The 50th Super Bowl approaches with the same amount of trepidation as Y2K. Why? Because none of us is quite sure if we will actually be witness to Super Bowl L. Yes, it's a tradition that dates back to the very first Super Bowl. But how many people will actually look at the logo and think "Super Bowl El"? Will NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finally decide that the roman numerals are absurd and switch to Arabic numerals?
Washington Post sports columnist Tracee Hamilton recently griped that "We've been putting up with this nonsense for XLIV years. Enough. Why can't this Sunday's NFL championship game be called Super Bowl 45?"
She goes on,
Then came No. 40. XXXX, right? Wrong. XL, of course - 50 (L) minus 10 (X). Everyone knows that! The big game dropped from a 4X to an extra-large, right before our eyes, like a contestant on "Biggest Loser."
But okay, so using that theory, Super Bowl 49 would be IL, right? Wrong. In 2015, we'll call it XLIX. And then comes Super Bowl L in 2016, er, sorry, in MMXVI.
That's one of the problems with this system: You have to be able to subtract to translate Roman numerals. Studies already show that America's youngsters are falling behind the rest of the world in math. So we have to rub that in their faces on our biggest national holiday?
Roman numerals are fine in names—the world needs guys nicknamed Trey. Roman numerals are also fine for numbering "Saw" movies and Popes and . . . that's all. That's enough.
The Roman numerals, I suspect, serve as a subtle reminder that we are witnessing modern-day gladiators—after all, the first official Super Bowl was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Of course I am not the first person to point out football's ties to ancient Rome (it's the core idea behind Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday).
But in a way, isn't it a sad testament to the decline of classical education that fewer and fewer people can decipher these numerals, whether in reference to kings, queens, and popes, or at the end of movie credits, or on Super Bowl logos? It may look pompous, but it shouldn't be that hard to figure out.
In other news, a Weekly Standard friend sent me a link to Publishers Weekly and this rather striking notice:
Borders announced Sunday evening that it was delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in a move to conserve cash. The action will almost certainly end any hope Borders has of winning approval from publishers of its proposal to exchange missed December payments for notes. Borders had wanted publishers to approve the offer before the January payment was due, but many publishers were leaning towards rejecting the offer and some were waiting to see how the chain handled the January bills. Delaying payments was not something they wanted to hear. In addition to not paying the major houses, it is unclear if Borders paid any presses; in December Borders paid independent and small presses. Ingram is continuing to ship books to the company.
In a brief statement, Borders said it “understands the impact of its decision on the affected parties,” adding that it is “committed to working with its vendors and other business partners to achieve an outcome that is in the best interest of Borders ad these parties for the long-term.” Borders said the delay in payments “is intended to help the company maintain liquidity” while its seeks to complete a financial refinancing. That refinancing, however, needs the publishers to accept its financial offer, something that increasingly appears to be a remote possibility. Before Sunday’s announcement, some publishers were willing to let Borders file for Chapter 11 and Sunday’s move will likely reinforce that conviction. There is even a report that some publishers would not support a debtor-in-possession filing, something that raises the possibility of rather than a Chapter 11 filing Borders would be forced to file Chapter 7 and liquidate the company.
If you're still sitting on those Borders Bucks, now's probably a good time to use them.
And finally, much has been made of Christina Aguilera's flubbing of our national anthem. She readily admits to losing her place (maybe she was still annoyed at having to follow Glee's Lea Michele). But Aguilera didn't stop and ask for a do-over. She just kept on rolling. In short, she was nowhere as bad as Enrico Pallazzo.