The Electric Commentary

Friday, December 29, 2006

Anecdote Of The Day

A Scandinavian economist once proudly said to free-market advocate Milton Friedman, "In Scandinavia we have no poverty." And Milton Friedman replied, "That's interesting, because in America among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either."

-P.J. O'Rourke, in Eat The Rich

Thursday, December 28, 2006

64 Lines About 32 Quarterbacks

(To the tune of "88 Lines About 44 Women." The chorus is just "Hmm, hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm, hmm." Repeat.)

Michael Vick can really run
although his throws are kind of sad,

Simms will never live up to
his famous New York Giant Dad.

Jake Delhomme is overrated,
Steve Smith plus a Super Bowl,

Brees has helped rebuild the Saints
and brought back that New Orleans Soul.


Brady is the golden boy,
reminding people of Montana

Chadwick's injured shoulder is
about as strong as a banana.

J.P. Losman's last name
lets you know exactly what he is,

If Daunte's knee fails to recover
he can join the sex boat biz.

Jay chased the snakes out of Denver
because Jake took all the blame,

Trent Green's days are likely numbered,
since you play to win the game!

Andrew Walter is a Raider,
I won't mention him again,

Philip Rivers simply turns
and gives it to Ladanian.


Charlie Frye is not the answer
Cleveland hits another low,

Roethlisberger rides his motorcycle
like Kellen Winslow.

Steve McNair is smart and savvy,
his demeanor is low key,

Carson Palmer's teammates can't quite
seem to stay out of the pokey.

Bulger throws to Torry Holt,
the two of them make quite a pair,

Hasselbeck is a great passer,
even though he has no hair.

Matt the pretty boy
may have the most potential of the youth,

Alex Smith hands to the man
we call "The Inconvenient Truth."


Donovan is hurt again
which probably makes Rush Limbaugh smile,

Eli Manning's passes miss
his wide receivers by a mile.

Tony Romo throws to T.O.
even though he's always cranky,

Next year Redskin Jason Campbell
hands it to coach Janky Spanky.

Byron Leftwhich has a gun,
another good one from the MAC,

You will find that David Carr
is likely just to take the sack,

Vincent Young will beat you
with his arm as well as with his feet,

Peyton's greatest TV moment?
Cheering man to "Cut That Meat!"


Millen's personnel moves keep
Jon Kitna under fierce assault,

Tavaris Jackson runs the show
in Minnesota by default,

Grossman's inconsistency
makes the Bears' offense pretty lame,

Favre is football's ironman,
he'll soon be in the Hall of Fame.

64 lines about 32 quarterbacks.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

What if the Giants do win, smart guy?

Look, I told you that it's not worth worrying about, but if you really want to know, the Packers will get in if the Giants win and:

1. The Packers beat the Bears,

2. Seattle beats the Bucs,

3. Cleveland wins (yeah right) at Houston,

4. Detroit wins (hah!) at Dallas,

5. Arizona wins, without Matt Leinart, at the home of the NFL's best team, the San Diego Chargers,

6. Miami and Cleo Lemon beat the Colts,

7. San Fran defeats the Broncos, who need the win to make the playoffs,

8. The Vikings beat the Rams,

9. The Saints, who will be resting players, beat the Panthers.

See? Not gonna happen.

But if the Giants do win you have a full slate on Sunday. Hopefully the Redskins will help us out and all of this will be unnecessary.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Who should I root for?

So, will the Packers make the playoffs? Probably not, but there is a chance. Here's all that you need to know.

1. The Packers must beat the Bears.

Even though the Bears probably will not play their starters for the whole game, it will still be very difficult to beat them. For one thing, their backup QB is better than their starting QB. That said, it is possible. If the playoffs are still a possibility by the time the game starts the Packers will be jacked up, it will be nice and cold, and if the Bears get down early, they are likely to quit on the game.

2. The Giants almost certainly must lose to the Redskins on Saturday.

There are some scenarios that allow the Pack to get in with a Giants' win but my understanding is that they are all farfetched, and you can ignore it for all practical purposes. (This is the "Strength of Victory" tiebreaker, and it will not be completely decided until every team that has been defeated by the Giants and/or the Packers has finished their games.)

