Time for the longest award in sports

The cult-status "Sopranos" episode "Pine Barrens" -- in which Chris and Paulie Walnuts wander incompetently through New Jersey's famed pine barrens searching for an equally incompetent Russian mobster they are supposed to whack -- was not filmed in the pine barrens. The episode was filmed in New York's Harriman State Park, whose tree species differ significantly from those of the pine barrens. Thus in the NFL, New York is located in New Jersey; on the "Sopranos," New Jersey was located in New York.

Crabtree Curse Revived: Early in Michael Crabtree's career, TMQ tracked the Crabtree Curse -- the 49ers were more likely to win when Crabtree was hurt than when he was in the lineup. Many readers, including Herman Hou of London, note the Crabtree Curse lives. Not only was the final throw of the NFC title game, intercepted by Seattle, targeted at Crabtree: all three of San Francisco's final throws of the 2013 Super Bowl, all incompletions, were targeted at Crabtree. Bad enough that the 49ers let Crabtree onto the field; when they try to throw him the ball, a Curse awaits.

Cheesecake Calendars Are Not Exploitation -- But Low Pay Is: Last week current and former Oakland Raiders cheerleaders sued the team, alleging violations of California labor law. Raiders cheerleaders are paid just $1,250 per season for 10 home dates, charity shows and rehearsal time; the lawsuit contends this equates to less than $5 per hour in a state with an $8 minimum wage. The suit further alleges Raiders cheerleaders must pay for what ought to be team expenses, such as club-mandated hairstyling, and are not paid at all for corporate appearances or bikini posing.

The Oakland situation is not unusual, as every NFL cheerleader is underpaid. TMQ noted in detail five years ago that for a sport that rolls in money, the only NFL faces who don't see a big payday are the only female faces. Financial exploitation of cheerleaders has also been covered for some time by Amanda Hess, who has supplanted Camille Paglia as the writer on sexuality whose views are hardest to predict. Obviously the TMQ-Hess campaign has done no good.

From my 2009 column on cheerleader low pay: "Cheer-babes dancing in short skirts, or posing for swimsuit calendars, is not exploitation. After all, you're supposed to look at the cheerleaders! Professional athletics is foremost a form of entertainment, and the scantily-clad dancing girl has a long history as integral to entertainment in theatrical arts as well as sport. It is, however, objectionable if everyone involved in an NFL contest is making buckets of money, except for the cheerleaders."

The NFL's attitude seems to be that cheerleaders are just frilly little things flouncing around, let their boyfriends look after them. Whether that attitude is paternalism or exploitation, take your choice of words. The basic premise of labor law is that because persons seeking employment can be pressured to agree to bad deals, there must be floors beneath which employers may not go.

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