Oh, snap! Football's getting crazy fast

— -- Don't look away from the screen! Don't go to the concession stand for a beer! You'll miss something, because football keeps speeding up.

The hurry-up offense is causing total snaps per game to increase. Last season, the New England Patriots snapped the ball six more times per game than they did a decade ago -- and that's a comparison to a dominant team that won the Super Bowl against Carolina. The New Orleans Saints snapped the ball four more times per game than a decade ago. The Buffalo Bills snapped the ball eight more times per game than a decade ago -- and the 2013 Bills were a run-first offense. Many if not most NFL teams are using some version of hurry-up snaps.

The NFL is going no-huddle, too. The absolutely invaluable independent website Football Outsiders calculates that a decade ago, 3 percent of NFL downs were no-huddle; by 2012, 6.6 percent were; last season it rose to 12.2 percent. Chicago, Denver, New England, Philadelphia and San Diego spun the scoreboard in 2013 using no-huddle tactics; more teams may follow their lead in 2014.

And the no-huddle fraction may be even higher. No-huddle stats come from the league game books, which are supposed to note "no-huddle" for each down without the traditional pre-snap committee meeting. But official scorers don't seem to use a uniform standard on this notation. For example, Football Outsiders found that for 2013 Chargers away games, scorers listed 30 percent of San Diego snaps as no-huddle; for Chargers home games, the Qualcomm Stadium scorer said there were zero no-huddle plays. The real no-huddle fraction league-wide for 2013 may have been considerably higher than 12.2 percent.

Play is accelerating in college, too. A decade ago, FBS teams averaged 68 snaps per contest; last season, the average was 71, and that's taking into account NCAA clock-rule changes that were intended to shorten games. Not only does Oregon run the Blur Offense, many college games seem to go by in a blur. During the offseason, Alabama's Nick Saban lobbied unsuccessfully for more NCAA rule changes to discourage the quick snap. Flying down the field is the sole thing the Crimson Tide don't do really well, so Saban would like the tactic restricted. Few who watched last New Year's Eve's fantastically entertaining bowl game between Duke and Texas A&M -- dueling no-huddle offenses, 150 total snaps and 100 points -- are likely to agree.

(Aside on Duke: David Cutcliffe won the Maxwell Club and American Football Coaches Association 2013 Coach of the Year awards. That's right, a Duke football, not basketball, coach was college coach of the year -- this is not a misprint. Cutcliffe also told me last winter that many of the game's insiders are a lot more worried about health harm and money emphasis than they're letting on.)

Not only is play on the field accelerating, so is the way in which football is perceived. The NFL's Red Zone channel is a seven-hour Sunday marathon of nonstop snaps -- no commercials, no pauses for a deep breath, just snap after snap after snap from around the league. Red Zone has just one presenter, the estimable Scott Hanson, because there wouldn't be any time for banter. And if Red Zone isn't head-spinning enough, you can subscribe to NFL Game Rewind and watch in "condensed" mode -- all snaps, nothing else.

As the nation's No. 1 sport -- as the king of sports -- pro football holds a mirror to society in many respects. Just as all American life seems faster, louder, crazier, so too with football. The previous U.S. national pastime, baseball, is slow and graceful. Try to imagine no-huddle baseball with, say, five seconds allowed between pitches. You can't imagine that because it would never work. But like U.S. society, football is amenable to being sped up. And the acceleration of how football is played may become more pronounced this season.

In other news, next week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback will make a major announcement: the debut of ESPN Grade, an all-new way to think about college football rankings. Here's a hint: ESPN Grade takes the NCAA at its word and ranks football-factory schools as if the players really are student-athletes.

Now for TMQ's annual review of offseason nonsense:

And She Did So Well in the Disguise Competition: The Miss Florida pageant crowned the wrong woman.

Scotty, What Do You Mean Starfleet Can't Get Spare Parts? Events in Ukraine led to a rocket engine shortage.

I Am Not Making This Up: Iceland denied a passport to a 10-year-old girl because her name is Harriet. The Icelandic Naming Committee must approve all children's names. Just be grateful you live in a free nation that doesn't have a naming committee, where anyone can name a child Fairy or Legend.

Arrested for Stealing Jokes: A New York state bail-jumper living in Pennsylvania was caught after he talked to a local newspaper for its story on whether the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons should change their name. Serves him right! The quote he offered -- "the Redskins should keep their name but change their logo to a potato" -- is a Tony Kornheiser line.

Longtime TMQ Fans Remember This Line: A Wisconsin physician was fired for thong-based reasons.

Singing Proof of Need for Scholarship Reform: The news that a Yale men's basketball player opted to sing with the Whiffenpoofs for a year shows the value of scholarships controlled by the student rather than by the coach. In the Ivy League, athletes receive only regular financial aid, not sports-performance-tied aid. The multiyear sports scholarship makes an NCAA agreement more like regular financial aid. The time has come.

Imagine If Warren G. Harding Accidentally Clicked on Reply All: Steamy love letters written by President Harding went on display at the Library of Congress, where for decades they'd been under lock and key. Harding declared his love for his mistress was "mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild." Oh, those roaring '20s: Harding won the White House by defeating James Cox, who divorced one woman in order to wed another -- which at the time was quite scandalous. The 29th president died suddenly in office, rumored to have been poisoned by his wife when she discovered the paramour. Today, his wife would sign a book deal and the two women would make a joint appearance on "The View."

World's Oldest Profession Meets Big Data: The government of France announced it would not include prostitution in the country's GDP. Wait -- read the announcement carefully, excluded will be revenues from illegal aspects of prostitution, which in France means operating a brothel or underage sex. Paying an adult for sex on a consensual basis is legal in France, and the revenue generated already is factored into the country's GDP. Italy and the United Kingdom will begin to include the results of illegal drug dealing in their GDPs -- allowing politicians to declare economic growth.

Team Basketball Trounces AAU Basketball: TMQ contends the most exciting play in basketball is not the slam dunk or the long 3 but the layup -- because layups don't happen without team play. Team play is the essence of college basketball, but is disdained in much of the NBA, where look-at-me dominates and guaranteed contracts allow players to ignore coaches. Thus your columnist was thrilled as San Antonio blew Miami off the court in the NBA Finals using team basketball.

