There was much hand-wringing last week over the state of American civilization when a Harris Poll showed Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant tied as the nation's favorite athletes.
But for Steven Levitt, president of Manhasset-based Marketing Evaluations Inc., home of the venerable "Q Score," it was an offense to method more than a statement on forgiving off-field misdeeds.
"It was really misleading based on what we have been doing for so many years,'' he said. "To say they are the most popular? That didn't fly with us.''
One problem, Levitt said, was that by broadly asking 2,227 adults - sports fans and not - simply to name their favorite athlete, Harris' numbers reflected name recognition as much as appeal.
Q Scores, by contrast, are calculated by dividing the percentage of respondents with a positive impression of a person by the percentage familiar with him or her.
The top active athletes are Peyton Manning (40 among sports fans), Brett Favre (36, assuming he still counts as active) and LeBron James (34, but likely to fall after "The Decision''). Eli Manning was tied for seventh at 28 and Derek Jeter tied for ninth at 26.
Woods? Among sports fans in March 2009, he had a positive Q score of 44 and a negative of 15. By this March, those numbers had flipped to 30 and 39.
Among the general population, his negative score skyrocketed from 16 last year to 49 in 2010.
Bryant had a positive Q Score of only 14 among the public and a negative of 42.
There are many ways to interpret numbers, and there are those who question Marketing Evaluations' methods.
But Levitt said though he respects Harris' work, he knew something was amiss when he saw Woods and Bryant atop its favorites list.
"After the 40-odd years we've been rating people, it made no sense for me,'' he said. "Yes, there are people that regard them well, but look how many were turned off by them.''
'Caddyshack' turns 30
"Caddyshack,'' among the most popular and frequently quoted of sports movies, premiered 30 years ago Sunday.
To celebrate, "The New York Sports Exchange,'' a 2-month-old talk show on WGBB (1240 AM), will discuss the movie from 9 to 10 tonight.
The festivities include an interview with actress Cindy Morgan (who played Lacey Underall) and a trivia contest.
"To qualify, you have to call in and give your favorite quote,'' co-host Eric Mirlis said. (The station does not reach much beyond southern Nassau County at night, but it can be heard on the Internet.)
"Caddyshack'' has a large, diverse group of fans, from Woods to Adam Sandler.
"I still love it,'' Sandler said on a conference call last month, adding that it helped inspire him to make movies.
Might Sandler remake the film, as he did with another sports classic, "The Longest Yard''?
"I think we're better off leaving that one alone,'' he said. "We were better off leaving 'Longest Yard' alone, too. But it was fun making it.''
BMX legend airs it out
Next up in ESPN's "30 for 30" series: "The Birth of Big Air," premiering at 7 p.m. Thursday, is a look at Mat Hoffman, a pioneer in the pursuit of ever higher ramps and ever higher jumps on a bicycle.
Hoffman's exploits are difficult to fathom for the relatively sane among us, but they make sense to him. "If I died with a body that wasn't completely wrecked,'' he said, "I'd feel like I completely wasted it."
Is Red Sox Nation bored?
For the first time since 2003, the Red Sox do not rank first in average local TV ratings for their games (as of the All-Star break) and have tumbled to fifth, behind the Cardinals (with 9.7 percent of St. Louis-area homes), Twins, Phillies and Reds.
Thanks largely to Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals finally escaped last place in the ratings and were up to third-from-last with an average of 1.34 on MASN, a 139.3-percent rise from last year.