TMQ: Mega-babe predicts exact final score!

TMQ: Mega-babe predicts exact final score!

TMQ: Mega-babe predicts exact final score!

The stadium scene.
Feb. 4 2002 7:05 AM

Mega-Babe Predicts Exact Final Score!

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Wow was it a great game, boy was it fun to see the plucky underdog prevail, man was it nice for a team called the Patriots to win at this moment in history, but let's cut straight to the key point—me. No one, anywhere, expected the New England Patriots to be in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Except Tuesday Morning Quarterback, who predicted the Patriots would win here on Slate before the season started. Not to put too fine a point on it, but everyone was completely wrong about this NFL season, except me.

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Not one single major sports magazine, sports site, or sports pages before the season began projected the Patriots would even make the playoffs, to say nothing of no one projecting them to win the Super Bowl—the documentation is below. Not ESPN, not Sports Illustrated,not Sporting News,not even the Boston Globe. Tuesday Morning Quarterback, by contrast, in its preseason preview had the Pats winning the Super Bowl.

Here's what I wrote, posted Aug. 28, 2001:

In each of the last two seasons, the dance has gone to a team so lightly regarded by the league's hype experts that it was not slated a Monday night game in the year of its triumph. The Rams in 1999 and the Ravens in 2000 were both MNF-free and both the last gentlemen standing.

Thus, TMQ predicts that the team goin' to Disney World this winter will come from among those that did not make the Monday Night Football cut: Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, San Diego, and Seattle. Yes, this is a sorry group, but if the league brain trust thinks these teams are losers, one of them must be good.

OK, so I listed a bunch of clubs, but New England was among them. These were all teams nobody but nobody (again, documentation below) expected to do anything. TMQ said one of them would win the Super Bowl. And one of them did.

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This is going to make me famous, right? The fame, the women, the glamour, the—OK, Nan, I'll take the garbage out in a couple minutes.

Masterful, Beautiful, Best Defense Game Plan of the Season: All week long we heard how Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel (OK, you didn't hear about him; he is the Pats' DC) would devise incredible blitz packages to rattle Kurt Warner. The Rams seemed to believe this hype and to prepare to burn the blitz, as Warner loves to. Instead New England blitzed seven times on 66 St. Louis snaps. Warner kept anticipating a blitz rarely there while the Pats used six- and seven-DB sets repeatedly. Against dime packages of light gentlemen—the American Ballet Theater defense—one ought to run. But the Rams ran 22 times and went pass-wacky 44 times, never adjusting to the way the defense was really aligned versus what was expected. In turn, infrequent use of the blitz made it effective, resulting in an interception returned for six and another that set up a field goal.

Masterful, Beautiful, Best Drive of the Season: The Rams have scored twice late to tie it, and New England gets the ball on its 17 with 1:21 in regulation and no timeouts, a plodding low-voltage offense, and a QB who had been fourth-string in training camp. John Madden was yelling at the Pats to kneel and go to overtime. (The Rams also had no timeouts.) Armchair coaches all over the country were yelling at the Pats to kneel and go to overtime. Instead eight risky plays in 74 seconds to the Rams' 30, in range for the winning figgie. New England knew it had a good kicker; it knew the Rams were acting like they'd just won the game when they'd only tied (check the tape for unseemly celebration on the St. Louis sideline); it knew underdogs can't be timid.

Best of all, New England knew—what did we work all year for, to kneel down and act fearful or to reach for the ring? It knew this because in the Raiders-Patriots blizzard game, the Pats tied it late, the Raiders had a final possession and passively knelt and never touched the ball again as New England got the overtime kickoff and marched to victory.

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As for the drive itself, don't discount those first two junky-looking short passes; they made everything else possible. Brady's charisma and poise—you'll hear enough about these for weeks. Fabulous blocking on the last drive, letting Brady stay cool. That you won't hear enough about.

Best Defensive Play of the Season: Leading 3-0 in the second, the Rams faced first and 10 on their 39. New England, which had blitzed only twice to that point, lined up in a wild front with seven gentlemen apparently ready to shoot. Rams blockers thought, it can't be all seven, right? Sure enough, just before the snap, LB Tedy Bruschi started to drop off. So he's the one dropping, blockers thought. Then Bruschi came back as if blitzing. What the hey? the Rams line thought. Then he did drop off, but all the Rams' line slanted in his direction, allowing LB Mike Vrabel to come from the opposite side untouched and hit Warner as he threw. Interception returned for six.

Best Block of the Season: Pats tackle Matt Light leaves injured, and rarely used journeyman backup tackle Grant Williams sprinted onto the field cold. It's Pats 7, Rams 3 with 41 seconds in the half and New England facing third and two at the Rams' 16. Toss left to Kevin Faulk requires Williams to pull. He knocks down his man and then hustles to knock down a second—the rare "secondary block"—allowing Faulk to squirt to the 8. Touchdown pass on the next play, and the favorites stare at each other stunned.

Best Kickoff of the Season: It's now 14-3 with 31 seconds in the half, and Adam Vinatieri, whom the football gods will look on with favor this day, realizes he must kick off to Marshall Faulk, whom the Rams have put back deep because they are determined to get a lightning score. Vinatieri kicks away from Faulk and suspends the ball above the right sideline at the 6. Faulk's a star, he's got to take it and make a play, right? He fields the kick and instantly stumbles out of bounds; the Rams, stuck on their 6, kneel to end the half. All Faulk had to do was let the kick go out of bounds, and the Rams have great field position on the 40. But he couldn't resist the temptation to do it himself. Maybe it was chance; when Vinatieri looked up and saw Faulk, he seemed to know.

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Best Psyche-Up of the Season: The Patriots asked to be introduced as a team. Corny, you say? TMQ saw Marshall Faulk come out of the tunnel strutting and preening. He's good, yes indeed, but he was playing for Marshall Faulk. TMQ saw the underdogs come out as a team.

