Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Radar O'Really?

What kind of writing ability does it take to become president of the Pro Football Writers of America? The ability to cram as many inaccuracies as possible into one stupid "clever" lede. In a story about how the Washington Redskins are, for once, attracting very little media attention in the preseason,'s Alex Marvez begins this way:

"The stealth bombers protecting the White House have company.
The Washington Redskins are flying under the radar, too."

Let's count the problems:

1. Stealth bombers do not protect the White House. There's no way stealth bombers even could protect the White House. Stealth bombers are strategic weapons designed to deliver payloads of heavy explosives or cruise missiles. Their job is to destroy things, not prevent them from being destroyed. If you called in a B-2 to stop a terrorist attack on the White House, you'd eliminate the terrorists, all right -- plus the White House and much of Northwest Washington. There are warplanes circling above D.C., but they're fighters, not bombers.

2. Stealth bombers do not fly "under the radar." The whole point of stealth technology is that you don't have to fly under the radar, because the aircraft doesn't have a recognizable radar signature.

3. The planes that do protect the White House don't fly under the radar, either. To get below the detection field for ground-based radar, you have to fly so close to the ground that you'll all but deafen the people down there (in which case, no one will need radar to find the planes). The fighters over D.C. do the opposite, circling at extremely high altitudes, ready when called for to, say, shoot down a aircraft that's deemed a threat.

4. Finally, pilots of planes protecting the White House would have neither the need nor the desire to evade ground-based radar -- because that radar is part of their defense network. Evading American radar is a wonderful way for an American pilot to get his ass shot down by an American missile battery.

You can accuse me of being too literal, I suppose, but you just know that Marvez thought this lede was really, really clever, and he never once stopped to think whether it made a lick of sense.

But there is one nice thing to say. At least, thank God, he didn't write "flying under the radar screen."

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