Tomorrow evening more than 100 million viewers will huddle around televisions to watch the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. If, like me, your mastery of Roman numerals has slipped a bit since you learned them in grade school, I will clarify: this will be the 48th Super Bowl. (Students of football history will know that the term “Super Bowl” was not coined until the fourth game; initially it was called the “NFL-AFL Championship Game.” So technically this is Super Bowl XLV.)
Perhaps it’s time for the NFL to reevaluate its fixation with Roman numerals. I’m guessing that the majority of NFL fans would be hard-pressed to interpret “XLVIII.” The concept worked pretty well for the early Super Bowls. I mean, most of us could figure out I, II, and III. Even IV (four) was workable if you remembered that the “I” before” V” means one less than five. X (ten) was no problem. XV (fifteen) I could handle. Twenty? Just add another “X.”
But when we reached forty, things started to get complicated. What does the “L” represent? And even if you were the grade school Roman numeral guru and remember that it means fifty, the permutations become hard to decipher. Is “XLVIII” telling me to subtract 40 from eight? Super Bowl minus 32? I know the NFL has been into the “throwback” theme in recent years, but this is stretching it. As my GPS would say: “recalculating.”
What if this Roman numeral craze spread to golf? This year the USGA would be conducting U.S. Open CXIV (114) at Pinehurst. PGA Championship XCVI (96) would be played at Valhalla. And Ryder Cup XL (40) would be contested at Gleneagles. Actually, the association of Roman numerals with the Ryder Cup might work; there is a regal tone to the event.
But why stop at numbering events? I’ve got 150 yards to the flag, slightly uphill and into a slight headwind. Should I go with my VII-iron or VI-iron? If I really stripe my driver (on a firm fairway) I might hit it CCXL yards down the middle. A little cart path assistance could push it past CCL. If I’m facing a LXX-foot downhill putt on a very fast green, a IV-putt is a distinct possibility. And if I’m not paying attention and hit my opponent’s ball (a Callaway II) instead of my own ball (a Callaway III), I incur a II-stroke penalty.
We could go on with this theme. When I call to book my tee time, I’ll be asked if it’s for a II-some, a III-some, or a IV-some. IX or XVIII holes? By the way, the rates drop at XII p.m. Please adhere to our pace of play of IV hours, XXX minutes.
I’m not sure that the introduction of Roman numerals would enhance the golf experience. The PGA of
America is having a hard enough time attracting new players to the game by looking for ways to make it easier and more enjoyable. I can handle Roman numerals once a year for the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t want to have to decipher them all year on the course. Besides, it could be dangerous. I probably wouldn’t know to duck if a ball was flying towards me and someone yelled “I” “V”!!
Jack Ross, a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly, is hoping to break XC more often next season.