The Vengeance of the Football Gods

The stadium scene.
Jan. 9 2001 6:30 PM

The Vengeance of the Football Gods

(Continued from Page 4)

Insert head. Obey coach. Never "lead with your helmet" during tackling, unless you wish to receive an increased salary. Always "see what you hit," and always hit everything you see. Continue every play until such time as you hear the whistle or notice that everyone has left the stadium. Give 110 percent. (Note: If not presently giving 110 percent, ask trainer to tighten the screws in your frontal lobes.) When game completed, remove helmet. Repeat sequence until you are waived for a younger, less expensive player.

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Hidden Indicator of the Week: Baltimore and Jersey/A, both winners Sunday, scored just one offensive touchdown between them but ran up four touchdowns on kick and interception returns. This is the sort of hidden indicator essential to an insider's understanding of the game, and in this case Tuesday Morning Quarterback knows what it means: It's better to be lucky than good.

Running Items Department

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Record goes 0-4 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-256 for the season. Just three chances left.

Reader Animadversion: Several readers objected that the Colts-Miami wild card contest invalidated the TMQ law, Fake Kick = Victory, because Indianapolis was defeated despite faking a field-goal attempt. Ah, but the deception must be successful. (This qualifier appears in the case history of the law.) Any team, even the Bengals, can run a failed fake. The Colts' fake resulted in a tackle for a loss.

Many readers objected to a previous objection, from last week's Reader Animadversion, in which reader Cathy protested that TMQ had incorrectly calculated the permutations of 15 people at ESPN predicting each of the 12 playoff slots. TMQ said two weeks ago that the number was 180. Using factorials, Cathy came up with almost a zillion permutations, bearing in mind that dictionaries define zillion not as "one line in the federal budget" but rather "an extremely large, indefinite number."

But oh, don't cross mathematics types. Reader "johnshade1" sent in a record-setting 621-word "Fray" entry calculating the ESPN permutations by [(5*6*5)*(13*12*11/3!)]*[(5*5*5)*(12*11*10/3!)] and arriving at 1.2 billion. Reader Milt Eisner proffered this calculation, 6 * 5^5 * C(12,3) * C(13,3), yielding precisely 1,179,750,000 permutations. TMQ takes your word for it. ESPN had 1,179,750,000 chances and still whiffed.

"Statistics Nerd" and others objected to the follow-up item in which TMQ used factorials to calculate his own odds of having correctly predicted the final records of three NFL teams as "one in 1.2 thousand trillion." Statistics Nerd countered with this formula for guessing records of the 31 teams, (1/17)^C x (16/17)^(31-C) x 31! / (C! x (31-C)!), and derived slightly better odds, namely one in six. Now, TMQ lives near Washington, D.C., where in Congressional budget debates, the numbers "six" and "1.2 thousand trillion" are not considered significantly different. Anyway, my factorial self-calculation was supposed to be a joke. I deliberately generated an impossibly huge figure. I have learned my lesson—joke about Cindy Crawford in leather, not about mathematics.

TMQ Trivia Challenge: Last week's question:

One team playing in the divisional round holds an all-time postseason record no club would care to have, and the record could get even worse. Name the team and its undesired place in the history books.

Several readers suggested the Baltimore Ravens, who, as the Cleveland Browns (Release 1.0), possessed the unenviable record of the most consecutive postseason road defeats and stood to worsen the record at Tennessee. But although the Ravens once were the Browns, officially they aren't anymore. The Browns (Release 2.0) are now the Browns, according to an elaborate records-swapping deal worked out when the Browns (Release 1.0) moved. The Ravens are officially a new franchise, even though they came from Cleveland and brought all the Browns (Release 1.0) players with them. Got that?

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