3a. The Rams must either lose to Minnesota, or...

This will not happen unless Brooks Bollinger or Brad Johnson plays. Tavaris Jackson isn't any good. Even if BB or BJ do play, it's still very unlikely that the Vikes can pull off the upset. They suck.

3b. The Rams win, but either the Falcons or the Panthers also win.

This is at least possible, although both face tough tasks. The Falcons play an Eagles team that is trying to win the NFC West. Fortunately, the Panthers play a Saints squad that will just try to stay healthy.

So, we want the Giants and the Rams to lose, and we want either the Panthers or the Falcons (or both) to win.

So, now you have your Saturday and Sunday all planned out. I know that the Pack doesn't deserve to make the playoffs, but then again, neither does anyone else. And one thing I'm sure of is that it's better to make it than not to make it.

Go Pack.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Foie Gras Fried In Trans Fat

A few posts ago I joked that I was going to open a restaurant called "Foie Gras Fried In Trans Fat" in order to protest Chicago's recent bout of nanny-statism. As it turns out, my favorite Chicago hot dog joint, Hot Doug's, has beaten me to the punch:

When the letter came from City Hall threatening punishment if he continued to serve foie gras at his North Side restaurant, Doug Sohn framed the warning and set it beside his cash register.

And he kept serving the fattened duck liver without a care.

"We displayed it proudly," said Sohn, owner of Hot Doug's, a gourmet sausage eatery where the daily special can include smoked pheasant topped with foie gras chunks. "My customers and myself enjoy foie gras."

I personally think that Foie Gras is pretty cruel, but then again I think that most meat production is pretty cruel, and I still eat it. That said, if ever the free market was equipped to deal with a product, that product is Foie Gras.

Most nanny-statism takes the paternalistic view that "we know better than you." I've had people at work tell me that we need the trans-fat ban to "help the uneducated." While condescension like that drives me nuts, you certainly can't apply that logic to goose liver pate. Everyone who eats Foie Gras knows exactly what they are doing. If people decide that it's cruel to do so, they can easily make the decision to avoid it.

Chicago has enough to deal with. This is just a busy-body law that will have no positive effect on anything, and will victimize certain businesses.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why I Suck At Basketball

Practice does not make perfect after all:

Mark Churchland and colleagues at Stanford University in California, US, made the discovery after training macaque monkeys to repeat a simple reaching task thousands of times.

"The nervous system was not designed to do the same thing over and over again," says Churchland, whose team investigated the way the brain plans and calculates motion.

The team showed the monkeys a coloured spot and rewarded them for reaching out to touch it at different speeds. During the exercise, they monitored the promoter cortex of the monkeys' brains, which is the region responsible for movement planning, and tracked the speed of the resulting motion.

Over the course of thousands of reaches, the monkeys rarely moved with exactly the same speed. Small variations in reach speed followed small variations in brain activity during movement planning, the researchers say.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that movement variability is caused by muscle activity, Churchland’s team found that neural activity accounts for about half the variations. In other words, training muscles to perform a certain way through practice, such as countless hours teeing off or shooting a basketball, will not produce the same shot every time because the brain's behaviour is inconsistent.

After an initial training period, the monkeys' reach accuracy did not improve over time, suggesting that lots of practice can only improve movement control so much, says team member Krishna Shenoy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Next time you run into one of the do-gooder activists of PIRG, try laying this on them:

It seems worth mentioning that missing your weekly quota was a firing offense. Someone wanted to make damn sure I didn't make it to August 28th; I was, I believe, the third or fourth best canvasser in the state that summer*, and I had a big balloon payment coming.

Just around that time, my quota, and that of a few other high performers, was suddenly and inexplicably raised to $85 a night.

I made quota every. damn. night. I did it by never asking for $15, which would have earned a horrified laugh from anyone in that neighbourhood. I collected quarters, nickels, dollar bills, occasionally $5. I had an unprecedented 98% response rate. During the entire week, I think I might have spoken to three people who were employed.

