The hit movie "American Hustle" is very loosely based on the actions of several New Jersey politicians and con artists during the FBI's ABSCAM stings in the late 1970s. The movie is a must-see -- witty, gritty, with fabulous acting by Christian Bale and Amy Adams, though the audience never understands why the bungling loser who is the film's central character is intensely desired by two spectacular women: Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe it's because they know he is really Christian Bale.
The senator taken down by ABSCAM, Harrison Williams of New Jersey, resigned moments before the Senate was to expel him, then to his death (following prison) maintained he resigned on principle, not to avoid expulsion. "American Hustle" misses the funniest moment of the actual ABSCAM. After video was released showing Rep. Richard Kelly reaching for a briefcase of cash offered by a fake sheik, Kelly declared he was using the money to conduct his own investigation. (No one bought this.) Not addressed in coverage of the movie -- because ABSCAM ended three decades ago -- has the FBI given Congress a pass on corruption?
New Jersey offers what your columnist considers the best delicatessen on Earth, the Millburn Deli. My last meal would be a Millburn Deli smoked turkey sloppy Joe with a Balvenie neat. And if I had to choose between the two, I'd take the Joe.
How Did Seattle Do It? TMQ took a lot of heat halfway through the season with a column saying San Francisco couldn't pass the ball. Then the Niners finished 30th in passing and in the NFC title game were held to 147 passing yards. The game concluded with San Francisco trying to throw into the right corner of the end zone -- exactly what San Francisco tried at the end of last year's Super Bowl -- and like in that Super Bowl, were unsuccessful. In both instances, the intended receiver was double-covered -- maybe defensive coordinators know something?
Jim Harbaugh has taken the 49ers to three straight conference title games, so he's obviously doing well. But his decisions can be puzzling. He sent Alex Smith to the bench, then traded him, to give Kaepernick the reins. Though the Nevada quarterback is a lot of fun to watch, he has yet to show he can pick apart an NFL defense. In the second half, Kaepernick turned the ball over on two of three snaps. As the stats item notes, Kaepernick is 1-3 versus the Seahawks, with a terrible passer rating. Versus Seattle and Russell Wilson, Smith was 1-0 with a 74 quarterback rating.
In-game, Harbaugh/West can be puzzling. With Seattle leading 23-17 at the 2-minute warning, San Francisco had first-and-10 at midfield, holding three timeouts. The game would be decided by Kaepernick's interception thrown from the Seattle 18 with 22 seconds remaining. The coach only used one of the timeouts, leaving two on the table. (They were called during Seattle's kneeldowns.) Harbaugh/West let an inexperienced quarterback sweat as the clock ticked toward all-naughts, rather than call time and coach up Kaepernick. Earlier, San Francisco, facing third-and-1 in the fourth quarter, took a delay-of-game penalty rather than burn one of the timeouts they ended up not using. Puzzling.
Harbaugh/West also had the Niners facing fourth-and-1 on the Seattle 41. They tried to draw the home team offside, then took a penalty and punted. Why not just run a play for the first down?