Single Worst Play of Super Bowl XXXVI: Committed by MVP Kurt Warner! The football gods must have decided they had favored him enough. Or maybe the telekinetic instructions from the cloaked starcruiser hovering above the Superdome weren't coming in on the tachyon pulse transceiver next to his helmet radio—Warner did seem to fuss with his helmet a lot, didn't he? At any rate, Patriots 14, Rams 3, St. Louis faces third and five near midfield late in the third. The Pats blitz; Terry Holt runs a "hot" stop; he falls down; Warner looks at him and throws anyway,INT. New England scored on the drive to make it 17-3, and the field goal meant that when the Rams got their late TD, they merely tied, rather than going ahead. Warner saw him fall and still threw. Ye gods.

Stats of the Super Bowl: From the start of the 2000 season, when Bill Belichick took over, the Pats went 5-13 till the third game of 2001. Since then, they have gone 14-3, including nine straight for the Super Bowl win.

Stat No. 2: In the postseason, the New England offense scored three touchdowns, and the New England defense and special teams scored three touchdowns.

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Stat No. 3: The Rams lost despite a 160-yard edge in offense and allowing New England only two of 11 conversions on third down.

Harmonic Stat: Of the three losing teams in the championship games and the Super Bowl, each ran exactly 22 times.

America Saw the Wrong Babes: Was it just me, or did the highly professional Rams cheerleaders come out in extra-skimpy outfits? Little more than glittering bikinis; now that's babe professionalism. And was it just me, or did the Patriots cheerleaders not only match them in extra-skimpy bikini-sized numbers but wear flap bottoms that covered next to nothing on the thigh? We'll never know for sure because Fox barely showed the cheerleaders of either team. Even though they appeared to wear the least any NFL cheer-babes have ever. The dedication and professionalism of scantily attired cheerleaders is one of the great untold stories of our time. Of all networks, why did Fox whiff on this chance?

Meanwhile, over on NBC, the six halftime Playmates were introduced with gratuitous cheesecake scenes, of which TMQ approves. But the ridiculous phony competition they engaged in required them to be fully clothed, plus protected by rescue gear that made each look like Frosty the Snowman. What's point of that? Tuesday Morning Quarterback would have much rather skipped the Playmates and seen more of the Rams and Patriots cheerleaders.

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Super Bowl Moment Beyond Satire: "And now for the National Anthem,"Pat Summerall intoned, "sung by the biggest-selling female artist in history, Mariah Carey." And didn't you get the feeling that the exact wording of that intro was negotiated with her agent and written into the contract?

Strangest Ad Ever: The Budweiser Clydesdales trot into New York City and bow when they notice the World Trade Center is gone. Ugh. It was fine to see 9/11 repeatedly invoked in the pre-game and halftime. It was not fine to see it invoked to sell beer.

USA! USA! The Fox pre-game show, with rap stars, former presidents, the patriotic and commercial mixed—the flashing FREEDOM! sign next to the BUD LIGHT sign—was quintessentially American. That is, poignant and ridiculously excessive at the same time. TMQ thought two things:

1) The enemies of freedom hate this sort of display because they cannot understand the notion of letting people decide for themselves which part of a dream to believe.
2) Because the enemies of freedom cannot understand it, they can never defeat it.

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Norwood Sympathy Point: Seeing Adam Vinatieri carried off on his teammate's shoulders to celebrity and fame, Scott Norwood must have thought that only about 12 inches of aiming separated Vinatieri's good fortune from his bad. Buck up, Scott. Kicks from that distance—yours was 47 outdoors, his 48 indoors—are 50-50. The football gods smiled on someone else. You still had a fine career.

Now the remainder of the incredible season finale column:

Swelling Music Plays: The clichés, cheap shots, and recycled jokes in this column are intended for the private use of the audience, not that anyone could imagine a public use. All snide references are the property of Tuesday Morning Quarterback and cannot be reused or rebroadcast without the express written consent of the United Nations Security Council.

Parity Myth Officially Over: Tuesday Morning Quarterback argued two months ago that the supposed outbreak of NFL parity was a myth—statistically, winner-and-loser ups and downs are no different today than in decades past. How could there be a huge parity effect, the article asked, when the league can manipulate only four of 16 games for schedule strength (five in some case) while the bulk of matchups are locked in by formula?

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Now that the realignment scheduling system has been finalized, the Myth of Parity is officially over. Starting next fall, 14 of 16 games will be dictated by formula. Each team will play six games against its own division; four games against another division in its conference on a rotating three-year cycle; four games against a division in the opposite conference on a rotating four-year cycle; and two games determined by the front office. That leaves just two of 16 matchups for the league to manipulate in the supposed quest for parity, and it's simply not enough to make much difference.

Cheerleaders of the Year—For Last Year: Continuing the lively discussion of the aesthetic merits of the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders—who would have thought they'd be as gawk-worthy as the Miami and Denver babes?—reader MikeD notes that if you jump back to the 2000 squad, all individual photos are in swimsuits, versus the current squad posing in dance outfits. MikeD speculates that in the NFL championship game, the football gods punished Philadelphia for severely overdressing its cheer-babes this year. Close visual analysis of the 2000 swimsuit photos indicates you would do well to click the thumbnails of Carrie, Wendy, and Heather, the last offering irrefutable proof that a woman can be strong in muscle terms and a hot babe as well.

Failed Predictions Watch No. 1: Once again, as the season concludes, we look back at what the Experts said in the beginning, and once again, it's not pretty.

The Sporting News kicked off the prophecy season with a list of predictions for the 2001 campaign. Included was that Bill Belichick would be fired ("Belichick … will never be a great head coach"), Kevin Carter would lead the league in sacks (he did not make the top 25), the Titans would finish 13-3 (actual was 7-9), the Chargers and Seahawks would make the playoffs (neither did), the Panthers would be contenders (they set an all-time record for consecutive losses), and the Ravens would repeat as Super Bowl champions (eliminated in the divisional round). But score one for this divination, "An overtime playoff game will be decided by an instant-replay overrule." So it was, Oakland at New England. Man, man, your time is sand! (Quick, who gets that?)

