensive staffs of physicians and certified trainers. Why doesn't the NFL mandate internal helmet telemetry devices that include accelerometers? The league has been considering this for years but has yet to take action. The NFL seems to believe that if teams are aware of concussion symptoms, they become liable for any harm that later occurs, but if they are blissfully ignorant, they are not liable. And needless to say the message is the same. The NFL now talks a good game on concussion awareness. If it were really serious, there would be an accelerometer in every NFL helmet.
Is the culture of the game changing? Kansas City at San Diego, the Bolts' Brandon Flowers was hit hard in the head and seemed woozy. One of the officials removed him from the defensive huddle and walked him to the sideline, telling San Diego trainers he needed to be evaluated. Flowers was found to have sustained a concussion and did not return. Excellent move by the officiating crew led by Bill Vinovich -- not just to protect one player's health, but to set the right example for college and high school officials.
Point To Keep In Mind: Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard, hoping to "challenge the belief among all too many of our children that the dream to aim for is a sports scholarship or [be] drafted by a professional basketball or football team," shows that African Americans are more likely to be physicians or lawyers than to be engaged in pro sports. Gates finds that in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, "There were more black neurologists (411) and black cardiologists (690) by far than all of the black men playing in the NBA (350)."
Peyton Manning Nears Halfway Mark In Quest For Touchdown Pass Record: So this Manning fellow whom you might have seen in a TV commercial has a nice total of 510 touchdown passes. But he's not even halfway to the professional football touchdown pass record of 1,336, held by Arena football's Aaron Garcia from his seasons with the Arizona Rattlers, Connecticut Coyotes, New Jersey Red Dogs, Iowa Barnstormers, New York Dragons, Jacksonville Sharks, San Antonio Talons, San Jose SaberCats, Orlando Predators, Jacksonville Sharks and Los Angeles KISS.
Want to try out for the KISS? Auditions cost $85 in advance, $110 at the door. This is a recruiting scandal in reverse -- players slip money to coaches.
Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk: Denver leading 14-0 in a game when the Broncos were all but certain to score more, Santa Clara faced fourth-and-goal from the Denver 4. Harbaugh/West did the "safe" thing and sent in the field goal unit. The 49ers went on to lose 42-17.
Green Bay leading 28-0 with 5 seconds remaining in the first half, Ron Rivera had the Panthers kick a short field goal. Sure the ball was on the Packers' 15. But what does cutting the margin to 25 points accomplish? Just for laffs, Green Bay called time, hoping to ice to kicker.
Vote Early, Vote Often: Your columnist thinks the first female president is in the cards but won't be Hillary Clinton, simply because Clinton is the early front-runner and in recent presidential nomination cycles, early-frontrunner status has been the kiss of death.
If Clinton falters, Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland, might enter the conversation for the Democratic nod. O'Malley has been mayor of Baltimore, then Maryland governor. The Old Line State has robust economic growth, relatively low unemployment and in about half its counties, excellent public education. O'Malley could present himself to the national electorate as an accomplished governor of a boom state with good schools.
Five of the past eight persons elected to the White House had been governors. Presidential voters favor governors -- senators talk, talk, talk while governors actually run things. The most recent Democratic presidential candidate who was a white male, liberal, former governor was Bill Clinton, and voters simply could not get enough of him. As a white-male, former-governor, liberal Democrat, O'Malley could fit nicely into the Democratic Party's recent winning formula. It's not out of the question he will become president.
But O'Malley raised Maryland income taxes twice, also raising sales, gasoline, corporate, estate, tobacco and excise taxes; he will be easy to depict as a tax-and-spend type. (This is setting aside whether an argument can be made a high-growth, high-tax environment is the desirable condition for a modern economy.) O'Malley devoted much of his time in recent years to gallivanting around the county to promote himself, ignoring his home-state duties. This fall, he has been campaigning in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and North Carolina at taxpayer expense while blithely disregarding his job. That O'Malley is out of state so much promoting himself might be a reason three big projects under his administration -- an offshore wind farm and trolley lines in Baltimore and Maryland's near-D.C. suburbs -- are years behind schedule and ridiculously over budget. All will lend themselves to TV-commercial ridicule.