Now, of course, I think of myself getting money from those poor people for PIRG, and I writhe in shame. Because of course, the whole thing is a massive scam. All the money from the canvass goes, not to the cause, but to the canvass: you are paying them to collect your name so that they can sic telemarketers on you several times a year. The canvassers don't believe in what they're saying, at least not in any reasonably creditable way; they are told what to say and exactly how to say it, about issues they know nothing more about than you do. Many of them shamelessly lie; others repeat untruths they picked up somewhere with the best of intentions and the worst of results. Even after the telemarketers are through with it, at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reading the Constitution is Hard, Part II: The Myth of the Myth of Separation.

You probably won't make it through the Christmas season without hearing at least some discussion of the separation of church and state. Usually this happens when some local government tries to put a nativity scene on public land, or something similar. And it's also a near certainty that you'll hear some religious type say something like:

1. There is no separation of church and state, or

2. The first amendment is there to protect the church from the state, not the other way around, or, most idiotically,

3. The words "separation of church and state" never appear in the Constitution. This argument is entirely semantic, if it is an argument at all.

So, what does the Constitution actually have to say about religion? Most people can't actually answer this question. (Something that the first and second amendments to the Constitution have in common.) The First Amendment has the following to say on the subject of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

That's it! Not even an entire sentence, just a simple little phrase. So what does it mean? Before we get into that we need a quick lesson in Constitutional interpretation.

The Constitution's main purpose is to spell out what the Federal Government may do. It is supposed to create a government of "limited and enumerated powers." Simply put, if the Constitution doesn't spell it out, then the government can't do it.

Over time a bunch of stupid justices who can't read have flipped the Constitution on its head: now the government can do anything it wants unless it is prohibited by the Constitution. This was never intended by the framers, but it is now the norm of American jurisprudence. Anyway, some of the framers also knew that at some point a bunch of irresponsible illiterate people would gain power and start to expand government power despite the Constitutional prohibitions against doing so, and that is why they created the Bill of Rights. Some have argued that it is the Bill of Rights that led to the current state of American jurisprudence by creating the impression that individuals are only guaranteed those rights specified in the Bill of Rights (and they're probably right), but for better or for worse, we have them. Fortunately they are very clear.

The Bill of Rights guarantees the rights of individuals. When some religious type person says that the First Amendment is there to protect "the church" he couldn't be more wrong. It is there to protect one person; You. Most of the framers, after all, came from a land of state-sponsored religion, and many settlers to the new world were, to be blunt, religious wackos. The Pilgrims, for instance, were completely nuts. Why would these people want to protect any church? Aside from the fact that most of the framers were deists, they also understood the tyranny that could accompany a state-endorsed religion. Moving along...

The first portion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

simply means that the state will not make you follow any religion. It is a statement of government neutrality. No religion may be forced upon you. If tax dollars go towards a nativity scene, that would violate this portion of the amendment. Government would be respecting an establishment of religion.

The second portion is as follows:

or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

This simply means that you can believe in and engage in the practice of any religion that you choose. If we put the two phrases together and translate into modern English we get something like the following:

The state can not force religion on you, and it also can not stop you from believing whichever religion you choose.

That is all. So, you've heard of those "Ten Commandments" monuments in courthouses? They are major violations of the Constitution. Tax exempt status for churches? Those are too.

What I find odd is that, in my humble opinion, the church-going and the atheistic use tactics that are directly opposite their own selfish interests. Most western nations with strong church-state entanglement have seen a major decline in their church-going populations. It seems that not even God can overcome the incompetence that ensues when the state decides to intervene. The freedom granted to religious institution in the US, a freedom which some of them despise, is probably responsible for the strength of religion in this country. The fastest way to put a big dent in American Christianity would be to make Christianity the national religion, and the fastest way to keep religion growing is to keep the state out of it.

Which is not to say that I'm in favor of a national religion; I'm not. I believe in the marketplace of ideas, and that the correct ideas will eventually crush the bad ideas. I just think it's odd that these two adversaries misuse their political power to such a great extent.

We are only supposed to believe in ideas if those ideas are correct, and the best ways we have to determine the validity of ideas are through reason, debate, and research. When the state endorses an idea, (any idea whether it is religious or not) the power of that endorsement skews what is supposed to be a fair marketplace. It diminishes our ability to judge an idea based solely on its merit.

The government's only tool is force. Force should only be applied in rare circumstances, and never in an intellectual battle. If an idea needs force to survive, it's probably a bad idea.