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Peter King of Sports Illustrated foretold during training camp of Denver, "This team will be playing deep into January." Denver failed to make the playoffs. King praised as a big factor Broncos DT Leon Lett, who finished the season third-string on the Denver depth chart with 15 tackles and no sacks.

John Clayton of ESPN.com foretold during training camp of Chiefs quarterback Trent Green: He is "well worth the first-round choice" Kansas City gave for him. Green threw 24 INTs, worst in the league.

Sports Illustrated,in its season preview issue, predicted the championship games would pit Oakland versus Tennessee and St. Louis versus the Giants; two of these four did not make the playoffs. The magazine forecast just two of six division winners correctly. SI prediction for the Patriots? Cellar-dweller. To conserve space, we won't endlessly note wrong predictions regarding New England since no national outlet of which TMQ is aware predicted the Patriots would make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. None, that is, except Slate'sTuesday Morning Quarterback.

Chris Mortensen of ESPN in his preseason preview predicted the Super Bowl would be Broncos 27, Bucs 17. The Broncos did not make the playoffs, and the idea of predicting an exact final score half a year before the contestants are even known is so absurd that this is the only preseason final-score prediction TMQ will cite.

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The Sporting News preview issue predicted the championship games would pit the Broncos against the Raiders and the Bucs against the Saints. Two of the four did not make the playoffs. TSN'spredicted Super Bowl winner, Tampa, lost in the first round. At various times, TSN ran no fewer than 10 other sets of predictions about the Super Bowl. They were—Ravens over Rams (twice), Raiders over Bucs, Bucs over Raiders (twice), Raiders over Saints, Broncos over Saints, Titans over Bucs, Titans over Rams, Ravens over Bucs. All wrong!

Mike Freeman of the New York Times, lauded last season by Tuesday Morning Quarterback as one of only two known to have predicted the Ravens would win it all (Joe Theismann the other), in his preseason preview asserted that San Diego and Seattle would be surprise playoff teams; they surprised only him, by staying home. Freeman's predicted division winners were Jets, Ravens, Bolts, Giants, Vikings, Niners. All wrong! The Times added four sets of preseason Super Bowl predictions: Tennessee over Tampa (predicted twice), Tampa over Tennessee, and Minnesota over Baltimore (predicted by Freeman). All wrong, and four of the eight cited teams failed to make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.

The Wall Street Journal predicted the Broncos would win the Super Bowl—they did not make the playoffs—while USA Today ran five sets of preseason predictions, three saying the Broncos would win it, two forecasting the Flaming Thumbtacks as eventual champs. None of the five USA Today preseason Super Bowl picks made the playoffs.

Then there was the incredible ESPN.com preseason meta-forecast, in which 16 sports nuts made 16 overlapping sets of predictions. None had New England making the playoffs, let alone the Big Dance. Here are the 16 ESPN.com predicted Super Bowls: Titans over Bucs (twice), Titans over Rams (twice), Rams over Broncos (twice), Rams over Ravens, Rams over Raiders, Titans over Saints, Titans over Vikings, Broncos over Rams, Broncos over Eagles, Broncos over Bucs, Broncos over Saints, Raiders over Bucs, Bucs over Broncos. All wrong! Plus 10 of ESPN.com's 16 predicted Super Bowl winners did not make the playoffs.

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Failed Predictions Watch No. 2: Now for predictions once the Rams-Patriots pairing was known.

Emulating the worst thing about the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal,the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times,and USA Today all tried to predict the exact final score of the Super Bowl, and all whiffed. USA Today had the most incredibly scientifically advanced whiff, rolling out as it annually does computer programmer Dave Holt, who this year "played the game 25,000 times using his specially designed software, not for commercial sale." Let's hope not! Wouldn't want this technology to fall into the wrong hands. Based on 25,000 tries—which pretty much sums up the absurdity of attempting to predict exact final scores—the incredibly scientifically advanced computer program guessed way wrong at Rams 38, Pats 24. It even tried to predict exact final statistics, down to individual yards and seconds between plays. TMQ's favorite computer prediction: time of possession, St. Louis 31:18, New England 28:42. (Actual Rams 33:30, Patriots 26:30.)

USA Today also performed the vital public service of compiling the exact final-score predictions of 30 of the nation's midsized newspapers, such as the Indianapolis Star. All were wrong.

Sports Illustrated was wrong at Rams 27, Pats 24; the Sporting News wrong at Rams 27, Pats 20. The Harmon Forecast, a CBS feature that employs an incredibly scientifically advanced mathematical formula that CBS advertises as picking winners "between 72 and 78 percent of the time," though it actually only called 63 percent this season, was way wrong at Rams 34, Pats 26. Checking the pre-game "Fray," TMQ reader Daniel White was wrong at Pats 27, Rams 23, and reader "Zzyzx Oasis" was wrong at Rams 31, Pats 23.

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Going meta, ESPN had 20 sports nuts make 20 different predictions of the exact final score, and no fewer than 20, all focused on the same game,were wrong.

Going ultra-meta, the Sporting News asked 36 celebrities to forecast an exact final score. They ranged from John McCain, identified as a "United States Senator" (oh, you mean that John McCain), to Carrot Top, inaccurately identified as a comedian, to Dan Rather, whose frequency told him to predict overtime. TSN celebrity mega-babe Brooke Burke predicted that—oh, who cares what she predicted; here are cheesecake pictures from her new swimsuit calendar.

Of these 36 total predictions, all focused on the same game,no fewer than—wait, sit down, are you ready? One was right! Tomato actress Catherine Bell, female lead of JAG,predicted Pats 20, Rams 17. Of the roughly 100 exact final-score predictions TMQ logged, the only correct prediction came from a mega-babe! Tuesday Morning Quarterback calls it poetic justice, and the football gods chortled.

Failed Predictions Watch No. 3, TMQ Predictions: There are loads of failed predictions in the TMQ preseason preview. But then, prominent was the motto, All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back.

