King Kaufman's Sports Daily

If Peyton Manning and five other QBs do the impossible, a shoe company will generously donate $1 million to charity. No, really: Impossible. I'm matching the offer.



Salon Staff
September 15, 2005 10:29PM (UTC)

Reebok -- there's the company name in print: Mission accomplished! -- has "promised" to donate $1 million to charities on one small condition. A group of six NFL quarterbacks has to do something a little less likely than simultaneously getting hit by lightning.

On a Tuesday. Wearing green shoes. In January.

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In the daytime. West of the Mississippi.

While singing "Paper Moon."

In Latin.

The shoe company says it will donate the million to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and to the quarterbacks' own personal charities if the handpicked "RBK Touchdown Squad" combines to throw 207 touchdown passes, which would break last year's NFL "record" of 206 thrown by the top six in the league.

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This is the kind of corporate giving that's so irritating it gives "giving" a bad name, never mind "corporate." It's an empty press release. I have a better chance of breaking Peyton Manning's single-season TD pass record than this group has of throwing 207 touchdown passes -- and Manning's in the group.

The others on the squad are Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Bulger, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. If up to two of them miss games, they'll be replaced with "subs" Alex Smith and Eli Manning.

What happens to the million bucks if the six quarterbacks, who were picked not because of their proficiency at throwing touchdown passes but because of their affiliation with Reebok, fail to throw the 207 scores? I should say when they fail.

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Reebok spokeswoman Diane Pelkey said she didn't know, but if the record isn't broken, "We're still giving some money in the way of Reebok equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs." She wouldn't say how much, but did say it wasn't anything like a million dollars' worth.

Pelkey also noted that if any of the six quarterbacks breaks Manning's record of 49 touchdowns in a single season, Reebok will donate $50,000 to that quarterback's charity.

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I asked Pelkey why, if Reebok has $1 million earmarked to give to the Boys and Girls Clubs and to the quarterbacks' charities, it put an all-but-impossible condition on the donation. How is this any different than if I said I'd give $1 million to charity if Barry Bonds hits 90 home runs by the end of this season?

"This is just a fun program for the Reebok quarterbacks," she said. "We give tons of money to charities every year. You can't single this one thing out. I don't know if you're familiar with the Reebok Human Rights Award. We have a number of programs where we flat out give money."

And that's a good point. I'm not saying Reebok's a bad corporate citizen that always ties giving to conditions, impossible or otherwise. I'm just, as Pelkey said, singling out this one program, and I don't agree that I can't do that.

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Pelkey also disputed my assertion that the 207 touchdown passes was an impossible task for the six quarterbacks. "That's just one person's opinion," she said. "We worked out this program with the NFL, and they're behind it."

It was one person's opinion on that phone call, it's true. But sometimes, one person's opinion is right.

Last year, when the top six quarterbacks in the NFL in touchdown passes set that record with 206, was a huge passing year thanks to the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and defensive-holding penalties. I'm betting there'll be some backsliding on that this year, but it won't matter even if there isn't.

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The top six quarterbacks in TD passes last year were Manning, Daunte Culpepper, McNabb, Brett Favre, Jake Delhomme and Tom Brady. Betting that that bunch, as a group, could repeat its performance the following year would still be a bad wager, but it would at least seem possible.

But we're not talking about that bunch. We're talking about a random group of quarterbacks, statistically speaking. The reason they were chosen, their Reebok contracts, has nothing to do with their likelihood of topping the league in touchdown passes.

McNabb was third in the league in TD passes last year. Hasselbeck was 10th, Bulger 13th, Pennington 21st and Leftwich 23rd. They combined to throw 154 scoring passes.

So all they have to do is improve, as a group, by 34 percent, and the Boys and Girls Clubs can start counting their money! Yay!

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So let's see, Manning would only have to beat his own record of 49 touchdown passes by 17. And he already got two in the first game! Nice job, Peyton! Just average four per game for the rest of the season and you've done your part!

McNabb's job would be to throw 42 touchdown passes. He has one so far. His career high: 31, last year. Bulger's career high is 22, as is Pennington's. Hasselbeck once threw 26 TD passes, while Leftwich's high is 15. If all six quarterbacks matched their career high in touchdown passes, they'd combine for 165 touchdowns, only 42 short of the mark.

If each man surpassed his career high by 25 percent, they'd still only tie the record. And guys like Manning and McNabb, All-Pros who are at the top of their games and the peaks of their careers, don't improve by anything like 25 percent.

And this is assuming the six quarterbacks in question stay healthy. If they don't, the two subs, Smith and Manning, aren't a good bet to pick up the slack. Smith, a rookie for San Francisco, isn't even starting yet. Manning, a second-year man for the Giants, is in his first, take-your-lumps full year as a starter.

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Through one week, the squad has nine touchdown passes, putting it on pace for 144.

Picking six quarterbacks at random and betting on them to be the top six in touchdown passes in a given year is a crazy, lottery-like odds bet. Betting that they'll not only lead the league but break a record is betting on the impossible.

Consider this my press release:

"King Kaufman, of King Kaufman's Sports Daily (current column, archive), is matching the Reebok 'RBK Touchdown Squad' challenge. If Reebok's squad throws 207 touchdown passes this season, he will give $1 million to charities to be determined by Reebok."

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I don't have the money, but if they hit 207, I'll start fundraising. I hope those hurricane victims won't feel too let down if it doesn't happen.

Previous column: Barry Bonds, steroids and home runs

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