When the Spurs were on offense, there were so many quick passes -- often the ball changed hands six or seven times on a possession -- the action looked like a video on fast forward. When the Heat had the ball, motion came to a halt as four Miami players stood watching a teammate go one-on-one. By the third quarter of the fifth game, Miami was so flummoxed trying to stop San Antonio's layups that the Heat left the 3-point line unguarded: the Spurs dropped five 3-pointers, four of them uncontested, and the rest was filler. Why was Miami so flummoxed trying to stop San Antonio layups? Because the Heat have no experience defending plays! They don't run any themselves, and rarely see them from opponents.

As reader Larry Holyoke notes, this econometric study finds that "despite the seemingly strong group incentive to win the NBA title, cooperative play actually diminishes during playoff games, negatively affecting team performance." During the Finals, 67 percent of Spurs baskets followed an assist; only 43 percent of Miami baskets did. Little-known Kawhi Leonard won MVP, and it was great fun to watch him running circles around LeBron James.

TMQ's fav of the series was Boris Diaw, the victor's leader for assists in the Finals -- 5.8 per game, better than point guard Tony Parker. A big man who throws pinpoint passes is a potent weapon, as San Antonio demonstrated. But he's a potent weapon only if you're playing team basketball, and most NBA clubs don't. Diaw was waived by Charlotte in 2012, for the sin of being better at passing than slam-dunking. Since the Bobcats waived Diaw, they are 64-126. Since the Spurs signed him, they are 181-63 with consecutive title appearances.

Do so many NBA teams play the AAU one-on-one style because players won't listen to coaches, or because the one-on-one style is what audiences want? Certainly there are paying customers who would rather see dunks and long, crazy trey attempts than backdoors off a secondary screen. And the NBA has so many teams that are awful and likely to stay that way -- bound for the Milwaukee Bucks, Jabari Parker will never be heard from again -- that players might as well try for dunks to entertain those brave souls who venture out for games.

But the Spurs' dominance using team basketball, occurring at the same time James and Carmelo Anthony have struggled in the postseason using the AAU style, answers the "Big Question" about basketball. Melo's NBA teams are 23-43 in the playoffs, including 2-8 versus the Spurs; his style wilts when the pressure is on. James is now 2-3 in Finals appearances, with an overall 11-16 record. Tim Duncan is 5-1 in the Finals, with an overall 23-11 record. When a LeBron James AAU-style everybody-look-at-me club faces a San Antonio let's-help-each-other club in the Finals, team basketball is 11-5. There may be a legitimate question about which style the crowd prefers. As to which style is superior, the question is settled.

Where U.S. Political Tactics Failed, U.S. Commercial Tactics Succeed: A McDonald's opened in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, joining Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, KFC and Starbucks, already there. The Ho Chi Minh City Starbucks features the Asian Dulce Latte. As part of the store-opening celebration, Starbucks officials visited a primary school, which brought the students "immense joy and laughter."

Should Have Been Recycled Into a Gigantic Kate Upton: In China, a gigantic statue of Marilyn Monroe was tossed into a garbage dump.

Spotted a 50-to-1 Lead, Eric Cantor Found a Way to Lose: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spent $5.4 million on a primary run and won 28,898 votes -- $187 per vote. Challenger David Brat spent $122,000 and drew 36,110 votes -- $3 per vote. Can you guess which one is the economics professor and which one is the Washington insider with no sense of money discipline? Politico reported Cantor's staff spent more on high-end steakhouse dinners than Brat spent on his entire campaign. After the stunning upset, the same professional pundits who had no clue it was coming confidently made sweeping predictions about the impact.

Brat said his victory was a "miracle from God." Some use figures of speech such as this because they want to sound humble. But the statement came across as vainglorious -- suggesting God does nothing as thousands die in pointless wars, yet intervened on Earth to boost David Brat's career. The alternative is that it was not a figure of speech and Brat actually believes he was chosen via divine intervention. Politicians who believe they were chosen by God have caused many of the disasters of human history.

Best Line of the Offseason: Writing in The Washington Monthly, Michelle Cottle supposed that Chelsea Clinton should name her baby President.

New York Magazine notes Clinton was paid $600,000 by NBC for doing "basically nothing," receiving the windfall partly for "interviewing" the Geico lizard. If NBC, owned by Comcast, handed $600,000 to Hillary Clinton, this would cause huge complications for the network, should she run for office again. Handing $600,000 to Chelsea presumably buys Clinton family goodwill, without running afoul of campaign law.

The Sub Should Have Submerged Without Telling Him: Kim Jong Un had himself photographed as he apparently auditioned for the super villain role in a Bond move.

To Be Filmed on Location in Moscow: Edward Snowden declared he was not just a deskbound CIA analyst, rather, had been a field-operations spy. Perhaps his motive was making the movie deal more attractive. Even for a man who's been in international headlines, there's only so much Hollywood potential for watching, say, Shia LaBeouf copy data onto flash drives while glancing around furtively. If Snowden was a spy, he can be played by Bradley Cooper and depicted rappelling down the outside of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai as helicopters fire missiles, or leading the FBI on a car chase through the winding streets of Davos, Switzerland. Who should be the love interest in the Snowden biopic? Jennifer Aniston is too obvious, Kristen Wiig is too smart, Kristen Bell would steal the movie. Olga Kurylenko would be perfect -- a beauty with a mysterious Eastern European background.

#Eavesdrop: The CIA got a Twitter account @CIA. Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman had the best line: "In @CIA's case, 'follows you' is redundant." The CIA's new website offers a FAQs page ("CIA operations officers do use some nifty 'spy gadgets'") and a selection of kids games. Looking for writing advice? Consult the CIA style guide.

Plus the CIA Liked Him on Facebook: The identity of the CIA station chief for Afghanistan was exposed, not by Edward Snowden, but by the White House press office.

Clown Industry Takes a Pie to the Face: Trade organization Clowns of America declared a looming clown shortage. On the plus side, a thousand clowns could share a cab to the next World Clown Association convention.

"Pomp and Circumstance" Played as Athletes Receive Their APR Compliance Certificates: The NCAA announced student-athletes " continue to make gains academically." So they are getting strong GPAs, then graduating? Actually, the NCAA said nothing about that. The claim of "gains academically" was based on schools receiving good numbers for the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate -- a bogus scale on which it's close to impossible not to receive a good score.

