New York Times Final-Score Score: The paper of record completes a perfect season, finishing 0-248 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score. Now the pressure is really on, as the playoffs provide a last chance at redemption. Reader Brad Hammill's generic final score—Home Team 20, Visiting Team 14—also whiffs, closing out this item at 0-163 since inception.
Before the season began, the paper of record made a quixotic attempt to predict individual player regular-season performances. Here is a summary of New York Times preseason predictions:
Giants QB Kerry Collins will throw eight interceptions (actual: 13), RB Stephen Davis will carry for 1,800 yards (actual: 1,318), RBs Jamal Anderson and Terrell Davis each will carry for 1,300 yards (actuals: Anderson 1,024, Davis 282), RB Edgerrin James will carry for 1,500 yards (actual: 1,709), Ram RB Trung Canidate will be "one of the defending champion's most valuable players" (actual: six yards rushing). Broncos will win the AFC West (actual: Raiders won it), the Jets will start 0-2 but make the playoffs (actual: Jets started 2-0 and did not make the playoffs), the Panthers will not win their division (correct), the Eagles will make the playoffs (correct), Norv Turner will return to Dallas after the season (undetermined), Giants DE Michael Strahan will record 12 sacks (actual: 9.5), Giants coach Jim Fassel "will get a two-year contract extension after making the playoffs" (actual: made playoffs, no contract news, love that pseudo-precision of predicting exactly how many years the extension would run), Bill Parcells will become head coach of the Dolphins.
Reader Animadversion: Reader Kirill Roschin, an exchange student from Kazakhstan, writes to complain that NFL games "are too long and boring, and most of the time after one game ends, another one starts." Kirill has a point, but if you want to talk long and boring, what about the train from Almaty to Aksu-Dzhabagly, huh? (For rates and availability of guesthouses in Aksu-Dzhabagly—"amazing fresh air is filled with the aroma of blooming grass … phyto-tea on request"—click here.)
Several protested the statement that NFL Sunday Ticket, which allows the viewer to watch any game, is available only via the mini-dish service DirecTV. Okay, technically you can also get Sunday Ticket using C-band satellite antennas of the type installed at sports bars. A C-band antenna is an enormous radar-sized apparatus that appears designed to watch for starcruisers coming out of hyperspace beyond the outer moons of Saturn. One man per thousand is willing to have a C-band receiver on the house, one woman per million.
Several readers protested the nuance in my statement that San Antonio residents do not feel fondly toward Dallas. They don't, Texans agreed, but they do love the Cowboys, especially San Antonio's Hispanic population. Therefore it makes sense to show Dallas games on San Antonio TV. Speaking of Dallas, its CBS affiliate, KVTV, has an innovative solution to the problem of local affiliate bad choices. KVTV allows viewers to vote via its Web site on which game they'd like to see. Democratizing programming blunders! TMQ strongly approves.
TMQ Trivia Challenge: Last week's question ruminated on the Pro Bowl tendency to take as "fullbacks" players who are really halfbacks:
But sometimes the slot goes to real FBs whose role is to lead-block where others follow. Once there was a Pro Bowl fullback selected exclusively for blocking: He made it to Hawaii despite not having a single carry during the season. Name this gentleman.
Readers suggested such admirable lead-block specialists as Maurice Carthon and Matt Shuey. Some said Daryl "Moose" Johnston, but he ran the ball at least occasionally in each of his Pro Bowl years. Many readers knew the correct answer: Sam Gash, who went to Hawaii for the Bills last year despite not running the ball once and was rewarded for his Pro Bowl effort by being cut in the offseason to save salary cap space. On a completely arbitrary basis, the judges award the challenge to Jason Zimmerman of Brookings, S.D. Reader Topher Connors of Indianapolis added that Gash is "the smallest offensive lineman of the modern era," noting that in 1999, with Gash lead-blocking, the Bills rushing offense ranked eighth, while this year, with the same runners and linemen but no Gash, Buffalo dropped to 17th. Gash is now with Baltimore, whose running game leapt from bottom-quartile in 1999 to fourth in 2000. This season Gash had two carries for two yards.
This week's Trivia Challenge:
Fifteen NFL teams went into the final weekend knowing they were eliminated from the playoffs and their last performance was meaningless. They might as well have forfeited. (Note: For humanitarian reasons, the Cardinals should have started forfeiting in October.) If there ever were an NFL forfeit how, according to league rules, would it appear on the scoreboard?