Friday, December 15, 2006

What the hell is wrong with my state?

Wisconsin making headlines again:

Hermaphroditic deer with seven legs ‘tasty’
Wisconsin hunter bags odd beast with pickup in driveway, eats it

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Have You Seen This Christmas Special?

This is the terrifying "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town."

In it, (if memory serves) we learn that Santa Claus was raised by lions and a fairy, that immortal, 10-foot-tall people roam the woods, that Santa's band of immortal friends brutally slaughtered a bunch of monsters who wanted to stop Santa from "making children happy." And that Santa was going to die until the antler guy decided to give him the "mantle of immortality."

This is allegedly a Christmas story, but seriously, where did they come up with this? Is it based on anything?

It's weird, it uses that creepy stop-motion animation like in Frosty and Rudolf, except it's 10 times more disturbing, and I can't think of a single audience that they're targeting here.

Did I mention that at one point Santa is tied up and attacked in a cave by a cobra and a tarantula? I'm not kidding.

Even though it's both nonsensical and terrifying I have to watch it whenever it's on. It's such a train wreck that you just can't look away. Even the musical numbers are jaw-droppingly awful.

I've never met anyone (except for Danny, I assume) that has seen it though, so I'm taking this time to spread the creepiness for the holidays. Enjoy!

Busy Week

It's been a busy week trying to wrap up everything before year's end. Blogging should return to normal tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Bad Move For The Crew

Why did the Brewers let Jeff Cirillo get away? He recently signed with the Twins because the Brewers couldn't offer as much playing time because of Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsel.

Stupid, stupid move. If you're the Brewers you need cheap, productive players. Cirillo gets on base at about a .370 clip, hits well, and is at least an adequate fielder. Moreover, he was cheap and willing to take a one-year deal.

It's a minor move in the grand scheme of things, but I don't like it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Your Sunday Football Homework

Is to read this article at Football Outsiders. Especially if you're a packer fan as this section will cheer you up:

After listening to Jaws break down Grossman against the Vikings, I am completely convinced that the Bears have to take him out of the lineup. He was missing open guys all over the field. Sometimes there would be a play designed as a quick throw to a guy in the flat, and Grossman would hold the ball for a while, unsure of himself. A good example is his first pass of the whole game. It was a swing to Thomas Jones, wide open, moving towards the right sideline. Grossman actually threw the ball so late that Jones couldn’t catch it in bounds. Last year, I wrote in one of the DVOA commentaries on FOX about the fact that top defenses in the salary cap era rarely play at a high level for more than one season. Chicago has bucked that trend, with a spectacular defense for the second straight year. They aren’t going to make it three. This is their shot at the Super Bowl. There’s almost no chance of Grossman fixing these problems over the next four weeks. Maybe it messes him up for the future, but the window of opportunity is open now. As our buddies at BP say, “Flags fly forever.”

Lovie Smith seems to be marries to the Grossman, but it is worth mentioning that Brian Griese did take about half of the snaps this week. I've been torturing my Bear fan friends by predicthat thta the Bears' easy schedule down the stretch will allow Rex's terrible play to go largely unnoticed until they get destroyed in their first playoff game. And they all now think that I'm right.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The BCS, Onion Style

As usual, The Onion gets it right:

In what many BCS officials are citing as "proof that their flawless system indeed works," no Division 1-A college football team was found to possess the sheer excellence required to face Ohio State, the No. 1 ranked team since the season began, in this year's BCS Championship game.

Read it all

(Hat tip, Keith)

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Sometimes we get letters, e-mail, etc. People, occasionally, don't want to use the comments section for whatever reason, and we reserve a Friday every so often to answer their questions. Let's jump right in, shall we?

Dear EC, what's this "dark matter" that I keep hearing so much about?


As I understand it, a bunch of physicists were trying to figure out the Big Bang, and they did a bunch of calculations and, as it turns out, there isn't enough matter in the universe. So after that they got together and toked up and one of them said something to the effect of:

Hey, man, what if there's like matter out there, but we can't see it or detect it. That would solve all of our problems dude. And it would be totally righteous. Pass the Cheetos. No Richard, the real Cheetos, not the "dark" cheetos. Jeez, you guys.