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I did predict that "Of last season's division winners—Miami, Tennessee, Oakland, New Orleans, Minnesota, and Jersey/A—only one will repeat." Give that man a kewpie doll because Oakland alone repeated. Since only two of the previous 18 division winners had repeated, this wasn't that hard a guess. But having read all the expert forecasts, I can tell you most predicted that most division winners would repeat.

I did predict that Doug Flutie would start hot and then fade, which he did, the Bolts opening 5-2 as Flutie threw for seven touchdowns against three picks, San Diego then losing nine straight as Flutie threw eight TDs and 15 INTs in the span. This wasn't a hard guess either since Flutie opened hot, then faded the last time he was a full-time starter, in 1999. In both 1999 and 2001, he lost arm strength as the season progressed, and defensive coordinators realized that by placing CBs on the outside shoulder of receivers, a tactic rarely seen, they could take away the CFL-sidearm-special-out patterns that are Flutie's bread and butter while not worrying about the center of the field because he almost never throws over the middle. (It's not that Flutie cannot throw deep; he can, but he can't throw over the middle.) Yet though history suggested a Flutie flame-out, many experts as noted above predicted San Diego would jump from the doghouse to the penthouse.

I predicted that the Steelers "would field a fabulous new linebacker because the Steelers always have a fabulous new linebacker." Enter Kendrell Bell, the league's defensive rookie of the year. But that wasn't a hard guess either, exactly because the Steelers alwayshave a fabulous new linebacker. I predicted that "the football gods will punish Baltimore" for cutting Trent Dilfer after he went 11-1 for them and won the Super Bowl; verily, the football gods heard my entreaty. I predicted that "sometime during this season, Kordell Stewart will complete a pass," and as reader Aaron notes, this was correct—completions to Lawyer Milloy and Tebucky Jones of the Patriots to close out the AFC championship. As for team records, I was way off about the Bears, Bills, Flaming Thumbtacks, Lions, Niners, and Steelers and dead-on or close on all others—see for yourself on the above link.

Reader Haiku and Senryu: Veronica Critchlow's refers to the victory of New Orleans resident Ron Bell in the Super Bowl of vibrating football; see last week's column. And alas, submit no more, as this feature falls dark till next season.

Patriots defeat
Warner's galactic menace.
Independence Day!
—Allen B

Warner's powers seem
to run out of steam tonight.
No plutonium?
—Allen B

Gunners between the
hashmarks equal: Two-hundred-
pound defensive ends.
—Jeff Feldstein

Howie and Teri?
Not really a couple, folks!
Just pitching the Shack.
Kelly

Bell saved New Orleans
by winning the Super Bowl;
only way we'll win.
—Veronica Critchlow

Route 50 runs east
straight through D.C. Just like all
NFL tailbacks.
JB

Ken Anderson, of
Augustana, overlooked
by Hall of Fame. Sad.
—"Foobarski"

Football season done,
but there's always mega-babes!
TMQ, don't go!
—Rico Detroit

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How Can You Tell He's From Western Pennsylvania? Hearing of his selection to the Hall of Fame, Jim Kelly said, "I'm going out with my dad and brothers for shots and beers."

Sentimentality note: In a hotel room in New Orleans, Kelly waited for word of whether he'd been selected with his father, five brothers, and—his high-school coach from East Brady, Pa. Oh football gods, why did you deny this man a ring?

Andersen Called David Woodley, Ray Handley Finalists: The Hall of Fame voting was certified by Arthur Andersen.

Official Wife of the Year: Nan Kennelly, Official Wife of TMQ, put up in good spirits with an entire season of cheerleader jokes and mega-babe links. That spiffy jacket that comes with being Official Wife must have been the compensation.

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Money Cannot Buy Happiness: Last season the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons were first in actual player spending, at $93 million. They failed to make the playoffs. This season the Broncos were first in actual player spending, at $85 million. They failed to make the playoffs. Each team was, of course, way over the salary cap, an artificial calculation based on signing-bonus accounting. Any club can evade the cap for a few seasons by carrying charges to future years, but eventually the bill comes due. The Persons nearly fell apart when their cap-postponement bill arrived last winter. Look for a similarly unpleasant invoice in the mail to Denver.

The fact that teams can significantly outspend something called a "cap" is just one of the absurdities of the system. After a few years of outspending the cap, teams must switch to actual player spending way below the cap because accounting imposes penalties for players you no longer even have. This year the Niners were hit with $23 million in cap penalties for departed players, including Jerry Rice, Ken Norton, and Steve Young, who hasn't suited up in two years. Buffalo, Dallas, and the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons were clobbered with $20 million in cap charges for departed players, in the 'Girls' case ranging from the sublime (Troy Aikman) to the absurd (the legendary Jorge Diaz). Kansas City was charged $7 million for Chester McGlockton, who played for Denver; Minnesota was charged $7.5 million for John Randle, who played for Seattle; Buffalo was charged $5 million for Ted Washington, who played for Chicago, and another $5 million for Doug Flutie, who played for San Diego. Dallas and the Persons both paid cap penalties for Deion Sanders though he didn't play for either.

Worst cap absurdity: Cutting Player A may require you to cut Player B. Because Player A's prorated bonus crash-lands on the cap the day you release him, you may be forced to pare the roster further. One reason Buffalo cut Antowain Smith, who went on to be a hero for the Super Bowl Patriots, is that the team needed to slash actual spending to make room for the penalties for cutting Washington and Flutie.

There's an obvious solution to salary-cap nonsense, and that is to switch from cap accounting to a salary pool. The league already assigns each team a pool figure that it can spend on draft choices. Within the pool there are no accounting gimmicks regarding bonuses versus salary—the team can simply spend a set amount, period. There have been no problems with the draft salary pool. Holdouts have declined since agents know exactly where they stand, and there's no point asking the team to try to game the system. TMQ suggests that each team's entiresalary cap also be replaced with a simple annual pool whose limit is set at the average of actual player spending (about $73 million this year, versus an official cap of $67 million). The limit would rise according to the same rising-revenues formula now used to increase the cap. No more accounting gimmicks, no more perverse incentives to waive veterans, no more "back debt" for gentlemen long departed.