The Academic Progress Rate was created in 2003 to divert attention from graduation rates. Scoring is manipulated to ensure almost every school gets close to the maximum. The latest NCAA announcement says the APR average is 976 on a scale of 1,000. Converting to GPA, the average is an A!

Only 17 of the football and men's basketball programs of the NCAA's 1,281 member institutions failed to meet the APR's rolling-off-a-log-easy targets in the most recent year. That's 1.3 percent. How can a metric have meaning if 98.7 percent are above average?

By the strangest and most amazing coincidence, the APR is manipulated such that money-making programs are praised while money-losing programs get sanctioned. In men's basketball, the NCAA threw the book at the likes of Houston Baptist and University of Central Arkansas -- programs that don't generate money for the NCAA. The University of Wisconsin, a men's Final Four team, generating millions for the NCAA, was not sanctioned. Everything is hunky-dory at Wisconsin men's basketball, according to the APR metric. Pay no attention to the Badgers' 44 percent graduation rate.

In football, the NCAA threw the book at the likes of Savannah State and Saint Francis of Pennsylvania. According to the APR, everything's hunky-dory at Division I champion Florida State, where the football graduation rate is 58 percent. The NCAA is silent about football academics at money-making programs -- but the Alcorn State women's volleyball team knew the NCAA's wrath.

Not only does the APR allow the NCAA to maintain the absurd pretense that member schools average an A for athletic academics, it allows colleges to puff up apparent sports-and-classroom achievements. In the SEC, South Carolina wants you to know its football  APR hit 980 and offers a photo of handsome young athletes in cap and gown. South Carolina's football graduation rate is 65 percent -- one player in three fails to earn a cap and gown, despite getting five years in college and not having to pay. (Running out of money is the most common reason undergraduates fail to complete degrees.)

This is how the SEC looks by football APR:

Missouri, South Carolina: 980

Alabama: 975

Mississippi State, Vanderbilt: 974

Texas A&M: 971

Florida: 969

Georgia: 967

Auburn: 965

LSU, Ole Miss: 946

Kentucky: 937

Arkansas: 935

Tennessee: 932

This is how the SEC looks by football graduation rate:

Georgia, Vanderbilt: 82 percent

Florida: 77 percent

LSU, Missouri, Texas A&M: 74 percent

Alabama: 73 percent

Auburn: 70 percent

South Carolina: 65 percent

Tennessee: 64 percent

Kentucky: 62 percent

Mississippi State: 59 percent

Ole Miss: 55 percent

Arkansas: 54 percent

If the metric is football APR, South Carolina sparkles; if the metric is football graduation, South Carolina is middling. Arkansas barely got above 50 percent by football graduation rate, yet boasts an APR of 935, close to perfection. The SEC APR average is 961 -- that is, the average is an A. The SEC football graduation average is 70 percent -- that is, the average is a C.

The key hocus-pocus of the APR is that it does not measure education, rather, only measures institutional compliance with NCAA minima. At a job interview no employer ever asks, "Did you attend an APR-compliant institution?" The question is, "Did you graduate from college?"

Details of how the NCAA concocted the APR, and its function as a smokescreen for the failings of big-college sports, are in my book " The King of Sports," out in paperback soon. Another fine reading choice is the Football Outsiders Almanac 2014. This annual volume is hands-down no-kidding absolutely-definitively-positively the best independent analysis of the sport.

Outsourcing Outer Space: India launched a Mars mission that cost less than the movie "Gravity."

Fan Mail from Some Flounder? Buried in a Department of Agriculture report about wildlife killed by federal agents was word that an agent shot and killed a flying squirrel. Had the squirrel flown into restricted airspace? At least they spared his pal the talking moose!

The Jerry Rice of Canada: Geroy Simon, one of the top CFL players ever, retired at age 38. His 16,352 career receiving yards trails only the you-can't-touch-this 22,895 yards put up by Jerry Rice.

Caron Butler Watch: Last summer around this time, TMQ noted that when NBA general managers don't have anything else to do, they trade Caron Butler. Since that item, Butler has been traded from the Clippers to the Suns; then traded to the Bucks; then bought out and signed with the Thunder; then released by Oklahoma City, allowing Butler to sign with the Pistons. Five jerseys in a year. How long until Detroit is working the phones trying to find a trade partner to take him?

The Missiles Were Aimed at the Defense Budget: Following a scandal involving incompetence in the management of ICBMs, the Air Force said the solution would be to put a four-star general, rather than a three-star, in charge of the intercontinental ballistic missile program.

All the services want more four-star slots, endlessly lobbying Congress to create them. Anyone who reaches three-star desperately desires the fourth star for the added prestige and pension. The top three-star pension is about $170,000 annually, while a four-star in his or her early 60s can retire with up to $270,000 annually for life. Set aside why taxpayers whose maximum Social Security pension is $31,704 should provide a retired general with nine times as much. (Being a flag officer is the least risky role in the military.) The difference between three-star and four-star pensions works out to about an extra $2 million over a typical life expectancy. So in return for the Air Force failing to manage nuclear-tipped missiles correctly, some lucky Air Force general receives a $2 million bonus.

On the plus side of this issue, the Navy's first female four-star was named.

Not Even OmniCorp Can Face Down Detroit's Public-Sector Pensions: To commemorate the reboot of the "Robocop" franchise, which depicts Detroit as hell on Earth, an actor dressed as the title character threw the first pitch at a Tigers game. Adding insult to injury, the big-budget flick depicting Detroit as hell on Earth was filmed in Canada -- Hollywood producers wanted to steer clear of actual Detroit.

Power Fails in NBC Writers' Meetings: Hard to recall that the hot prime-time show in the fall of 2012 was NBC's "Revolution," which in May 2014 whimpered to a halt without even attempting to explain the strange mysteries that drew viewers to early episodes. Producers had filmed a Season 2 cliffhanger that would set up Season 3. When the show was cancelled, what was supposed to be the Season 2 finale aired as the series finale, explaining nothing. Now viewers will never find out what was going on. And the writers will never find out, either.

Great Development for Admissions Departments of Colorado Colleges: News report: "A huge cloud of marijuana smoke drifted into the air as thousands in Denver celebrated Colorado's first 4.20 day."