Both Baltimore and the Maryland statehouse have reputations for corruption. In 2010, Baltimore's mayor was convicted of stealing from a fund intended to underwrite gifts to the poor, while this good-government organization ranks Maryland near the bottom for government graft. It seems unlikely O'Malley could have run both Baltimore and the Maryland statehouse without skeletons in his closet.
Get Your School Bus Out Of The Way Of My Mercedes: In my mailbox during primary season were flyers from this organization, which is trying to block use of public property for a school bus marshaling yard. The parcel is in Potomac, Maryland, the horse-country area of the nation's capital -- an insular community of McMansions and true mansions, of golf courses and country clubs, the town where Chainsaw Dan Snyder lives. The organization's flyers say a bus depot would "clog our local roads with school buses." Rich people in Mercedes who send their children to private schools don't want to have to slow down for public-school buses. Maybe O'Malley should tax 'em even more.
More Evidence Mega-Trades Don't Work: Seattle gave first-, third- and seventh-round draft selections to obtain Percy Harvin, had him for less than two seasons, then dealt him to the Jets for a conditional draft choice likely to be in the later rounds. At least they got their damage deposit back!
When the Seahawks made the trade, your columnist opined Harvin "has never had a thousand-yard receiving season ... and complains nonstop." I proposed that wide receiver Cecil Shorts from Division III Mount Union is "a better player than Harvin."
What's happened since those words were written? Harvin ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the Super Bowl; including playoffs, he gained a total of 242 yards from scrimmage for Seattle. In the same period, Shorts gained 952 yards from scrimmage for Jacksonville.
The Bluish Men Group paid Harvin about $19 million for his brief stay -- totaling catches, rushes and returns that's $345,454 each time he touched the ball -- and owe about $9 million in salary-cap accounting charges for him in coming seasons. But at least they got rid of a distraction; essentially, unloaded a bad stock. The defending champions concluded they would be better off throwing to Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette, all undrafted, than to the overrated Harvin.
TMQ will repeat my question from the last time this gent was traded: Why do people speak of Percy Harvin as a great player? NFL clubs have now invested two first-round draft picks and other high choices in Harvin, and except for one kickoff return, he's done little on the field, while causing issues in the locker room.
More Canny Player-Personnel Moves: Raiders Nation is sick of being reminded of all the high draft choices Oakland has blown in recent years or trades for gents long gone. Now here's something else to cause Raiders fans to rend their garments and gnash their teeth. Division-leading Arizona's starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer, was drafted high by Oakland, then let go. One of Arizona's starting linebackers, Matt Shaughnessy (currently on short-term IR), was drafted high by Oakland, then let go. Both are better than players Oakland now fields at their positions.
City of Tampa is last in pass defense. Sure is lucky they waived Darrelle Revis!
In Development -- Primetime Action Drama About the Department of Agriculture: The new hit show "Madam Secretary" offers a fictional Secretary of State, played by actress Tea Leoni, who is an action hero, plus better looking than all 68 real secretaries of state combined. Leoni's character seems to spend a lot more time in secret encounters with mysterious forces than reading diplomatic cables. It might be only a matter of episodes until she has to go undercover in a foreign bazaar, take mere seconds to beat up five heavily armed men, then escape through an air shaft. (Secretaries of State do not escape through sewers -- it's undignified.)
Americans say they despise Washington, D.C., yet can't seem to get enough of primetime shows that glamorize the capital: "West Wing," "First Monday," "Scandal," "Commander in Chief," "House of Cards" among them. Or mock the capital: If you haven't caught the Amazon online series "Alpha House", you're missing a treat. The new season of "Alpha House" starts Friday.