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There now, wasn't that easy? Coming soon: Tuesday Morning Quarterback saves Social Security.

If Only Real Conspiracies Were This Interesting: Three Los Angeles conspiracy theories are bouncing around at the moment. Two are that the Bills and Colts are deliberately losing so ticket sales fall off and they have excuses to move to L.A. One reader phrased this fear in senryu:

Why not collapse now?
Lose games, drive down attendance—
get new SoCal homes!
—Tony Knoderer

Well, the Bills and Horsies can't both move to L.A. Or can they? Two franchises play in Giants Stadium. As the Colts have a shameful history of abandoning fans, and the Bills a noble history of small-town loyalty, TMQ hopes if there is a jump, it is by the blue and white.

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The third and mutually contradictory conspiracy theory is that the league's owners like the fact that L.A. has no team because it allows them to graymail taxpayers into funding new stadia. Owners get new publicly financed palaces by threatening to move to Los Angeles, which would be an empty threat if there were already a team there. Considering that, since the Rams left L.A., many NFL teams have gotten fabulous stadium deals but no team has tried to move to Los Angeles, TMQ considers the latter theory more credible.

Read This and Weep: As his date to the Foothill High School winter formal, senior Toby Hocking of Tustin, Calif., had Playboy Playmate Petra Verkaik. According to the Orange County Register,"The pinup, who at 35 is twice Hocking's age, offered to take the teen to his formal after she read his college entrance essay and was moved to tears." Verkaik and the boy's mother have a mutual friend; the friend gave the mega-babe the essay, and she thought it was sensitive. Sensitive!TMQ wrote lots of sensitive stuff when he was 17, and it never even got him a regular date.

Apparently there was earnest debate at Foothill High about whether a 35-year-old Playmate could attend the dance, her age being the official objection. Foothill males, TMQ guesses, voted 500-0 in favor, and Foothill females opposed 0-500; could you imagine what a heartbreaker this was for girls who were expecting attention from their boyfriends that night? The principal, the Register reports, resolved debate by asking Verkaik "not to wear anything sheer or strapless." TMQ imagines the principal felt moved to call her into his office for long, earnest discussions and possibly modeling of proposed outfits. Gawk at Petra at her official Web site. Delicate sensibilities notePetra posts many nudes of herself. Surely Toby never looked! Unfortunately, Petra's official Web site does not say how you could submit to her a sensitive essay.

Ideal Auto Ad Campaign: Lonely Guy With Rocks: Ford lost $5 billion in the fourth quarter and laid off 35,000 people. Could this possibly have something to do with its "lonely loser" ad campaign? Ford has been running TV and newspaper ads in which a solitary, sweaty man pounds fence posts on a desolate landscape that appears to be the outermost moon of Meepzor, while in the TV version, a voice-over makes fun of the movie You've Got Mail because it involved girls and mush talk. "This guy," as the announcer calls the Ford customer, knows about pounding fence posts during an ion storm but couldn't care less about girls and mush talk. So if you're a lonely, sweaty guybuy Ford!

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Then again, Chevy advertises that its trucks are "Like a Rock." Ever driven a rock? Aspire to own a truck that handles like a rock?

I Will Get Through This Item Without a Beaver Joke: The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that "tough" Canadian beavers have muscled native European beavers out of much of Europe and are now beginning an expansionist assault against Russian beavers. "The European environment is not ready for Canadian beavers," the paper quotes a scientist saying.

They must be dancing in Canada, eh? The loony may be down to 63 cents, but the genetically engineered frostback beaver is proving unstoppable in a field test. Clearly this is Phase 3 of the sinister Canadian plan for world dominion. (Phase 1 was frostbacks infiltrating the NFL, already subject of a shocking TMQ exposé. Phase 2 is sinister football columns that trick readers into spending hours gawking at mega-babe links, oblivious to men in Mountie uniforms sneaking through the streets.) National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice sits chatting football with Oprah Winfrey's Oprah Winfrey Magazine Featuring Oprah Winfrey while mutant Canadian beavers mass at our borders! Europe can't be the real target; Canada would accomplish nothing by exchanging its loonies for euros stamped, "Our Currency Backed by Imaginary Bridges." They are only testing the beavers for the ultimate assault against Uncle Sam. Barricade the Dunkin' Donuts! Time is running short!

Kiss of Death: "I'm fully committed to him, no matter what": Owner/Aspiring Nero Dan Snyder, referring to Steve Spurrier. Snyder added, "I've staked my credibility" on Spurrier. Arthur Andersen, you'll recall, staked its credibility on Enron.

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We'll Miss These Summerall Senior Moments: Clock ticking late in the NFC championship game, the Eagles scored to make it 29-23. As the conversion loomed, Pat Summerall asked gravely, "Now what do the Eagles do?" though it obviously made no difference whether they went for one or two.

Reader Epic Senryu: Submitted by the almost tastefully named Greg Anrig Jr. of New York City, greatest city in the world.

Who is TMQ?
Sees most every single play,
yet trees block "dish" path.

Happily married,
yet surfs Web for mega-babes
with impunity.

Father of urchins,
yet focused laserlike on
post-midnight line play.

Beliefnet, Shakespeare,
"A Moment on the Earth," and
defense policy???

Methinks TMQ
Is no more an earthling than
QB Kurt Warner.
—Greg Anrig Jr.

Disclaimer of the Week: Instant polls at the CNN/Sports Illustrated football site—a couple days ago, for example, on who the Texans should pick first in the expansion draft—contain the disclaimer, "Results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of internet users in general or the public as a whole." What?We don't know what the public as a whole thinks of who Houston should pick? Next you'll tell us we don't know who won Florida!

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The Packers Also Don't Use Arthur Andersen: Offseason renovations at Green Bay's Lambeau Field will reduce the number of luxury boxes and increase general seating. Perhaps you can tell from this that the Packers are the league's only community-owned team?