If Only Kinki University Opened a Campus in a State Where Pot Is Legal: Tired of listening to wisecracks, Japan's Kinki University announced its name will change to Kindai University. This recalls Pennsylvania's Beaver College, which, tired of listening to wisecracks, changed its name to Arcadia University.

Made with Pure, Natural Subatomic Particles: A Colorado company claimed to have developed a drinkable sunscreen. After assuring customers their cells contain " electrons, protons, quarks, muons, etc.," the company promises to fix "tissue disharmonies by delivering beneficial radio frequencies to the cells using water as a carrier. The frequencies we use have been determined by a proprietary math formula that allows us to reverse engineer most substances."

"We Should Never Have Given Those Geckos the Vodka," Ground Controllers Lamented: Russia's space agency lost control of a biology research satellite aboard which geckos were mating.

Mega-Babe News: Model Emily Ratajkowski, who became prominent owing to the 2013 "Blurred Lines" video, wore two ounces of fabric for a GQ cover that was displayed on airport and supermarket magazine racks next to Forbes and People.

Among the most-watched videos ever, "Blurred Lines" featured Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams cavorting with topless women. Since then, T.I. has signed a major new recording contract, Williams has become a media darling and Thicke is now viewed as a misogynist. Yes, it's weird that Thicke released an album asking his estranged wife to take him back. And yes, many winced at his dance with Miley Cyrus at the MTV awards, but no one placed a gun to her head -- she went along because it was good for her career.

As for the guys of "Blurred Lines," they shared writing credits on the song, all did the same egotistical dancing ("hot girls can't keep their hands off me!") and Williams produced the video with the topless wonderland effect. Yet Thicke is denounced while Williams becomes every suburban soccer mom's favorite pop star. What gives?

Soon Drones Will Be Controlled by Google Glass. You'll Walk, Text, Surf and Launch Missiles All at Once: The Air National Guard lost a drone that crashed into Lake Ontario. "Training flight" -- sure, that's what they want you to believe. One of the Navy's drones smashed into the cruiser Chancellorsville. The Air Force acknowledged a drone launched from an unnamed "forward operating location," and controlled from Nevada, crashed in the Mediterranean. Are these weird outlier events? The Washington Post reports drones are falling from the sky with alarming frequency.

Grade Inflation Comes to Pro Drafts: After the NBA draft, only six of 30 teams graded as below average. After the NFL draft, only two of 32 teams graded as below average. After the NHL draft, 93 percent of teams graded as above average.

Garrison Keillor's running joke about all children being above average is coming true in Montgomery County, Maryland, where your columnist lives. Elementary school grades of A, B, C, D and F have been replaced with ES (exceptional), P (proficient), I (in progress) and N (needs improvement). Set aside that ES means "exceptional," a word that does not contain the letter "s." The new system has two above-average grades (ES and P), one average grade (I) and one below-average grade (N). Changing the definitions increases the shares of grades that are at or above average.

Crimea River: Football columns are unlikely to be your best source of geopolitical risk analysis. But it seems worth pointing out that TMQ had an item in November 2013 on Ukraine-Russia tensions, months before the MSM, or the State Department, noticed this issue. Scan for the subhead "Ukrainian News."

Yet There Are Always Plenty of Zeroes in the CEO's Bonus: Bank of America, the nation's second-largest bank, suspended a stock buyback plan after realizing it didn't know how to make financial calculations.

"Henhouse Is Safe with Me," Fox Declares: Guests came down with food poisoning at the national Food Safety Summit.

Helicopter Pads at Dorms May Not Be Far Behind: Junior year college visits by private jet came to the 1 percent.

Did Jesus Sign a Prenup? To the disappointment of late-night comedians, and breaking the heart of thriller writer Dan Brown, the "ancient papyrus" showing Jesus was married turned out to be a forgery. Another exhibit for the Hoax Museum! Like the "Hitler diaries" of the 1980s or the 1978 bestseller "In His Image" that claimed a cloned man exists -- initially marketed as nonfiction, the book is now sold as a novel -- Jesus-was-married is the sort of story on which journalists suspend disbelief, because it would be so interesting if true.

Brown and others have supposed the Gospel autographs contained references to Jesus' wife, but an early-centuries anti-woman conspiracy deleted them. If so, why would this super-efficient machination -- the NSA can only envy a conspiracy that altered every copy of the Gospels everywhere in the world! -- have left intact the many pro-woman references in the same books?

What from the Christian perspective are the three most important pieces of news in human history -- the coming of the Redeemer, his status as Messiah, then his resurrection -- are given to women. Announcement of the celestial child is presented to Mary. The empty tomb is discovered by three of Christ's female followers. When Jesus reveals himself as Messiah, he is speaking not to the disciples or to some huge admiring crowd on a hillside but to a Samaritan woman he meets by a well. Though unmarried, the Samaritan woman lives with a man: thus, is both an outsider and a prostitute by ancient rabbinical thinking. Jesus considered talking to her a lot more important than impressing the rich and powerful.

In the milieu of the Gospels, statements by women were considered inherently unreliable. Many legal systems of the time, including that of Galilee during Jesus' life, would not allow women to testify in court, or required at least two women's affidavits to counter one from a man. Yet at crucial points, the Gospels present women's testimony as central to grasping the ministry of Jesus. Surely the super-efficient conspiracy would have altered that!

Bond Movie Sex-in-Space Line: He's Attempting Re-entry: The Huffington Post declared that model Miranda Kerr likes to have sex in a private plane "3,000 miles above the ground," which would be far beyond the orbit of the space station.

If Jesus Returned, Bill O'Reilly Would Cut Him Off in Midsentence: Boasting of his religious purity, Bill O'Reilly declared Bill Maher became an atheist because he wants to "commit adultery." Maher has never been married, while O'Reilly divorced his wife. O'Reilly should check Jesus' teaching on divorce at Matthew 5:32 and on religious boasting at Matthew 6:1.

Let's Go to a Replay of the Gorloks Using the Nimzo-Indian: Recently, there was a recruiting scandal in college chess. And why is there men's and women's chess?

Stop and Frisk Popular in Russia: Russia's Interior Ministry launched a "crackdown" on female police officers who wear short skirts and high heels.

Actual Network Synopsis of a "Hawaii Five-0" Episode: "The daughter of a macadamia nut tycoon is murdered by a stiletto heel at Chin's high school reunion."

