Can Drinkers of Bad Beer Read Roman Numerals (even when sober)?

One of the blessings of being a sabbatarian is the removal of the temptation to watch the Super Bowl. Yes, if the home team happens to be there I may revert to the Jewish conception of the sabbath day ending at sundown. But the NFL has become so bloated (and mediocre along the way thanks to the salary cap), and the championship game has become such a venue for sports executives and television sports producers to think they can put on a show as good as people the people in Hollywood, that I’m just as happy to have a religious excuse for not wasting my time. Think about it, halftime is the worst part of any football game and the only reason to put up with marching bands. But now the NFL allots forty-eight friggin’ minutes to a silly attempt at extravaganza (silly because they still incorporate cheerleaders and baton twirlers — at least last time I watched). Can that much time really be good for the teams and their rhythm? Are people watching the game to see Bruce Springteen or Bono, or would they prefer to have their concert and their sports cheering as separate experiences, sort of like keeping rock ‘n’ roll out of worship.

But what strikes me as the best example of the NFL’s hubris is their tired and foolish tradition of designating each Super Bowl with a Roman number. This year is XLV, which if my ancient numbering is correct tallies up to 45. Yes, we have had forty-five Super Bowls. Big deal.

Does anyone know how many World Series Major League Baseball has conducted? Or what about the Stanley Cup? At least the other major leagues have the good sense to designate their annual championship by its equivalent year and not try to dress it up in something Ben Hur might see, though the NFL’s desperation may stem from their status as the newest kids on the championship block.

Here are the respective totals for baseball, hockey, basketball, and football.

World Series — begun in 1903 with a total of 106 championships (two years were cancelled).

Stanley Cup — begun in 1927 with a total of 84 championships.

National Basketball Association Finals — begun in 1947 with a total of 64.

Super Bowl — begun in 1967 with a total of 44 (and counting).

I do know that the NFL had championships before the Super Bowl. But those don’t count because they don’t have Roman numerals.


21 thoughts on “Can Drinkers of Bad Beer Read Roman Numerals (even when sober)?

  1. But you forgot The Greatest Spectale in Racing – begun in 1911 (won by Ray Harroun), making this year’s the 100th anniversary. Sure, each Sabbath race is blessed by a priest right between the ceremonial missing man fly-over and the call to “start your engines,” but at least Indy likely won’t have the bad taste of celebrating its anniversary every day of that year like some Dutch Reformed denominations I know.


  2. I would hazard that the increasing sophistication in marketing strategies is the reason for the difference between the NFL Superbowl and other sports championships’ beginnings. Look at the years they were started: 1903, 1927, 1947, and 1967. Look at the changes in marketing from 1903 to 1967. Then look at the changes from 1967 to the present and our culture’s downward slide into crass entertainment. It’s elementary, dear Watson!

    On a serious note, I wish learning about marketing and it’s effect on our thinking, desires, and choices was a staple in Christian education.

    It was eye-opening when I first become aware of the father of spin: Edward Bernays. He had a huge role in the development of marketing techniques using psychology and the social sciences. His campaign for the American Tobacco Company (1929) was able to help change society’s views on women smoking and make it socially acceptable. He wrote a book titled: Propaganda (1928) where he argued:

    “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democracy society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. … We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. … In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

    Bernays’s life work is an education about how comprehensive the techniques are for manipulating society and it is one explanation of why our society has changed for the worse.

    An overview of Bernays can be found here:

    Now that Marketing 101 is over, you are welcome to cream me for spoiling all the fun of the Superbowl commercials!


  3. Well, phooey. I meant to include “the reason for the use of Roman numerals was a marketing strategy.” Razzum frazzum.

    I would imagine the half-time extravaganza is a marketing strategy at work too. Lots more time slots for commercials! Ya think?


  4. Lily, makes sense. Another factor is that football is a one-game-a-week sport. Which means you couldn’t play two-of-three to see who wins. In which case, the other sports, which finish with a best-of-seven format, can never plan on a one-game finale. If they could, Bernays would likely rule in all the sports.

    Did he come up with the sauce?


  5. You are right of course about the number of games played. Makes sense. But I’m not sure why you think Bernays hasn’t ruled in the rest of the sports. Have you ever heard of a professional team that didn’t have tons of memorabilia, stadiums placarded with ads, athletes who represented products, and natch, the commercials on their televised events…. Are you getting old or somethin’ DGH? 🙂

    Re: Did he come up with the sauce?

    Sounds like you are either a foodie or hungry… or both! 😛


  6. Adam, but wouldn’t the game be a lot more of an extravaganza if Favre were QB and Jen Surgis were on the sidelines reporting? Commercials might go for 4 million per 30 seconds then.


  7. I got myself into a lot of trouble a few weeks ago around these parts as the Bears were preparing to lose to the Packers by publicly comparing NFL football to the WWE, which used to be called WWF until the WWFN sued back in 2002 over copyright infringement (figure that mess out; at least they stayed away from WCF!).

    At least the professional wrestlers are honest about it and even use the word “entertainment” in the name of their association, making no attempt to associate what they do with “legitimate sports” – whatever that is these days. Free agency, a half-hearted attempt to control it with salary caps, bloated player salaries, and the apparent need to captivate public attention with gangsta-like behavior off the field has the likes of Halas and Lombardi rolling in their graves.

    Face it, 95% of the country could care less who’s playing on the first Sunday in February. It’s just another excuse to throw a party in a poor attempt to ward off late Winter doldrums, giggle at those Bernays inspired ads, and snooze off the hangover at the office on Monday.


  8. The Stanley Cup was first awarded, as a challenge trophy, in 1893, but it did not become the right of the NHL to bestow it until 1947 (by an agreement with its trustees: it is still not owned by the NHL). The year 1927 only represents the first year in which NHL teams had no competitors for the trophy. Since it began as a challenge trophy that could be won by the same team multiple times in a given year (depending on the challenges they received), it’s not easy to say how many there have been. It seems fair to say that the trophy became annual (and for professionals) in 1915 and has been awarded once a year every year since then save 1919 (Spanish flu) and 2005 (NHL lockout). This gives 94 “modern” Stanley Cup champions. (I noticed you begin the World Series with the “modern” 1903 event.)


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