But when will Hollywood give us the real Washington? In development at Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises are these pilots:
"Ops Research." Text messages sent at 3 a.m., high school yearbook comments, artfully cropped photos -- they're gold when it comes to discrediting political opponents. Follow the adventures of two "operations research" consultants for hire as they pursue the great mission of trivializing American politics. With a lot of help from the mainstream media! Starring Bob Odenkirk and Katy Perry.
"Empty Chamber." Rep. Blanton Foghorn arrives on Capitol Hill expecting to participate in great debates only to find a line of members waiting for their turn to read interest-group blather into the Congressional Record before an empty chamber. Follow his misadventures as he angles for the support of the Saudi Fuels Association and takes donations to warn Americans of the dangers of too much stratospheric ozone.
"Acting Associate Deputy Administrator". Life as a middle-level official of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is glamorized in all its thrilling detail -- the pressure-packed meetings, the memos, the grisly sex murders. Based on a true story!
"Atop Mumble Mountain." Jenna Elfman stars as a ditzy academic who is a surprise appointee as new chairman of the Federal Reserve. Her first challenge: talk at a congressional hearing for two hours without saying one single thing anyone can understand. Ripped from the pages of today's headlines!
"Working Both Sides of the Aisle." A high-class madam provides exclusive services to both political parties. In the pilot, she deals with the ramifications for her business upon the influx of powerful women to D.C.
"A Thousand Seconds." If newspapers are the first draft of history, politicians' ghostwritten "as told by" books are the footnotes. Audiences will see the deep underground facility where ghostwritten political books are produced -- controlled by a central computer that spits out clichés, self-praise and formulaic fabricated stories of childhood hardship. In the pilot, a low-level ghostwriter in the How I Overcame Poverty branch decides to lead a rebellion.
"In My Pajamas." Once, opinion-maker political columnists were WASP males who jotted down rumors at martini lunches. Now political opinions are made by bloggers in pajamas. In the pilot, a sexy, glamorous, political blogger must do investigative journalism about a White House scandal (that is, must surf the Web) while Snapchatting at a Starbucks with this hot guy from her Pilates class. Then -- the Wi-Fi goes down!
"Code Name Scone." Kristen Bell stars as the CIA desk officer for Scotland. She had a quiet, 9-to-5 life -- until she stumbled across a document she wasn't supposed to see.
Was the Jacksonville Performance Fluke or Portent?: Touts have been wondering if former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley can turn the Jaguars into Seattle South. Sunday, this seemed possible. The opponent was only the Browns, but Jacksonville held them to six points and 3.6 yards per offensive snap, well below the league average. Cleveland reaching first-and-goal on the Jacksonville 4, the Browns went run stuffed, incompletion, incompletion, field goal. Cleveland reaching second-and-2 on the Jacksonville 25, the Browns went short rush, run stuffed, incompletion. The outcome of this contest did not matter to the standings. But if Bradley's team does evolve into Seattle South, touts might look back on this as the turning point.
Rich People, Check This Out: One of TMQ's pet causes is that the rich should not give to the Ivy League or Stanford. Give where your dollars make a difference! Here's an example of effective giving to a college, as noted by reader David Sesler of Aliso Viejo, California. Rich and Ginnie Hunsaker have given nearly $75 million to University of Redlands, including a large recent donation intended to allow students from median-income families to attend at little cost. "School officials use words like 'transformative' and 'game changer' when describing what the Hunsakers have created," Theresa Walker of the Orange County Register reported. Rich people -- when you give to Harvard, you accomplish nothing other than stroking your own ego. Strategic giving like the Hunsakers practice changes lives for the better. It's a lot more fun to change lives than to have a drawer full of tax deductions.