"Fiscal Conservative" Now Means a Politician Who Thinks Other People's Subsidies Should Be Cut: Standard and Poor's dropped Russian government bonds to near junk-bond status. Russia's paper joins Illinois and New Jersey state bonds, which already border on junk-bond rating. Russia's risk problem is the Ukraine crisis, which might end. Illinois' and New Jersey's risk problem is unfunded pension liabilities, which grow steadily worse with no end in sight. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey claims to be a fiscal conservative. New Jersey bonds have been downgraded six times since he took the statehouse.

Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? Gone to Graveyards Everyone: The Selective Service System sent registration notices to the last known addresses of 14,000 men born in the 19th century.

High Point of the NBA Playoffs: Trailing Washington by 11 with seven seconds remaining, the Chicago Bulls called timeout.

Brazilians Beg National Team to Win in 2018 So She Doesn't Sing Again: After Brazil lost in the World Cup at home, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff tried to console the country by singing in public.

Worth the Wait: Forty-one years later, The Washington Post finally printed Doonesbury's famous "guilty guilty guilty" strip about Watergate.

Drinkin', Drivin' and Divorce Go Big-Time: Country supplanted Top 40 as the most popular radio format

Law Schools Begin to Teach How to File Litigation Against Football Teams: Is this the beginning of the end for football? Scan for "legal aspects of traumatic brain injury."

Nothing Appeals to Governors More Than Taxpayer-Financed Travel Outside the States Where Their Duties Are: A group of governors gathered in a state none of them govern to denounce others for failing to focus on leadership duties.

Product of the Year: Nissan Altima has "zero gravity" seats that "simulate weightlessness."

Captain Kirk, Sensors Detect Ripples in Space-Time: In March, astronomers claimed to have discovered no less than "gravitational waves from the Big Bang." This claim met a rapturous reception from the MSM. Among many examples, from a Page 1 article in The New York Times: "Reaching back across 13.8 billion years to the first sliver of cosmic time with telescopes at the South Pole, a team of astronomers led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detected ripples in the fabric of space-time."

What are "ripples in the fabric of space-time"? Not even Mr. Spock could say, since the phrase is mumbo-jumbo. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics might as well have announced it had discovered a quantum polarity loop in the flux converter, or any sci-fi script jargon chosen at random. Most science reporters swallowed the "ripples in the fabric of space-time" nonsense without skepticism. Megan Garber of The Atlantic was on her toes, pointing out how curious it was that astronomers made the splashy claim before data could be peer-reviewed. She characterized that MSM reaction as "This is big you guys! Einstein big!" then noted that, ahem, the claims might not be true.

They weren't. Two months later the whole business went poof: intergalactic dust was blamed. You don't need a degree in media studies to guess that the newspapers that ran the initial "Einstein big!" assertion on the front page buried the retraction. Remember cold fusion? The cheap catalyst to make hydrogen from seawater? They too got "this is big you guys!" coverage then failed to withstand scrutiny, and the collapses of the stories were buried.

Offseason Football-Like Substance: Orlando 70, New Orleans 64 in Arena League action featuring 19 touchdowns, a PAT attempt returned for a score, 591 passing yards and 61 rushing yards. The Predators appeared in four games in which both teams scored at least 60 points. Against Pittsburgh, Orlando scored 61 points and still lost.

The Nuggets Got Exactly What They Wanted: Item from last summer's TMQ offseason review: "Nuggets coach George Karl won NBA Coach of the Year, then was let go. Denver management was mad because the team performed well during the regular season but exited the playoffs in the first round. This problem will be corrected next season if the Nuggets don't make the playoffs." And yea, verily, it came to pass.

After this season, the Warriors fired Mark Jackson -- he posted a 54-35 record, followed by a first-round exit. This problem will be corrected next season if the Warriors don't make the playoffs.

Add Another Century to the Curse: A Chicago Cubs player took the field wearing the wrong jersey.

Attention Monty Python: Two Spanish historians claimed to have found the Holy Grail.

Clang! Clang! Clang! In men's basketball, Wichita State and Syracuse combined to open 60-0, then close 3-7.

And 1,300 Miles from Manhattan, Kansas: Manhattan College, which put itself into the news by reaching the men's March Madness tournament, is "only 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan." If everything about Manhattan College were exactly the same except it was named Bronx College, its status would decline.

But a Living Wage for McDonald's Workers Would Be Way Too Costly: The Wall Street Journal reported that the $23,900-per-night luxury suite at the Connaught Hotel in London is booked so far in advance that the hotel is building two more similarly priced suites. Imagine paying $23,900 a night and checking in to discover construction noise! Super-expensive suites aren't just for Eurotrash: the Four Seasons in Dallas offers a $7,500-a-night suite.

How Long 'Til Barbie Zombie? Inspired by the "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" movie franchises, in which teen girls look fabulous while killing people, toymakers began producing pink-themed death toys -- "a sleek, fashionable blaster" and bow and arrows. There's a great idea -- teach young girls to emulate the worst thing about boys.

More Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: ESPN sent a tech crew plus three on-air analysts -- Todd McShay, Sal Paolantonio and Ron Jaworski -- to Orlando, Florida, to watch Blake Bortles jogging around in gym shorts for his pro day.

At Least It Was Baked, Not Computer-Animated: A Belgian baker concocted a life-sized cookie version of Barack Obama. From the patisseries of Old Europe, I'd prefer a courtesan au chocolat, the elaborate pastry the central character is obsessed with in Wes Anderson's indie hit "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

The flick takes place in an imaginary Eastern European nation in the 1930s. At the train station, a sign points toward Zilchburg, or Zero Town; a character buys a ticket to Nebelstadt, or Fog City. A German bakery created the previously unknown courtesan au chocolat for the flick. Real European patisseries now offer this treat, which has a great name, both words suggesting the delightful.

TMQ Retracts Punting Data, Blames Dust on Notebook: The above examples concern researchers who thought they'd proved something, but hadn't. Everybody makes mistakes. Fraud is different. From 2006 to 2010, technical journals in medicine, biology and pharmacology, the sciences with most impact on daily life, published 772 of them. Articles? No, retractions. That's the total number of journal articles retracted as falsified, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation by Gautam Naik.

