Pittsburgh now plays at Ketchup Field, Denver at Please Don't Buy From Invesco Stadium—the gloried, storied names Three Rivers and Mile High gone forever. The Patriots just turned out the lights on the last regular-season game at Foxboro; next year they will play at CMGi Field, which sounds like it's named after a blood protein. (Shares of CMGi, an Internet "operating and development" firm that does—good luck figuring out what it does—closed Friday at $1.56, so let's hope the Patriots got their licensing fee up front.) The Ravens play at PSINet Stadium, named for a tech company in bankruptcy court. Miami performs at Pro Player Stadium, named for a company that went kaput two years ago. The Rams play at the Dome at the Center of the Observable Universe. (The actual title, the Dome at America's Center, hypes a shopping mall.) The Niners play at 3Com Park, the wonderful name Candlestick having been sold for a mess of porridge to yet another tech firm that cannot keep up the payments. Detroit is about to abandon the gloriously known Silverdome—county officials refused to allow the team to practice there one day in November owing to an end-of-lease dispute—for a pitch named after a billionaire, William Ford. Remaining fields with real names, such as Texas Stadium and Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, are an endangered breed. As Chicago's lakefront coliseum gets torn down and rebuilt, TMQ feels sure it will end up named something like Sears Offers Discounts to Soldiers Field.
If names must be promotional, Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to propose that all NFL venues be called Your Trademark Here Stadium. Rights could be auctioned on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, according to market forces and whatever messages big sponsors need to get out. This week the Patriots could have performed at The Fellowship of the Ring Now Playing Everywhere Stadium. The Packers could have played at Your Friendly Postal Service Needs Another Rate Increase Field. Dick Enberg would have said, "Welcome, everybody, to the Browns-Packers game here at Your Friendly Postal Service Needs Another Rate Increase." Next week the Cowboys could play at Some Enron Executives Were Honest Stadium. (Wait, the Astros already play there.) The Chargers could play at Everyone's Talking About the Incredibly Cleverly Titled New Book Tuesday Morning Quarterback Field.
Meanwhile, the costs, taxpayer subsidies, and promotional gimmicks of stadiums keep getting more outlandish. The original gloriously handsome Soldier Field was completed in 1924 for a price that equates to $98 million in current dollars; the soulless modern-architecture replacement is expected to cost $572 million. The Eagles will spend at least $506 million on their new stadium and are raising funds by selling "personal seat licenses" at up to $3,145 per seat. Bear in mind these are not tickets, just the right to buy a ticket.
Last summer the Eagles' Web site cheerfully declared, "The notion that the [personal seat license] plan has gone over poorly is incorrect," noting that when the Steelers offered PSLs for Ketchup Field, they "sold them out in one month with no resistance whatsoever." Resistance is futile! Eagles official Joe Banner declared that if a PSL costs $3,145 and the new stadium lasts 30 years, "that's really only an extra $100 per year for each seat." Econ majors, groan in unison: Since the PSL must be paid up front, "present value" makes the true cost considerably higher. Conservatively invested, $3,145 would yield $150 annually, with which you could pay the Eagles $100, keep $50, and still own the principal. But surely the Eagles know this; resistance is futile!
Perhaps I should sell Tuesday Morning Quarterback PSLs, granting the right to click on future columns. Granting the exclusive right to click from your own computer.
In Seattle, Seahawks owner Paul Allen, one of world history's richest men, is receiving $300 million in taxpayer funds for a new corporate-luxury-oriented coliseum. Why waste public money on health care or schools when it could go straight into the pockets of a billionaire, plus provide heated skyboxes for executives? In the Seattle deal, Allen puts up only about $130 million for a stadium he will in effect own. The rest is subsidy from people with far, far less money than he.
According to the Washington State Public Stadium Authority, in return for a $300 million investment of public capital, Allen pays $850,000 in annual rent. Essentially, this represents a loan at 0.28 percent interest. The Washington State Public Stadium Authority sure drove a hard bargain! Allen keeps nearly all stadium football revenue and becomes "sole master tenant" for the new facility, which means he keeps most revenues when the stadium and an adjoining exhibition center are used for non-football events. Oh, but he promises that 10 percent of the field's tickets will be "affordable"—meaning 90 percent of the public-funded seats offered for sale to the public will be overpriced. (That is, not "affordable.") Voters approved Allen's handout! Resistance is futile.