Immutable Laws Catch On: Reader "Da Da Da" notes in senryu,

Early in third, Rams
go for two. Kick, says Madden.
Reading TMQ?

Yes, Madden said at that point in the NFC championship, "I believe you should take one until the fourth quarter," quoting almost verbatim TMQ's immutable law, Take One Till the Fourth. During the Pats-Raiders blizzard game, announcers discussed how Jon "I Was a Teen-aged Coach" Gruden told them he believes in going for one, regardless of the score, until the fourth. To TMQ's knowledge, this concept was not common in footballconversion cards were dominant—until Tuesday Morning Quarterback rolled it out in a November column. Either this represents proof of the "meme"self-propagating ideasor top NFL types are now cribbing from TMQ. Which do you think?

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Booth Talent Victimizes Sideline Labor: On MNF, Al Michaels insisted on calling sideline reporter Eric Dickerson "E.D." despite the fact that, as Bob Dole never tires of reminding us, this is the acronym for erectile dysfunction. (The lobby group Environmental Defense Fund recently changed its name to Environmental Defense, also oblivious to the acronym issue.) Dick Enberg took to addressing sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein, TMQ's favorite sports chick, as "B Squared." The first time he said this, Bernstein looked like she was ready to punch him outwhich, probably, she could.

Transaction of the Year: Last May the Falcons let go linebacker Henri Crockett, who signed with Denver. Last August the Falcons traded a draft choice to Denver for Henri Crockett.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback Play of the Year: NFL teams are now so conditioned to expect the blitz on third and long that at one point when the Jets faced that situation against the Saints this year and New Orleans rushed just two—the Saints got a sack.

Dennis Franz To Endorse Shoe Phones: The International Spy Museum, opening in Washington in spring 2002, will include a restaurant "in which diners can enjoy excellent food, fine wines and service against a rich backdrop of the romance of spying." The romance of spying—the Bay of Pigs? Robert Hanssen betraying his devoted wife? Jonathan Pollard divorcing his wife, who served a prison term for helping him, to marry someone younger? Aldrich Ames' first wife screaming at him for more money, then his second wife doing the same? Edwin Wilson, who sold arms to Libya, serving excellent food and fine wines at his Virginia estate? Which romance exactly are the promoters thinking of?

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TMQ, by the way, doubts that in the entire history of spying has there been a single romantic assignation between a guy who looks like James Bond and an evening-gowned woman who looks like a Bond movie babe, meeting in an exotic hotel overlooking the Bosporus Straits.

TMQ is, however, delighted that one of the items to be on display at the International Spy Museum will be a KGB tasseled loafer with a transmitter hidden in the heel. It looks amazingly like Maxwell Smart's shoe phone.

Lodish in Repose: Each year the arrival of the Super Bowl reminds TMQ of one of his all-time favorite players, reserve defensive tackle Mike Lodish. It is henot Jerry Rice, Jack Ham, nor Charles Haleywho possesses the record for most Super Bowl appearances, at six. True, Lodish did not start any of these games. But four times for the Bills and twice for the Broncs, he got his jersey dirty in a Super Bowl, and no athlete in Canton or with a shoe contract can say the same. Mike Lodish, who retired at the beginning of the season as an unknown, holds a major sports record unlikely ever to be broken.

Last year, a reader immortalized the achievement in the following senryu, titled "Lodish Resplendent." Tuesday Morning Quarterback repeats it with nostalgic best wishes that this gentleman will have a fulfilling second career as a car-dealership endorser and trivia-question answer:

Defensive tackle
With
Denver and Buffalo:
Mike Lodish played six.
—Brad Hammill

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Enlightened Hall Politics: TMQ praises the Canton loya jirga for taking Jim Kelly on the first ballot. That the Bills honked four straight Super Bowls should not prevent admiration for the fact that they were able to get into four straightmeaning they are the only team ever to win four straight conference championships, which is the preferred emphasis in Buffalo. Buffalo never got the ring but may end up with seven in Canton from its Super Bowl teamKelly and Marv Levy, already; Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, locks; Steve Tasker, Kent Hull, and Andre Reed, likely. Thus the football gods console the vanquished.

Kelly himself deserves kudos for his grasp of Hall politics. As TMQ noted a year ago, Kelly cut his career a little short, since he might have played an extra season or two, in order to become eligible in 2002, when he would have less Canton competition. Staring at Kelly's brake lights are John Elway, Dan Marino, and Steve Young, all eligible soon and sure to monopolize Hall admission slots for quarterbacks. It was a savvy move for Kelly to make sure he got admitted before such gentlemen's names went on the ballot.

Enron Claimed Profits on These Trades: As football enters hibernation and the NBA becomes unavoidable, TMQ must pause to acknowledge his favorite thing about professional basketballyou can trade salary-cap space.

Last summer, for instance, Miami traded Tim Hardaway to Dallas for $3.2 million in salary-cap space. A few years back, in TMQ's all-time favorite trade, Washington's then Bullets traded a second-round draft pick to Orlando for a first-round pick and guard Scott Skiles. Did you get that? They gave a low pick for a high pick plus a player. Orlando was paying Washington to assume Skiles' contract and cap charge; the payment was the first-round pick.

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TMQ finds such trading hilarious and suggests the NFL allow it. Football trading has been brought almost to a dead halt by NFL rules that forbid transfer of cap charges. But baseball lets you sell players outright for cash while basketball lets you trade their accounting value (certified by Arthur Andersen, of course). Why not football, too? An options market could develop in cap futures. Then we'd have salary-cap derivatives funneled through off-shore partnerships, we'd report the equity as if it were profit and claimexcuse me, I gotta go write a business plan!

In other basketball trade news, the Houston Comets sent Jennifer Rizzotti to the Detroit Shock for Anna DeForge. Later, Rizzotti was swapped to the Cleveland Rockers for a third-round draft pick. The Shock then packaged Olympia Scott-Richard with the third-rounder to the Indiana Fever for a second-round selection. Yes, chick jocks are now being traded. Chick Jocks Traded Against Their Will: Next on Geraldo! (Sorry, forgot that he's in a cave.) TMQ certainly hopes these double-X players didn't get all emotional or something when they heard.