'Tis Better To Have Rushed And Lost Than Never To Have Rushed At All: Scoring to pull within 27-25 at New England, the Jets lined up for a deuce try just before the two-minute warning. Jersey/B had come into the contest last-ranked in passing offense but running the ball well. It need 2 yards. To this juncture in the game, the Jets had 218 yards rushing, with a 5.1 yards per carry average. That cannot be an empty backfield set! Incompletion far beyond the receiver's hands, and the hosts hold on to prevail.
The Jets were 30th in passing yards in 2012, 31st in 2013 and now are 31st this season. You can't be much worse -- though Lord knows, the Jets are trying.
What's the Hurry?: Trailing visiting Miami 24-7 with eight minutes remaining, Chicago did not go to a hurry-up offense, taking its sweet time on the way to a 27-14 defeat.
The 500 Club: Hosting Kansas State, Oklahoma gained 533 yards and lost. Hosting Brockport, Alfred University gained 552 yards and lost. Visiting Notre Dame College, Shepherd gained 532 yards and lost. In Virginia prep action, hosting Annandale High, W.T. Woodson High scored 56 points, gained 550 yards on offense and lost by 17 points. Reader Jonathan Wells of Arlington, Texas, reports that in Texas prep action, John Paul II High gained 530 yards versus Trinity Christian and lost by 42 points. Honorary member: in Maryland prep action, Northwood High scored 39 points and lost to Walter Johnson, a school that entered the game on a 0-15 streak.
The 600 Club: Visiting Salisbury, Hartwick College gained 635 yards, scored seven touchdowns and lost. Hosting Concordia of Wisconsin, Trine gained 648 yards and lost. Hosting Nevada, BYU gained 601 yards, recorded a hard-to-believe 38 first downs and lost. (Manly-man note: BYU and Nevada combined to convert 8-of-8 on fourth down.) Visiting North Carolina, Georgia Tech gained 611 yards and lost. Modern football shootout note: Averaging 39 points per game, UNC is 3-4.
The 700 Club: In California prep action, Castro Valley gained 616 yards on offense, spun the scoreboard for 11 touchdowns and lost.
The 800 Club: Shelby High School of Ohio scored 82 points and lost.
Sportsmanship Watch: Division III John Carroll University -- which plays at Don Shula Stadium, named for an alum -- has won its past two games by a combined 149-0. Which John Carroll graduates and boosters ought to feel embarrassed about! Leading Marietta 49-0 in the third quarter Saturday, John Carroll was still throwing; its next two touchdowns were on passes. TMQ's Law of Poor Sportsmanship holds: When a football team wins by more than 50 points, the victor, not the vanquished, should be embarrassed. John Carroll coach Tom Arth, what's with the bad sportsmanship?
Nick Saban was not exactly exuding sportsmanship, either. Leading Texas A&M 52-0 in the fourth quarter, Alabama called seven pass plays, trying to run up the score.
How To Make A Bad Guy Fly: Last week's column noted a "Hawaii Five-0" scene in which a bad guy is lifted into the air when hit with a bullet from McGarrett's pistol. Your columnist observed, "That may have seemed nifty to the stunt team, but a pistol bullet weighing less than an ounce would need to be traveling mighty fast to propel a man airborne. Just how fast? If you can answer, tweet me @EasterbrookG. Assume a 200-pound bad guy with a generic foreign accent, wearing a perfectly tailored Italian suit, so drag coefficient is not an issue."
Replies were all over the map, suggesting the problem is more challenging than might appear. Many readers sent in their calculations. A representative sample: m1v1=m2v2. v1=m2v2/m1=91kg*1m/s / 0.028 kg = 3250 m/s. Before we start, here are some speed reference points, with the weapons numbers in "muzzle velocity" (all non-powered projectiles slow down as they travel through the air).