As it turns out, this "dark matter" theory is actually fairly plausible, and scientists have collected some convincing evidence of its existence. But what is dark matter? As I have no real scientific training of any kind I'll do what I do best: Make up a plausible explanation out of thin air.

So, gravity is basically a little divot in space time caused by the presence of matter. Objects think that they're still traveling straight when, from an outsider's perspective, they're actually traveling in a curved line as a nearby chunk of matter is bending the spacetime in the area.

So I figure that dark matter, instead of making a divot in space time, makes a bubble in space time. It would have an anti-gravitational effect on light matter, and light-light would be repelled and never reflect off of the matter so that we would never see it. Moreover, the light matter that we see repels dark matter, so from the perspective of dark matter, light matter is, well, dark matter. And dark matter attracts dark matter. The functional effect is that the universe is like a big piece of paper with dark matter on one side and light matter on the other, making divots and bubbles that effect each other even though one side, due to the warping of space time, can't see the other.

Aren't you glad that you asked?

And remember, nothing of what I just wrote is true. Nothing.

Dear EC,

I love the blog. You seem to be a Simpson fan. I'm the biggest Simpsons fan in the world. I'll bet you can't stump me. Go ahead, ask me anything. Jerk.

Smell ya later,


You're one cocky nerd MG, but I'll take a shot.

1. When Homer is daydreaming about the Land of Chocolate in the office of his new German bosses, he passes by the town's welcome sign. On that sign is the population of the land of chocolate. What is it?

2. What is Nelson's favorite fruit? Prove with at least 3 examples.

3. What is Mr. Burns's Social Security Number?

Good luck, MG.

Hey Pauly,

My wife keeps telling me that Heath bars are the best toffee candy bars, but I'm more of a Skor man myself. Opinion?

Willy W.

Heath bars are good in ice cream, especially in Blizzards, but for pure candy bar eating you can't beat a Skor. The chocolate to toffee ratio is exactly right (the Heath is toffee-heavy) and the relatively skinny Skor bar is crispier, and doesn't get stuck in your teeth as much. It is truly delicious. And by the way, Heath knows this to be true. The Heath bar has slowly been turning into a Skor bar. It used to come as two smaller, thicker bars in a single package, but it is now a single bar, and it has gotten thinner. Always go for the Skor.

Also, I'd like to mention that there are now about 4,000 types of Hershey's Kisses, and the best kind is "candy cane." They're outstanding.

Dear Electric Weirdo,

Is it just me, or has it been over a year since Chicago's public transportation has attempted to kill you? Have they improved? Do you owe them an apology

-"L" McPherson

Just the other day I got to the platform and noticed that about 400 people were already there, waiting. This is a bad sign. Normally my L stop has 40-50 people waiting at any one time. A higher number indicates that a train has not been by in quite some time. After a few minutes the Redline pulled up, however it already contained about, oh, I don't know, let's say 4000 people as a conservative estimate. I mean, there were people oozing out of the cracks in the doors. This is an extremely bad sign.

Usually if a crowded Red Line train pulls up, it means that there is an empty one right behind it. If a train is this crowded, it means that these people were desperate. As the door opened, the odor of stale B.O. and Trixie perfume poured out onto the masses like a sweaty, damp tidal wave of humid air. No one dared to push their way on.

As the group and I repeated this scene four times over we bonded. We rolled our eyes together, yawned as one, and when we finally boarded a train 45 minutes later, it took a great deal of restraint to refrain from high-fiving each other. I even got a seat in the last car. The ride was slow as it clearly had been all morning, but at least it moved. That is, until we reached the midpoint between Chicago and Grand, at which point the train directly in front of us had its engine explode. This was problematic.

We did not know that this had happened right away, but after 30 minutes of waiting a CTA worker appeared at the door of our car and we heard the following over her radio:

Explosion ahead.

This caused a bit of a panic, as you would expect. Note to emergency crews everywhere, mentioning explosions around people who have been trapped in a dark tunnel for 30 minutes doesn't help anything.

They eventually got us out and had us walk through the tunnel up to grand. The tunnel has more rats in it than you would expect, and I don't know about you, but I expected a lot.

