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 does¾good 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.