Typical pistol bullet: 1,000 mph. Revolution of the Earth about its axis: 1,070 mph. Top speed of an F-22 fighter: 1,550 mph. Typical rifle bullet: 2,300 mph. Velocity for suborbital flight: 2,500 mph. Abrams tank main gun round: 3,500 mph. Fastest aircraft speed ever achieved, by an unmanned X-43: 7,000 mph. Speed to achieve low-Earth orbit: 15,430 mph. Highest speed by a manned vehicle, Apollo 10 returning from the moon in 1969: 25,000 mph. Solar system movement away from the presumed Big Bang location, 43,000 mph. Movement of the Earth around sun: 62,000 mph. Fastest man-made object, the Helios 2 space probe: 157,000 mph. Solar system motion around the center of the Milky Way: 483,000 mph.
Readers' estimates: Joe Long of Perrysberg, Ohio, figured about 3,200 miles per hour.
Eric Pepin of St. Louis estimates 4,400 mph but notes McGarrett's gun would need to be fired at an upward angle, otherwise our super-powered bullet would merely knock the well-dressed henchman backward.
Andres in Wesley Chapel, North Carolina, computed the bullet would need to move at 7,000 mph.
Roger Bertholf, a professor at the University of Florida, estimated 7,200 mph, while noting, "This assumes all momentum is transferred. Much more likely is that the bullet would pass through the henchman doing a lot of harm but not transferring all its momentum. A bullet at any velocity is just too small to transfer enough momentum to propel a person upward, no matter how well dressed and devious he may be."
Pedro Muino estimated 20,000 mph.
Michael Dunkle, a physics teacher, reckoned 40,700 mph.
Daniel Borup of Champaign, Illinois, noted the mass of the bad guy is more than 10,000 times the mass of the bullet, making conservation of momentum problematic. He estimates 50,000 mph. That's Mach 65, or 28 times the top speed of an F-22. McGarrett's bullet would generate a local thunderclap.
Allan Farber of Metairie, Louisiana, put the needed speed at 75,000 mph, noting at that velocity, the bullet's superheating of particles in the air "might set off something like a nuclear reaction." Richard Bourne of Baltimore figured 78,000 mph, three times the highest speed attained during an Apollo mission.
Robert Slater of Dallas estimated 200,000 mph. David from New Canaan, Connecticut, put the requirement at 372,823 mph, a relativistic velocity.
Daniel Wood proposed that even warp speed wouldn't work: "If a one-ounce bullet had the kinetic energy to overcome the bad guy's mass, it would tear human flesh apart before being able to lift the guy."
Jeff Young declared the problem could not be solved "without knowing the coefficient of friction between the bad guy's Italian loafers and the ground."
Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk -- College Bonus: Trailing TCU by 21-9 in the second quarter, Oklahoma State punted on fourth-and-2 at midfield. Outraged, the football gods caused the Horned Frogs to march the other way for a touchdown and to continue on for a 42-9 drubbing of the Cowboys.
Sour Play -- College Bonus: Game tied in the second quarter, Oklahoma had first down on its own 1-yard line. Coaches called a short out pattern -- the type of pass most vulnerable to interception against press coverage. Danzel McDaniel of Kansas State intercepted and ran it back just 5 yards for the touchdown. Oklahoma coaches were willing to make a super-risky call from their own 1 -- yet on the previous possession punted on fourth-and-inches.
Obscure College Scores: California of Pennsylvania 21, Indiana of Pennsylvania 13 in the annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year. Located in California, Pennsylvania, California of Pennsylvania has an Office of Articulation and Transfer Evaluation.
Mercyhurst 45, Slippery Rock 23 at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines had a bye; Slippery Rock performed on their field for the third time. The announced gate of 15,121 was excellent for a Division II contest but meant 94,780 empty seats in the nation's largest football facility. Located in Erie, Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst University now has a theme song.
Augustana of Illinois 7, Illinois Wesleyan 2, noted by reader Lance ONeil of Salt Lake City. The Titans' faithful lament: If only we'd gotten three more safeties! Located in Rock Island, Illinois, Augustana of Illinois is hosting a Dracula play for Halloween week.
Next Week: Would a theme song help the Oakland Raiders?