And then there is the new moving-roof venue in the works for the Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals. Preparations fell into limbo after the Federal Aviation Administration declared the stadium would be "a hazard to air navigation" in its current planned location adjacent to Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport. The Cardinals, perennially last in the league in attendance—while St. Louis, the town the Cardinals fled, supports its Rams very well—during the 2000 season played a home game before just 28,878, and this year boasted average turnout of 33,430. TMQ suggests the new, aviation-menacing Arizona field be christened Empty Stadium.
In other NFL news, is it just me, or the more the Oakland crowd dresses up, the worse their Raiders play? Of course it's great to see the mentally unbalanced being mainstreamed and allowed to attend Oakland games and all, but they seem to have convinced themselves that visiting teams will actually be afraid of fans wearing spikes made of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Meanwhile the networks give us 25 disagreeable shots of Raiders fan in aluminum foil, and of neck veins bulging on perpetually scowling Jon "I Was A Teen-Aged Coach" Gruden, for every one view of the highly aesthetic Raiderettes who, after all, are supposed to be looked at.
Best Plays of the Week. Best Play of Extraterrestrial Origin: Kurt Warner pump-faked deep, then gave a wraparound handoff to Marshall Faulk on the delay draw for a 20-yard gain. Every week St. Louis has a clever new play design. And every week, fabulous blocking. With all the attention to Rams skill players and revamped defense, let's not forget that OL play is the fulcrum of all great teams.
Best High-School Play: The pass back to the quarterback—so high-schoolish most pro teams won't dignify it—clicked for New England for 23 yards by Tom Brady. The Patriots were struggling up to that point, but after the pass-back, snapped off two nice runs, got their first touchdown, and were on their way.
Best Fake Kick: TMQ's immutable law, Fake Kick = Victory, has been slightly mutable this season; obviously, the local space-time continuum has been disrupted by the lambda-drive wake of a passing starcruiser. Chicago upheld the immutable by triumphing on the strength of a very classy fake. Bears LB Brian Urlacher, who played some tight end in college, lined up as a slot blocker on a field goal attempt. Before the snap he went in motion right; the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons defenders shifted right. At the snap, holder Brad Maynard, who is having the best year of any NFL punter, ran right with kicker Paul Edinger trailing him. The play looked for all the world like an option pitch to the kicker, and Persons defenders came up, leaving Urlacher by his lonesome. Maynard to Urlacher for the touchdown.
Best Because the Refs Don't Call This: Trailing by 10-0 against the Flaming Thumbtacks in the third quarter at home, Oakland faced third and goal on the Tennessee four. The Raiders lined up bunch left, with TE Roland Williams at the center of the bunch. Williams ran into the end zone and slammed into his defender as if blocking him for a run, then turned out and caught a curl for the touchdown. Defensive backs are allowed one "chuck" of receivers. Receivers aren't supposed to be allowed to bump and run, but zebras often let them get away with it—especially tight ends who, after all, might actually be blocking. (Since wide receivers so rarely block, officials are more likely to toss yellow when WRs slam into defenders as a pretend-block for receiving purposes.)
Worst Plays of the Week. Worst Poise: Leading 17-13 with five minutes left, the Bolts had the Chiefs pinned on their 35 and not playing well offensively. Kansas City marched for the winning touchdown as San Diego handed the opposition three first downs on penalties during the drive. A penalty also nullified what would have been a game-clinching Bolts interception, though it was a cheesy call that was not the player's fault.
Worst Tactics: Trailing 20-13 with 1:45 to play, the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons had third and one on the Bears three. This was "four-down territory" as the Persons would, obviously, have to go on fourth. Surely it would be run and then run again if necessary to get the first, creating a short goal-to-go for the tie. Instead, incomplete into the end zone, incomplete into the end zone, game over.
Worst Inadvertent: Leading 46-21 with two minutes remaining, the Bucs went for two, converting. They had no placement kicker as Martin Gramatica had reinjured himself.
Worst Read: Arizona brought many gentlemen up to the line as if about to big-blitz Dallas; linebacker Ronald McKinnon came into the center gap and looked erratic quasi-quarterback Quincy Carter in the eye. Carter called a "hot read" short curl. At the snap, the Cardinals players dropped off; it was a fake blitz. McKinnon backpedaled directly into the short curl zone, where Carter threw it right to him. Touchdown return.