Eventually I did manage to get a cab to work (in a blizzard, mind you) and I was only 2 hours late. But at least I wasn't on the train that actually had the explosion. This has actually happened a few times in the recent past and the county board has weighed in. Their solution?

Unhappy aldermen, alarmed by the absence of clear directions being given to passengers during subway evacuations, on Thursday called on the Chicago Transit Authority to reinstate conductors on trains, using Homeland Security money.

But a top CTA official said the agency plans to spend its federal grants on technological upgrades, including a network of subway cameras, instead of more employees.

There are already CTA employees on all trains, and most of them are incompetent. (For instance, they mention explosions to panicked riders.) Adding more will not help, the board just wants to hand out more worthless jobs to connected people.

So yes, the CTA has tried to kill me recently (again) and as usual, nothing good came of it, except that I survived. They'll never get me.

New York banned trans-fats the other day. I assume that you're against this. Do you have any good protest ideas?


I'm glad you asked. My own city has had a ban on the table for awhile now. I think that if they pass it I might open up a restaurant that only serves Foie Gras fried in trans fats. I think I'll call it "Foie Gras Fried in Trans-Fats." In general, I'm in favor of the makers of unhealthy products turning the deadliness into a feature. Denis Leary's idea for "Tumors" cigarettes probably would have been a good idea (and some indy brands actually did go this route).

I had this idea for an intentionally unhealthy fast food restaurant called "Coronaries, Etc." It would involve a big production, including a mandatory waiver from all customers (funny, but also legally binding, of course), and feature deep-fried everything. We'd have french fries fried in lard, and most of our food would come in buckets. Really, if you serve unhealthy food, buckets are the way to go.

So Albert, if you're willing, go ahead and open one. I look forward to eating there.

That's it for another mailbag! Have a good weekend, and keep on writing.

iTunes Problem?

Slate's Tim Noah found the phone number for their customer service line:


It was a tough search, and actually calling requires another step or two, which you can find by clicking on the link.

Who should I start?

QB: Jake Delhomme (if he even plays), Jason Campbell, J.P. Lospman? What if Jake doesn't play?

WR: (Pick 3) Reggie Wayne (obviously), Joe Horn (He's got a groin, as they say), Eddie Kennison (against the Ravens), Chris Cooley.

The playoffs start this week in one of my leagues and I'm the #1 seed, but I've got some injuries and I'm not sure what to do. So, what would you do?

(My RBs are Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook, for the record.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

I Have Good Posture

I slouch. I do so because it is comfortable. And, as it turns out, sitting up straight is for suckers:

Researchers are using a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show that sitting in an upright position places unnecessary strain on your back, leading to potentially chronic pain problems if you spend long hours sitting. The study, conducted at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, was presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

“A 135-degree body-thigh sitting posture was demonstrated to be the best biomechanical sitting position, as opposed to a 90-degree posture, which most people consider normal,” said Waseem Amir Bashir, M.B.Ch.B., F.R.C.R., author and clinical fellow in the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada. “Sitting in a sound anatomic position is essential, since the strain put on the spine and its associated ligaments over time can lead to pain, deformity and chronic illness.”

So kick back and relax. It's good for you.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Latest Mind Altering Substance

Here is Scott Adams with his usual sharp wit:

Music is clearly unsafe. Suppose you’re in a perfectly good mood and a depressing song comes on. That could make you sad and break down your body’s natural defenses. You could get sick and die. Thank you very much Tori Amos.

Many songs are dangerous to hear while operating a motor vehicle. For example, anything by the Doobie Brothers will force me to exceed the speed limit. You probably have your own songs that make you speed. If you believe in free will you might argue that people always have the choice of NOT speeding. But by that reasoning it should be legal to allow drunks to drive because they have the choice of not doing it.

The Dangerous NFL Slide Rule

We all know that the NFL is nuts about protecting quarterbacks. You can't hit them in the head, you can't go for the knees, and you can't hit them even a little bit late. Just last week Packer DT Cullen Jenkins was penalized for a blow to the head on a routine play in which he clearly hit Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck in the back. Jenkins' hit was a textbook clean hit on the QB, but the mere appearance of a high hit on the NFL's protected class was enough to draw a flag, and while the call may not have cost the Packers the game, it made any potential comeback much more difficult.