This July, Nature, the most important technical journal for biology, retracted two prominent research articles that claimed pluripotent stem cells could be made easily from adult cells, which would solve the ethical questions of stem-cell use -- if it were true. The claims were not honest mistakes, rather, fabricated data. That same month the Journal of Vibration and Control retracted 60 technical articles, admitting authors and reviewers had worked together to fake data. Unlike Nature, the Journal of Vibration and Control has little influence on public policy. But a paper published in this periodical can make an engineer's career, bringing him prestige jobs and expert-witness money. Sixty papers were counterfeit -- where, now, are the people who signed them?

Adding insult to injury, last winter high-end academic journals admitted they had published at least 120 papers consisting entirely of computer-generated gibberish. One paper said its goal was "disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact." This nonsensical statement was strung together by a nonsense-generating program written by MIT students.

Even in an ideal system, some flawed research would slip past reviewers. And pity the science-desk reporter who can make the front page, or get page views, only by exaggerating with "holy cow!" language. But as science and technology play ever-larger roles in our lives, technical journals must run a tighter ship, while the mainstream media need to exercise skepticism regarding self-promotional claims from researchers. Of the $135 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to science, increasingly it looks like a fair chunk is spent on fraud. If the fraud were by Halliburton, pundits would be scandalized. Why is fraud by scientists any different?

Kudos to Science, the most important technical journal, for establishing a new review system for research data. And check out the invaluable Retraction Watch, where two independent scholars, Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, have done more to police scientific misconduct than have megabucks-funding institutions.

TMQ Named President, CEO, CFO, CTO and Chairman of the Board of Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises: A TMQ bête noir is Washington grandees who, when headed to the private sector to cash in, not only put their names on the shingles of hired-gun consultancies but bestow upon themselves glorified titles. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen is, for instance, not merely the boss of The Cohen Group, he is the chairman and chief executive officer. Chosen after an exhaustive search!

Now it seems former White House chief of staff Mack McLarty has named not one but two firms after himself, bestowing on himself a pair of glorified titles. He is chairman of McLarty Associates and also chairman of McLarty Companies. Twice chosen after an exhaustive search!

The Basketball Gods Chortled: Tiny Mount Saint Mary's of Maryland made the NCAA men's tournament; enormous cost-no-object University of Maryland did not.

TMQ Exclusive: TMQ has learned the eighth actors-pretend-to-knuckle-walk film, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," will be followed by a sequel called "Brunch on the Planet of the Apes." The next X-movie will be called "X Men: Out of Gas," which should have been the title of the most recent iteration.

Bartender, Glen McKenna for the House: HIMYM ("How I Met Your Mother") took a final curtain call, taking along Glen McKenna, the imaginary scotch favored by the show's characters. A movie would have sold a product placement to an actual whiskey. On television, characters rarely quaff any recognizable brand -- the dean on "Veronica Mars" savored 40-year-old Glen Kraken. Television will show characters drinking -- especially neat whiskey, which is the macho way to drink, including for women -- but avoid showing a recognizable bottle, as old broadcaster codes said this encourages the young to buy the same brand in order to imitate TV stars. Using that logic, cigarette smoking is now rare on television, even in noir drama, because broadcasters fret about making impressions on the impressionable.

Yet TV violence is constant. It's taboo to smoke a Kool Menthol, but fine to shoot, beat and stab. To cite just one of many examples, "Hawaii Five-0" had an episode with a graphic splatter-movie depiction of a sobbing young woman strapped to a table being sliced open by a maniac with a power saw. Just don't show the killer smoking a cigarette -- viewers are impressionable! Violence is both hyped on TV, and depicted as having no consequences: good guys get shot at close range and are completely healed minutes later. In the finale of "True Detective," the Matthew McConaughey character was stabbed in the stomach with a huge blade, and seemed to need only a spritz of Bactine to recover. (Real-world stomach wounds cause bleeding that is very hard to stanch.) TV won't glorify drinking or smoking but will glorify violence. What's wrong with this picture?

This Was Believable: Miley Cyrus performed wearing only bra and panties because, she said, she forgot to put on clothes.

Another Reason Sex Should Be Discreet: After kissing, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry argued in public about where each other's tongues had been.

Science Drinks Subsidized Champagne While Art Hunts for Crumbs: Science is essential to human enlightenment. But scientists cry woe-is-me in order to wring more subsidies from the public; mainstream journalists, who as a group are rooting for science to disprove religion, accept the science community's money lobbying without question.

In March, President Barack Obama proposed a fiscal 2015 federal budget with $135 billion for government research funding, which translates to a $600 subsidy per American adult to science. That's a lot, and reflects increased real-dollar funding for most government research agencies. An additional $5.3 billion in science funds came from the latest stimulus plan (not the "second stimulus" as backers like to say, it's the fourth). Adjusting for inflation, nearly all forms of federal science funding have marched steadily upward in the postwar era.

So are scientists happy? Once again they are crying wolf. The American Association for the Advancement of Science complained there were "strings attached" to bonus funding. How dare taxpayers expect a return on an investment! Surely the AAAS doesn't attach strings to salaries for its staff, merely handing them money and telling them to do whatever they please.

After the president's FY2015 budget was released, The New York Times, flagship of establishment opinion, declared on Page 1 that "budget cuts have left the nation's research complex reeling." This is pure bunkum, but conforms to what readers want to be told.

The Times story depicted billionaires -- Bill Gates and Sergey Brin -- giving large sums to scientific projects. Good for them! Let's hope they give more. But the hook of the article was that public support for science had dropped so much, the super-rich were left to take up the slack. All billionaires' donations to science cited in the article equate, combined, to 12 percent of the FY15 federal proposal. And the billionaire donations are one-time events; the federal budget is annual. I roughly estimate that over the past decade, taxpayers have spent $50 on research for every $1 donated by the super-rich. The super-rich are not saving science; average people are.

What's really declining is federal support for the arts, down 17 percent in inflation-adjusted terms in the past five years. Science produces cures but also weapons that kill; no one has ever been harmed by art, except perhaps by having to sit through an opera. Science is more important than art, but by how much -- twice as important? Three times, four times? Obama's fiscal 2015 budget proposal treats science as 1,000 times more important than art -- $135 billion for research versus $146 million for symphonies, dance, theater and painting.

Art -- performing, written and physical -- has contributed at least as much to enlightenment as has science, at a tiny fraction of the cost. Art also can have economic value. The revivals of downtown areas in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Washington D.C., and downtown booms in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, have been aided by lively arts scenes. Yet research is lavished with subsidies while art sings for its supper, and the science lobby complains.

Captain America Does Need a Sidekick: Gymnast Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to complete the upper-body-strength obstacle course on the show "American Ninja Warrior."

Chinese Investors Would Love to Get in on the Ground Floor: In March, the Federal Reserve issued an $80 billion dividend to its sole shareholder. Why not have a Federal Reserve IPO to pay down the national debt?

Just Because It's Midnight You Want to Quit? A high school state final ice hockey game was mercifully called after seven overtimes. The two teams were named co-state champs after the 1-1 draw.

Christie Will Cross the 2016 Bridge When He Comes to It -- Wait, the Lane Is Blocked: Chris Christie, who denounces others for interfering with the free market, helped block Tesla from selling cars in New Jersey. Car dealers' interest groups weren't getting their cut, which would have meant lower donations to the gent this column calls "Governor Abutment." Will Oremus of Slate dissects Christie's latest bit of hypocrisy.

Tesla wants to market electric cars through showrooms rather than dealerships. The customer would place an Internet order, then the car would be delivered to his or her door. How would traditional haggling work in this business model?

CUSTOMER: I'll buy it if you double the federal tax credit and throw in a data plan.

SALESPERSON: I'll have to check with my manager. (Goes into the back and Skypes with Elon Musk.) My manager will throw in tradable carbon credits you can swap to a coal-fired power plant for kilowatts.

CUSTOMER: Deal. I want it in Solyndra Silver.

What Happens When the NSA Finds Out That Cellphones Can Also Text? During the David Petraeus scandal, the nation learned the CIA director did not know email can be hacked. During the Edward Snowden scandal, the nation learned the National Security Agency did not know passwords can be stolen. Then CIA spooks were caught not by Jack Bauer but mild-mannered Senate staffers. Learning they were being spied on, senators quaked with anger. Sabrina Siddiqui summed the situation perfectly: "Senators are fine with spying on civilians, but outraged when it happens to them."

Former CIA director George Tenet has been complaining like mad about Obama's "we tortured some folks" admission and an accompanying Senate report. Tenet is perhaps the single slipperiest person in American history. Not only did he say, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq -- whose true purpose, if any, we still don't know -- that it was "a slam dunk" that Iraq had atomic weapons. Not only did Tenet's agency provide the assurances that former Secretary of State Colin Powell used to lie to the world in his United Nations speech declaring the United States was certain that Iraq had atomic weapons. Not only did Tenet fabricate self-serving factual claims in "At the Center of the Storm," his book of self-praise. Anyone remember the accidental 1999 United States bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade? During Operation Allied Force, the military chose all targets save one -- a Belgrade building Tenet's CIA supplied the GPS coordinates for, saying it was the center of Yugoslavia's anti-Kosovar conspiracy. It turned out to be the Chinese embassy, which anyone could have confirmed by walking down the street in Belgrade.

At This Point, Beefcake Might Sell Better Than Cheesecake: Several Olympic ski bunnies posed in little or nothing. It's good that a physically strong, athletic woman can radiate sex appeal; and the gorgeous Mikaela Shiffrin both won a medal and proved she can think on her feet. But to rephrase a question TMQ has asked of NFL and NBA players: Since many male Olympic athletes have fabulous physiques, why is it only female athletes who disrobe for the camera? Only the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine (Published on Earth the Planet) offers athletic beefcake.

"Bilingual? I Though You Said the Actresses Should Be ..." The Canadian government complained that the nation's pay-per-view channels were not showing enough Canadian-made porn.

Everything That's Wrong with Congress in a Nutshell, Democratic Edition: In March, Democrats kept the Senate in session all night in order to deliver speeches about the need for bold action on climate change. Then they took no action, not introducing any bill or calling any vote, despite holding the majority -- because members running for re-election are too timid to have specific policy commitments on record.

Everything That's Wrong with Congress in a Nutshell, GOP Edition: In July, after months of nonstop complaining about the border crisis of unaccompanied minors entering the United States illegally, Republicans in the House first blocked all action of any kind regarding the border, then passed a symbolic bill that stood no chance in the Senate, then adjourned to take five weeks off. Republicans running for re-election hoped to sustain the sense of a border crisis -- the last thing they wanted was a solution!

Nail-Trimming Data Storage Sold Separately: Procter & Gamble unveiled a web-enabled toothbrush that connects to a smartphone. The company notes, "It is not always convenient or easy to remember to have your smartphone in the bathroom, so the Oral-B interactive electric toothbrush handle can store up to 20 brushing sessions. Data is transferred the next time the app is connected to the toothbrush, updating your records." That would be your tooth-brushing records.

Bitpenny for Your Thoughts: To everyone's complete shock, astonishment and utter surprise, money invested in bitcoins vanished. Here is bitcoin's founding vision.

Schwarzenegger Fights His Way Through Thugs to Pick Up Social Security Check: Recent big-budget action flicks "Non-Stop" and "Three Days to Kill" were the latest example of a trend of aging male actors -- among them Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme -- trying to seem ultra-macho by beating up on stuntmen who practice allowing themselves to be beat up.

"Three Days to Kill" made Kevin Costner, 59 years of age, seem a youthful martial-arts champion. In "Non-Stop," his fourth musclebound-hero role, 62-year-old former actor Liam Neeson practically had superpowers. On "24," 47-year-old Kiefer Sutherland, though shackled, needed mere seconds to overcome four heavily armed guards. On "The Blacklist," 54-year-old James Spader had half a dozen scenes of his character effortlessly slaying several younger, stronger men.

As long as audiences suspend disbelief and buy tickets or watch TV shows, studios are happy. But movies and shows like this seem mainly about flattering the stars' egos by creating an illusion of youthful masculinity. Compare to Clint Eastwood, who played tough-guy roles when young -- then has aged graciously, portraying limited, graying men or directing younger actors.

Next You'll Say the Pope Blogs -- Wait, He Does: How did the world learn Mexican drug lord El Chapo had been apprehended? Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto sent out a tweet. To evade a previous capture attempt, El Chapo ran through a sewer. If only he'd used an air shaft!

This Really Must Be the 21st Century: "Girl Scouts of the USA is presently conducting limited tests to engage girls and consumers in online and mobile Girl Scout Cookie Program experiences. In 2014, two Girl Scout councils -- in Houston, Texas, and Minneapolis, Minnesota -- will offer girls the ability to sell cookies online and from mobile handheld devices."

The Curse Lives: Sports Illustrated put Peyton Manning on the cover, and a short time later the Broncos were crushed in the Super Bowl. Sports Illustrated put Doug McDermott on the cover, and the next day favored Creighton lost the Big East title game. Johnny Manziel was on the cover in the week before the NFL draft and dropped to the 22nd player selected.

The NBA Should Have an Eastern Conference, a Western Conference and a Tanking Conference: Going into the 2013 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jrue Holiday, their best player, to New Orleans for a 2014 first-round choice and Nerlens Noel, a promising but injured player who could not take the hardwood for a year. The Sixers' plan was to tank the 2013-14 season. In winter 2014 with Philadelphia at 15-40 -- the plan was going well! -- the team traded recent lottery picks Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for the oft-injured Danny Granger, some backups with expiring contracts, and draft choices. The 76ers' interest in Granger was that he could be gotten rid of: a few days after the trade, Granger was waived, along with one of the backups. In less than a year, the Philadelphia 76ers exchanged three good players for a net of a 2014 first-round choice, lower choices, an injured guy who's never touched the ball in the NBA, cap space and a motley crew attractive solely because it could be offloaded. TMQ maintains the essence of NBA management is getting rid of players. The 76ers are Zen masters!

But don't take my word for it, check the 2014 NBA draft first round. Philadelphia had two lottery-level choices. The Sixers exercised them on Joel Embiid, who because of injury may not take the court next season, and Dario Saric, a Croatian player who because of a contract obligation is unlikely to join the NBA before 2016. Later the Sixers used second-round choices on Serbian players Vasilije Micic and Nemanja Dangubic, both of whom are unlikely to perform in the NBA next season for contract reasons.

Thus, the 76ers are guaranteed more losing while claiming a bright future is somewhere in the distance. At the NBA job of lowering expectations, the 76ers are Zen masters! Philadelphia reacted angrily to a possible NBA move to make deliberately losing less likely to result in a top draft pick. The 76ers have spent years setting themselves up to deliberately lose!

NBA clubs continue to follow the draft-tanking strategy -- Boston, Milwaukee, Orlando and Philadelphia tried to lose as many games as possible last season -- despise evidence that going all-out to stockpile top draft picks doesn't work. The conundrum is that if expectations are set high, an NBA team is likely to fail. If expectations are set low, well, anybody can aim low. Following this past season's losing record, the Timberwolves set next season's expectations low from the get-go by selling two 2014 draft picks for cash.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback Sportsman of the Year: Byron Mullens, who was on the Bobcats for their 23-loss skid, then on the 76ers for 26 straight losses. My Person of the Year is Raymond Burse, president of Kentucky State University, who lowered his own salary so that hourly workers could make a living wage.

"I See a Tarot of the Lovers ... No Wait, of the Swords ... There Is Red on the Card ... Hey, That's My Blood" Zagorka Jovanovic, "one of Germany's most famous fortune tellers," was stabbed by a client's ex-boyfriend whose actions she did not foresee.

Hi, You've Reached the Swiss Air Force. No One Can Take Your Call. If You Are Planning to Invade, Please Do So During Regular Business Hours: Agence France-Presse reported, "No Swiss fighter jets were scrambled when an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked his own plane and forced it to land in Geneva, because this happened outside business hours. Swiss Air Force spokesman Laurent Savary told AFP the Swiss Air Force is only available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m."

Hi, You've Reached the Indian Air Force. Your Call Is Very Important to Us. If You Are Planning to Invade, Please Notify Us by Mail So We Know to Turn the Warning Radars On: During the search for Malaysian Flight 370, Reuters reported that India usually leaves its early-warning air defense radars turned off.

Annual Swimsuit Issue Count: This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue offered -- counting editorial content only, and indicating trend versus last year's issue -- 185 pictures of stunning women in bikinis (36 percent increase), 45 photographs of topless models with hands or other items strategically placed (29 percent increase), 27 photos of women in only body paint (69 percent increase). Two beach numbers were worn by Barbie, who at age 55 became the oldest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Advertising added 28 more photos of women in bikinis, 10 more of women topless and three beefcake photos of buff men.

The best goofy ad was, for the second consecutive year, a miniature Dodge Ram pickup driving across the bronzed skin of a bathing beauty. The best editorial-content goofy scenes were a nearly naked Kate Upton floating in zero gravity and model Emily DiDonato in a string bikini riding a Saint Bernard at the Matterhorn.

Carmelo Anthony Wishes He Were Paid by the Shot: There were 242 field goal attempts -- a shot every 12 seconds -- in the NBA All-Star Game.

At Least the Skating Suits Didn't Catch Fire: After the team performed poorly early at Sochi, U.S. speed skaters ditched the high-tech suits developed by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin. The latter is the world's largest defense contractor, currently pushing for what would be history's richest defense contract -- $400 billion to produce the F35 fighter. The project has been plagued by technical faults; in July, F35s were grounded after one caught fire on the runway. If Lockheed Martin can't design a skating suit, why should taxpayers feel confident handing the company $400 billion?

Rating the Sochi Opening Outfits: Your columnist liked the outfits of Andorra (the perfect Christmas sweater), Germany (nice to see Germans looking cheerful rather than threatening), Lithuania (overpowering urge to drink a Sprite) and the Russian Federation and Ukraine (both "in happier days," as the saying goes). Greece's rainbow-fingered gloves were awesome. On the downside, France's athletes were dressed like oil-rig workers, Japan's like lab technicians, the Czech Republic's like fur trappers.

The USA's Ralph Lauren apparel was overdone and fussy. Yet the sweaters sold out in 24 hours at $595 each, and within a week even the $95 reindeer hat was sold out. Speculators who snapped up the USA apparel have been asking three times list price on eBay. If the Andorran sweater were for sale, I'd buy one.

Next Week: I'm back and I'm bad! Well, I'm back. The announcement of ESPN Grade, plus TMQ's AFC preview.