Worst Inexplicability: Against defending champ Baltimore, one of Jon Kitna's passes was batted into the air at the line. Kitna ran toward the live ball and rather than either catch it or knock it into the turf for a harmless incompletion, spiked the ball forward volleyball-style; interception by Ray Lewis. Having watching this play several times, TMQ can report he has absolutely no ideawhat Kitna could have been thinking.
Best in a Lost Cause: At the Bay of Green three while the game was close, Cleveland came out in an empty backfield, then a receiver went in motion toward the QB. Surely, Packers defenders thought, this must be the empty-backfield/motion/end-around the Browns used so well on the key play of their second victory over the Ravens. Tim Couch faked the end-around, then flipped a shovel pass to Jamel White for the touchdown.
Stats of the Week: In its last two games, former division leader Miami has been outscored 41-13 and failed to record a touchdown on 18 consecutive drives over seven quarters.
Stat No. 2: Buffalo lost at Atlanta on a 52-yard field goal on the final play. The last time the Bills visited Atlanta, in 1989, they lost on a 52-yard field goal on the final play.
Stat No. 3: While John Carney, unwanted in the offseason before signing with New Orleans for the veteran minimum, is 26 for 29 on field goal attempts this year, Sebastian Janikowski, the league's highest-paid kicker, missed two fourth-quarter field goal attempts as the Raiders lost to the Flaming Thumbtacks by three.
Stat No. 4: In its last three home games,San Francisco has allowed a total of three points.
Stat No. 5: Ken Dilger of Indianapolis became the third tight end to throw a touchdown pass this season.
Stat No. 6: New York/A and New York/B have both won consecutive games on last-minute scoring drives.
Stat No. 7: San Diego is 5-10 despite having outscored its opponents.
Stat No. 8: RBs Terry Allen, Garrison Hearst, Priest Holmes, Stacey Mack, and Antowain Smith, all cut by their previous teams, rushed for a combined 610 yards.
Stat No. 9: Cincinnati has been shut out three times this season, and outscored 75-0 in its last three appearances at Baltimore.
Ridiculous K2 Survival Gear ? Victory: TMQ explained last year that coaches should be cold. In any cold-weather game, if one sideline wears balaclavas and McMurdo-base-style parkas, while the other wears varsity jackets and baseball caps, the football gods invariably confer victory upon the team of the coaches who shrug at the cold. Through last season, TMQ documented many instances of the immutable law, Cold Coaches = Victory and its corollary, Ridiculous K2 Survival Gear ? Victory.
This season, there have been few instances of sideline overdressing-either it's global warming or NFL coaches are reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback. But Sunday in Green Bay, as the snow swirled, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) coaches came out as if dressed for the Amundsen-Scott expedition, while the Packers sideline wore varsity jackets and baseball caps. Packers by 23.
Beware This Joke: Packers rookie DB Bhawoh Jue had a big interception against the Browns. But TMQ is just waiting for him to make a mistake that costs Green Bay a game, solely in order to be able to use the subhead, "Blame the Jues!"
TMQ's Christmas List: TMQ is hoping his stocking will contain the adult alternative to Barbie, the 16-inch Victoria Silvstedt doll that is a Barbie-sized likeness of the recent Playboy Playmate of the Year. The doll comes in black lingerie, is anatomically correct and has tan lines! You can also dress the doll, but what would be the point of that? The Victoria Silvstedt mini-babe is $49.95 and advertised as a "limited edition"-limited, surely, to the number that can be sold.
Female readers might hope to find under their trees the new women's cut authentic Marshall Faulk jersey, representing the leading edge of an NFL attempt to market team wear customized for double-XX chromosome individuals. All well and good, but when are the Rams going to offer jerseys cut for space aliens, huh? With extra tentacle openings, dazzle-trimmed fluke supports, and so on. Surely they would sell like throcmort cakes on Kurt Warner's homeworld.
Last-Minute Christmas Shopping Plug of the Week: Reader Joel Jacobsen writes,
I notice from the ad at the bottom of the column that Barnes & Noble classifies the incredibly cleverly titled book Tuesday Morning Quarterback under "sports and adventure." Well, which is it?
Joel-it's about sports! And it's an adventure! Football enthusiasts, space aliens, and mega-babes all across the local star cluster are reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which is new stuff, not a collection of past columns. The Washington Post recently called the Tuesday Morning Quarterback book, "Our favorite stocking stuffer this year." There's still time to make that last-minute purchase, or order it here.