The New York Giants also recently lost a game when one of their defensive linemen had Titan QB Vince Young wrapped up, but released him prematurely, clearly believing that the play was over. Young scooted 20 yards, converting a long fourth down and eventually rallied from 21 points down to win the game.

We know that the NFL sees these guys as the stars, and it wants to keep them in the game. However, it's worth mentioning that at least one NFL rule designed to help QBs actually makes an injury more likely. This is the slide rule.

If a QB takes off running, he can end the play at any point by sliding feet first. When a QB slides feet first he is down immediately, the ball is spotted at the point where the QB started the slide, and no one may touch him. It sounds like a nice idea in theory, but in practice it exposes the QB to more dangerous hits, and it puts his legs in an awkward position.

When a WR catches a pass and knows that he will be hit, he usually goes into the "fetal position." He goes down as fast as he can, curled up, with his back exposed to contact. Almost everyone reacts this way if they know that they will be hit, and as is the case with most instincts, there are good reasons for this. It minimizes the head's exposure to danger. By getting low the body makes it more likely that the assailer will miss altogether, and if he does make contact much of his leverage will be lost. If a player suspects that he will be hit, this is his best defense.

The slide rule, on the other hand, puts the player in a very vulnerable position. The QB's entire front, including his head, is exposed to contact, and due to the fact that any slide will have your lower body on the ground first, your upper body will stay off the ground longer, allowing for bigger hits to more vulnerable areas.

Sliding also exposes QBs to a higher risk of non-contact injury. The feet first slide is sometimes an awkward motion. In baseball, where sliding is commonplace, sliding injuries are also routine. Milwaukee Brewer Geoff Jenkins once lost an entire season when he slid into third too hard and broke his ankle. Pulled muscles, ripped tendons and ligaments, and broken bones are also an all too common outcome of sliding. Football players are probably at greater risk as they tend to be larger, their pads make them top-heavy, and they play certain games on artificial turf (which has admittedly gotten better).

Ah, but the slide eliminates the contact risk, you say. Well, that's the intention, but this rule is in conflict with reality. Sometimes the QB does slide with no potential tacklers around, but more often than not, the QB will slide and the defenders will be forced to pull up, spur of the moment. I'm just estimating, but I'd wager that over 70% of QB slides still end in some sort of contact. This makes sense as no one can read minds and just because a QB decides to slide does not mean that the defender will manage to pull up in time.

Trent Green, for example, ended up with a concussion because he was hit while sliding. It is likely that, had he simply curled up or even dove helmet first that he would have been just fine.

A lot of this is speculation, and if it is a problem, it's a minor one to be sure. After all, if there were a rash of QB sliding injuries, QBs would probably stop sliding, however, the small sample of sliding QBs is probably responsible for hiding any pattern here.

I don't believe that there is necessarily anything wrong with the sliding rule, after all, we allow punt returners to call for a fair catch due to their especially vulnerable situation, but you should think through the likely consequences of a rule before you implement it. The league has made a ton of mistakes in protecting QBs. Most the time there is no reason to treat QBs any differently. While throwing they are slightly more prone to big hits (especially from the blind side) and it is plausible that a few extra rules may be prudent, but when a QB takes off to run, he is no longer a wide open target. At that point, he is a runner and he expects to get hit. The NFL's sliding rule is an incentive to put a player in a dangerous position, and most of the time, a running QB should not slide.

A few weeks ago Tom Brady faked a slide as he was about to be hit by Brian Urlacher. He managed to pick up a first down on the play as a result. I'll wager that next time a QB slides in front of Urlacher he won't be so quick to pull up.

Finally, I just watched Brian Urlacher get flagged for a perfectly legitimate hit on Brad Johnson. This really is getting out of control.

(Note: I am watching the Viking-Bear game for reasons that I will explain later, but I must mention that with 6:12 to play in the first quarter, Brad Johnson threw what I believe was a backward pass that was batted by Ogunleye and fell in front of the RB. This should have been a live ball and a Bear D-Lineman did pick it up, but it was ruled dead. No commentator mentioned it, and no replay was shown. I could be wrong, but, as I said, no replay was shown, and that is what it looked like to me.)

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