Senator, There Are Linebackers Here To See You: Players from several NFL teams have started political action committees to channel campaign contributions to former football agent Ed Cunningham, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the upcoming Senate vacancy in Texas. Presumably this means the players hope to win insider influence, but what special-interest favor is Congress supposed to give themliberalize the holding rule?

Dierdorf To Run for Senate: The verbal virus that swept football announcers this year was the oleaginous, politicianesque "quite frankly. …" (Members of the United States Senate say, "Quite frankly, it's raining.") Dennis Miller displayed this verbal tic all season. Dan Dierdorf picked it up, too, one Sunday declaring, "Quite frankly, I think Brett Favre is hurt." You mean normally you are deceiving us when you say someone is hurt?

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No Plug This Week: Since this is the final column of the year, I will not plug the incredibly cleverly titled book Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which is new stuff, not a collection of past columns. It's in stores, or you can buy it here—not that I'm plugging it. Note to collectors: It won't be in stores much longer, so snap them up!

TMQ Instant Poll! Be sure to take the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Instant Poll, below:

Click to view answers

Clinton's Spirit Kept Alive: Over the summer, a congressional report found that the most popular files swapped through the file-sharing system Gnutella had keywords such as porn, Lolita, topless, and hot nude lesbians. It's good to know that fearless congressional investigators are using our tax dollars to scan the Web night and day for files about sex! If George W. Bush thinks Americans should get some of their money back from Washington, shouldn't we get some of our sex files back, too?

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TMQ, who favors high-class porn as opposed to the kind you get free off the Web, was reassured to learn that the third-ranked search term in Gnutella was "Star Trek Voyager." And I feel that if we are to set a good example for America's youth, we must … hold on, I have to finish downloading this file, "hot cheerleaders in lesbian S&M bondage."

Coming soon: Tuesday Morning Quarterback defines "high-class" porn.

How the Surplus Became a Deficit: Federal taxpayers paid Fox $3 million for the anti-drug commercials seen during the Super Bowl.

Season Finale Gorzon Memo:

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From: Gorzon the Inexplicable, Associate Trainee, Fusion Pit Maintenance (Third Class)
To: Bioagent TMQ4499, "Gregg Easterbrook"
Re: Green Slave Girls

Oh, how everything has gone wrong this year. First the election of Dubtron, and my subsequent demotion from First Illuminate towell, as you can see, I've been demoted again. It's all political! This special prosecutor keeps calling me up wanting my expense account records, my video rental records, my tentacle size. Next thing they'll demand to know how many live throcmorts I swallowed whole for breakfast! But I'll bounce back. I'm a young pod at 485. I'll wait them out.

Sadly, bioagent, I must inform you that the invasion of Earth has been indefinitely postponed. The attack cruiser fleet was in position behind Jupiter, as planned. Dubtron, after campaigning on budget cuts, has turned into a liberal and upped the budget for everything. But just when I thought he'd approve the credits for the final assaultI was hoping to attack while there was still an NFL stadium left that did not have a corporate namethe fleet had to divert to the Almatha Sector. There, the Star Trek reality is attempting to break into the Galactic Hegemony (Devastating Star Clusters Since 50 Million BCÔ) reality. Just when we thought we had the Star Trek incursion blockedthey've got five shows now, their syndications are everywhere!the Babylon 5 ships started pouring through. And who knows how many more Star Wars movies are coming? Not George Lucas, that's for sure. We've got quite a battle on our hands, I can tell you.

So I've had to instruct bioagent KurWar7733, "Kurt Warner," simply to continue being a football hero and gaining human trust; our sinister conspiracy will call on him later. And I've instructed bioagent AnnKour2266, "Anna Kournikova," to take a little timeout from modeling to practice tennis. I considered calling her back to the homeworld but simply cannot bear the thought of looking at her repulsive human form. Her new cheesecake calendar just about made me lose my lunch! The all-fours-in-a-very-short-cocktail-dress pose is pretty frisky, though. She must be fun at human parties.

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And bioagent, great news! I have finally found some homo sapien babes who turn me on. Perhaps you remember the classic 1960s Star Trek episode, "Slave Girls of Orion," in which Captain Kirk must rescue scantily clad obedient slave babes who aregreen. Well, now some member of genus homo with too much time on his hands has created a Web site in which you can see cheesecake pictures of Jennifer Lopez, Sherilyn Fenn, Halle Berry, and many other Earth mega-babes turned green. Green mega-babeshubba hubba! Sadly they're not in chains, but I suppose you can't have everything. Aesthetic standards on Earth are clearly rising.

As for your column, bioagent TMQ4499, it continues to be well-read on the homeworld, though the cheerleader links are censored because we worry about their effect on juvenile pods. The teen years are already confusing enough when you must undergo a gender change every time the fourth moon rises! I don't know what I will do at the bottom of this accursed fusion pit all winter with no Tuesday Morning Quarterback to look forward to each week. Plot sinister intergalactic dominance, I suppose.

Have a great offseason.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Pat Summerall has announced his retirement. Unfortunately, TMQ learned this 15 years ago; Summerall retired but stayed on the air. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

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Running Items Department

Final New York Times Final-Score Score: Another season-long whiff for the Paper of Guesses, bringing the Final New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-260 this season and 0-520 since TMQ began tracking. The Times ran two dueling Super Bowl final-score predictions, hoping to improve its odds, but of course both were wrong.

On an exclusive basis, TMQ has obtained a copy of the front page the New York Times was planning to run this morning if one of its predictions had been correct. The Times' front page would have read,

Times Predicts Super Bowl Score; White House, Israel Laud Sports Desk

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Pope Declares Mandatory Premarital Sex;
Nationalists Overrun China;
New Ice Age Begins;
See "World in Brief" After Final-Score Prediction Special Section

Most Embarrassing Don Ohlmeyer Moment (Final): The much-hyped Ohlmeyer quit last winter as producer of MNF, saying he was "working 100 hours per week." Now, many people try to make themselves sound important by exaggerating the hours they put in, but this takes the low-fat poppy seed-caramel cake. He seriously had to work 100 hours a week? His only detectable effects on the show were: 1) hiring Dennis Miller; 2) driving ratings to the lowest level ever; and 3) deciding to run prominently the producer's name, his own, as nearly the first thing viewers see.

This year the MNF producer was Fred Gaudelli, whose big contribution was to continue running the name of the producer as nearly the first thing viewers see.

Reader Animadversion: Reader Bill Dunlap asks, would dropping an onion into a blueberry-almond martini make it a blueberry-almond Gibson? Bill, you would mix onion with blueberry and almond?

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TMQ maintained that the evil, sinister plan of Bill Parcells was to be chosen for the Hall of Fame and then take another coaching job, thus becoming the "first" Canton resident to walk the sidelines wearing headphones. A reader senryuizes,

Inductee Halas,
year nineteen and sixty-three:
still Da Bears head coach.
—Adam Greenberg

In December, TMQ noted that PSINet, 3Com, TWA, Enron, and Pro Player have all known nothing but tsuris since paying huge fees to name stadiums after themselves. That column went on to wonder if some enterprising B student could determine whether there is a larger rule at play. Now it's been done. Tim Francis-Wright shows here that "Public companies that bought stadium naming rights have done decidedly worse than the S&P 500 index." Even controlling for the last two years' decline in the stock market, companies that put their names on stadiums did worse than other companies as a whole. Will the mysterious CMGi even make it to the opening of the Patriots' new CMGi Field next fall?

On the point that Doug Flutie calculates his lineage as 1/32nd Arab, a reader senryuizes,

Wow, Doug Flutie knows
great-great-great-grandparent?
Many don't know dad.
—"Spyke"

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On TMQ's question of whether anyone has ever "pulled the goalie" by rushing 11 against a punt, reader Ric Edwards reports that Florida State did this to Florida at the 1997 Sugar Bowl and it didn't work—result was a ball downed on the Seminole 1. But Florida State did this midgame. TMQ continues to think Philadelphia should have pulled the goalie on the last-second Rams punt in the NFC championship. What did the Eagles have to lose?

Reader Joseph Britt asks why space aliens always have easy-to-pronounce one-word names such as T'Pol, G'kar, and Gorzon. Wouldn't they be just as likely to have long, incomprehensible names? Yes, and this is why TMQ always admired the character name Zaphod Beetlebrox in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,or the completely unpronounceable far-future human names in Ian Banks' Culture books.

Then again, why couldn't aliens have names like Debbie and Chuck? Given that names are fundamentally arbitrary, Phil Turner and Rachel Carter seem to have as good a chance to arise in distant worlds as any other designation. Along these lines, Britt proposes that a good alien name would be James Bond. Leading to this exchange:

JANEWAY (Shouted above warning klaxons as wrap engines, shields, and phasers fail.): This is Kathryn Janeway of the federal starship Voyager. Identify yourself!
CAPTAIN OF ALIEN SHIP: My name is Bond—James Bond.

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Finally, on the vital topic of cheesecake gawking, reader Jeff conducted a close visual analysis of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit site and urges America not to overlook this portrait of model Shakara, whose see-through wrap leaves her as close to topless as the mainstream will ever get. What a gratuitous, transparent ploy on SI's part to add cheesecake. Of course, it is a gratuitous and transparent ploy on TMQ's part to offer the link. But then, transparent is the best thing about the photo.

Last Week's Challenge … was to name the most underrated NFL player or personage. Reader Sarah proposed George W. Bush, suggesting he was most misunderrated. Reader Jamie senryuized,

Most underrated?
Zebra Phil Luckett affects
More games than players.

Reader "Goathead" proposed, in senryu, a least underrated:

Angie loves Jason.
He poses for photographs
While his man runs past

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The stylish TMQ cap goes to "Captain Ron Voyage," well-known to "Fray" lurkers, who passionately argued for Dave Krieg. Voyage notes that the all-time leading passers by rating are Young, Montana, Marino, Kelly, Staubach, Krieg—five Hall of Famers plus a little guy known mainly for fumbling. Krieg, Voyage observes, threw for more yards than Steve Young and more touchdowns than Dan Fouts. And though he did fumble a lot, Warren Moon fumbled more, which is not expected to prevent Moon from getting a Canton hearing. Best of all, Krieg hailed from an obscure college, Milton, that no longer exists. It did exist while he played there, we think.

All in all, most underrated. This site, which predates the Challenge by two years, exists solely to declare Krieg "The Most Underrated Player in NFL History."

This Week's Challenge … is to wait patiently until next season, when the Challenge resumes.

TMQ Sign-Off: Now begins that long, lonely offseason, without any excuse to spend Sunday nailed to the couch drinking half-honey heavy light twice-unfiltered pale triticale instant microwaved beer. Tuesday Morning Quarterback suggests that you spend the offseason engaged in spiritual growth. Read the classics. Do Buddhist breathing exercises: Thich Nhat Hanh recommends repeating to yourself, Breathing in I relax, breathing out I smile. Take long walks through scenic nature preserves, and don't think about mega-babes. Eat a healthful diet of fresh foods, avoiding fats and sweets. Slowly sip herbal tea. Join any volunteer organization with the word "corps" in its name. (There are more every day.) Do these things, and you will feel justified racing back to the couch, the beer, and swimsuit calendars when the NFL resumes again next fall.

A note: It's possible this was the series finale, depending on what the offseason holds. Don't despair: Buffy had a series finale on the WB, and then the next fall she was back. If this was the last TMQ on Slate, let me close by paraphrasing Buffy—working on the assumption that future historians will consider Buffy and Tuesday Morning Quarterback of equal sociological significance:

Thanks for two great years.