Steve, the Theory Is, Challenge Calls That Go Against You: Niners coach Steve Mariucci challenged a call that resulted in San Francisco having first and goal at the Philadelphia one. Unlike two equally puzzling cases in which Bill Cowher challenged calls that gave his team first and goal at the one-both times the Steelers scored on the next play anyway-this puzzling challenge hurt the Niners. They had been moving crisply, averaging 8.4 yards per play on the possession, and with first and goal had an excellent chance for six. But Niners players had to stand around, stand around during a lengthy challenge review, then stand around, stand around for the two-minute warning. When festivities finally resumed, San Francisco had lost its rhythm, ran three shaggy-looking snaps, marched backward, and settled for the field goal.
Available Soon, Commemorative Edition Food-Drop Packets: If you're looking for a belated Eid ul-Fitr gift, don't we all need a little Urdu humor? Check out the Urdu humor section of Desistore.com. This Texas Web site sells all things Urdu, including pop and classical Ghazal CDs and traditional Pakistani competitive kites. No razor string for downing other kites though, you can only get that in Pakistan. Site slogan: "The Few/The Proud/The Pathans."
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading 7-0, the P-Men faced second and long at the Marine Mammals 23. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, leaving neither fullback nor tight end covered by anyone. Tom Brady chooses FB Patrick Pass for the touchdown, and just like that Miami is in trouble.
Stop Me! No. 2: Game tied at 17 in the third, the Giants had the Hawks facing second and long. It's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line, this tactic rarely seen because it rarely works. And it didn't here, instant touchdown pass and just like that the G-Men are in trouble.
Haiku of the Week: Don't submit any, please, because TMQ will not be lurking in the "Fray" on Christmas Day. In fact, hold all clever comments for next week.
What's in Your Window? The Macy's Christmas window displays in New York-greatest city in the world-this year are among the best ever, including an animatronic scene based on the trial of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. But most American downtowns no longer have stores with holiday window displays, as shoppers abandon walkable downtowns-and the holiday walking experience of snowflakes and looking fellow members of humanity in the eye-for suburban malls where it's SUVs only and we can pretend the homeless do not exist. Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of the book The Living City, has written a telling article on this subject for the journal of the Michigan Land Use Institute, an important land-preservation organization; read her here.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: Trailing by 10 with four minutes left, Philadelphia faced fourth and 10 near midfield. Coaches sent in the punting unit. Sure, fourth and 10 is a long shot, but what did they have to lose? The Eagles got the ball back and, facing fourth and 11 with one minute left, went for it after it no longer mattered.
Bandwidth of the Week: This season, style demands that NFL players on the sidelines don baseball caps, often worn backward. Look closely next time you see a shot of a backward cap on an NFL star. TMQ has been doing this lately, and has noticed-the adjustable bands are always cinched halfway or even two-thirds over. Which is to say that NFL players, despite being enormous pumped-up gentlemen, have unusually small hat sizes. Think about it.
Cheerleader of the Week: The City of Tampa Bucs may be plodding on the field, but their cheer-babes unit is fast-must be that Florida beach effect. Check out the highly three-dimensional, serious-minded-looking Missy Sherrill (click here, then on "Individual Photos/Bios"), a dance teacher with a degree in child psychology, which means she could handle you. Also don't miss the sample photos from the Bucs cheerleaders swimsuit calendar, which, the team advertises, is available in Publix supermarkets around the Tampa area. Half-naked babe calendar sold in supermarkets? Must be that beach-and-sun-influenced libertine Florida attitude about thong two-pieces.
Ominous Star-Trek-esque News: The Wall Street Journal reports that one commercial application from the old Russian bioweapons program is a pistol-shaped device-now being tested on pigs-that administers vaccine without a needle. To TMQ, the photo of this gizmo looked disturbingly like a low-tech version of what Dr. McCoy used in the Captain Kirk episodes.
TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher has tested positive for Ovaltine. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.
Running Items Department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Montana 13, Furman 6, Division 1-AA championship. Yohance Humphrey scored the deciding touchdown as the Grizzlies, slowly being reintroduced into football, ousted the Paladins. Located at a gorgeous Blue Ridge campus in Greenville, S.C., Furman boasts that "most students participate in at least one experiential learning activity before they graduate." Furman also practices "engaged learning," an incredibly advanced concept that takes many paragraphs to explain, but apparently boils down to: Kids are expected to pay attention in class.
Bowl Note: This concludes this season's edition of Obscure College Scores, as the teams playing from here on out tend to be pretty well known. Be sure to tune in on Dec. 31 to TMQ's favorite holiday event, the Humanitarian Bowl, in which people smash into each other in the name of peace and understanding. You can buy commemorative 2001 Humanitarian Bowl T-shirts here.
If Tuesday Morning Quarterback sponsored a bowl game, it would be called the Fiasco Bowl.
Maybe this is how I could finally see the much-desired matchup of Indiana of Pennsylvania vs. Pittsburg of Kansas-invite them to the Fiasco Bowl at Your Trademark Here Stadium. Dave Oreck vacuum cleaners would be the corporate sponsor, genetically engineered corn chips the official snack, raspberry half-barley light stout bock pale ale the official drink, and TMQ would audition the cheerleaders personally.
New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again the Paper of Guesses goes 0-15 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-217 this season and 0-477 since TMQ began tracking. We're getting perilously close to the mark of 500 guesses which is, TMQ supposed last year in an incredibly scientifically advanced analysis, the number of tries required to predict an exact NFL final score.
Reader Animadversion: Owing to the Visa card Lovin' You commercial, crafty stadium sound crews have gotten big laughs from crowds by actually playing Lovin' You. Reader "BJ" heard it recently during a first-down measurement at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
After TMQ's item on the Rams cheer-babes, many readers, including Jeff Chunko, conducted close textual analyses of the St. Louis cheerleaders site and found that cheerleader Adrianne Porter (click "Adrianne" toward the bottom of this page) lists her occupation as "brewery chemist." Chunko opines that a hot blonde who makes beer is "every football fan's dream." Not every fan's dream, according to modern demographics. Another reader adds in haiku,
Brews and bikinis—
Rams babe Adrianne Porter.
Drink and be merry!
Finally reader Josh Benninghoff notes, apropos of rest stops along the Jersey Turnpike, that no discussion of the New Jersey highway system can be complete without mention of Exit 120 of the Garden State Expressway-the Cheesequake exit, which leads to Cheesequake State Park. This picturesque preserve offers "easy access to nearby saltmarshes."
Waitress, I'd like a blueberry-almond martini-very blue-and a cheesequake, please.
Last Week's Challenge … was to come up with new names for play categories.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback kicked it off by proposing that a play that looks like a double reverse, but isn't, be called a "squamish." Reader Chopper suggested that a play on which a quarterback scrambles and then fumbles be called a "scrumble."
Here are other nominees:
Reader "FragMeister" suggests that when a kicker launching a punt from inside the opponent's 45 booms it through to end zone-thus adding to his yardage stats but allowing the opponent to start from the 20-this be called a "stupunt."
Reader D.C. Poindexter proposes that when an offensive lineman "tips" the play by altering his stance-essentially, in Poindexter's view, overacting-this be called a "shatner."
"Headhunt23" suggests that obviously dogging it during games be called "mossing," while the coach who does nothing about a star player who is obviously dogging is "greening." In similar spirit, Tim Lowell suggests that any running play on which a wide receiver stands around and refuses to block be called a "moss."
Reader "TheSteven" offers this haikuized nomer,
Kick returner tries
reversing field, goes backward:
should be called "relapse."
Reader Ian M. suggests that when a defensive player picks up a fumble or makes an interception, begins a crazed run and ends up fumbling back to the offense, this be called a "dumble."
Reader Parker suggests that when the quarterback trips over a lineman's foot and sacks himself, this be called a "sad sack."
Charles Monagan suggests that when a pass sails out of bounds and is caught by someone standing along the sidelines, this be called an "unpletion."
And this week's stylish TMQ cap goes to Adam Masin of New York City, greatest city in the world, for suggesting that when the hike flies over the head of a punter or shotgun quarterback, it be called a "snapfu."
This Week's Challenge: None. TMQ has no intention of reading the Fray on Christmas Day. The Challenge will resume next week.
Holiday Schedule: Next week, in keeping with no Monday night game and New Year's Day being on Tuesday, TMQ will post on Monday in the Slate table of contents, but the logo and assorted hoopla won't appear till Wednesday. Normal confusion will return the following week.
In a year that has reminded us what really matters in life-surely, not the NFL-Tuesday Morning Quarterback wishes a very happy holiday to all football enthusiasts, space aliens and mega-babes. Bells are ringing all across the local star cluster!