Roman Numerals Get the X in Super Bowl

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 6.09.12 PMI don’t blog much about football, unless it’s haiku about Troy Polamalu’s hair. But when my husband told me about this story, I couldn’t help but mess with it. The story, that is. