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SPORTS WEEKEND | eXcesses and O's

Bush's Chance in the Hands of Aikman

October 27, 2000|MIKE PENNER


The race is too close to call. The country's future hangs in the balance. NFL, all knowing and all powerful, a desperate and divided nation turns its eyes to you.

And the NFL has decreed, by virtue of its standings heading into Week 9, that Al Gore will defeat George W. Bush in the Nov. 7 presidential election.

Gore is a Tennessee man, Bush is a Texan, and the numbers do not lie:

Tennessee Titans: 6-1.

Dallas Cowboys: 3-4.

Democrats run their post-'80s record in the Big One to 3-0.

What the NFL does not want you to know, of course, is that its presidential tracking device has proved over the years to be no more reliable than a pregame coin toss.

1988: Dallas was 3-13, New England was 9-7, but George Bush still routed Massachusetts' Michael Dukakis.

1984: The 49ers were 15-1, the Raiders 11-5, the Rams 10-6 and the Chargers 7-9. All of Ronald Reagan's home constituency had better won-lost records than Walter Mondale's 3-13 Vikings.

1980: Reagan's California included three 11-5 franchises (Rams, Raiders, Chargers) and one 6-10 loser (49ers), whereas Jimmy Carter's Atlanta Falcons were an uncharacteristic 12-4. Dismissing the Falcons as a one-off fluke, America went for Reagan.

1976: The Falcons were a more characteristic 4-10, which should have spelled defeat for Carter against Gerald Ford and his 6-8 Detroit Lions. But in '76, the country was facing a crisis in leadership and was rather unimpressed with Greg Landry. So it opted for Steve Bartkowski.

1968: The Rams were 10-3-1, the Vikings only 8-6. Richard Nixon, by a field goal over Hubert Humphrey.


At 0-7, the 2000 Chargers are halfway to equaling the 0-14 record of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the only team in league history to play at least a dozen regular-season games and lose them all.

Do the Chargers have what it takes to go the distance?

The '76 Buccaneers are the standard bearers, but the '00 (pronounced: "oh-oh") Chargers, on paper, match up rather well.

'76 Buccaneers: Went through three quarterbacks (Steve Spurrier, Parnell Dickinson, Terry Hanratty) without finding an answer.

'00 Chargers: Have gone through three quarterbacks (Ryan Leaf, Jim Harbaugh, Moses Moreno), still haven't a clue.

'76 Buccaneers: Finished last in the AFC West before moving to the NFC Central in 1977.

'00 Chargers: Last in the AFC West before moving Leaf to another team in 2001.

'76 Buccaneers: Led by John McKay, previously the head coach at USC.

'00 Chargers: Led by Mike Riley, previously an assistant coach at USC.

'76 Buccaneers: Lost to Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle.

'00 Chargers: Have already lost to Buffalo, Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle.

'76 Buccaneers: Also lost to Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh.

'00 Chargers: Still have Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh on the schedule.


The Eagles want a new stadium and are threatening to leave Philadelphia if they don't get one, meaning Los Angeles has an exciting new NFL possibility to consider. An updated consumer's guide:

1. Raiders. Pros: They're winning again, they know the territory, we'd still recognize Tim Brown and James Jett. Cons: Lots of them used to have good seats when the Raiders played in the Coliseum.

2. Eagles. Pros: Donovan McNabb having a better second season than T.J. Rubley, Darnell Autry sounds very close to longtime Angel fans' exhortation ("Darn it all, Autry!"), we'd still recognize punter Sean Landeta. Cons: L.A. Eagles would remain in the NFC East. Hard enough explaining to NFL-deprived Angeleno children why Atlanta and Carolina are in the NFC West.

3. Saints: Pros: We're accustomed to big-name male athletes wearing wedding dresses, Ricky Williams is no Dennis Rodman, we'd still recognize Jim Haslett, a Raider assistant in 1993-94. Cons: Saints have never won a playoff game, Dodger fans already tired of that story line.

4. Chargers: Pros: Reached the AFL championship game in their only season in L.A., Junior Seau used to be big in this town, we'd still recognize Curtis Conway. Cons: Ryan Express '00 disgraces memory of Ryan Express '73.

5. Cardinals. Pros: Not nearly enough of them on the playing roster. Cons: We all recognize Bill Bidwill.


Potential game plan for Miller as he prepares obscure references for big Tennessee-Washington Monday night showdown:

Titian: Looks almost like "Titan," sounds like "Ti-shen," was a leading Venetian artist of the Renaissance whose paintings were famous for their energetic composition and original technique, much like Steve McNair rolling outside the pocket.

Hubris: An exaggerated pride or self-confidence often resulting in retribution, which is something Miller needs to explain to Redskin owner Daniel Snyder.

Sir William Ramsey: 19th-century British chemist who first separated neon from other inert gasses in 1898, which led to the creation of the neon lamp, which led to the creation of "Neon" Deion Sanders.

Freake limner: Notable example of 17th-century New England folk art, a double portrait of Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary, circa 1674, captured in elegant gowns that contradict the stereotype of standard Puritan dress of the period. Compare and contrast to NFL Insider magazine's recent cover portrait of Tennessee defensive end Jevon "The Freak" Kearse.

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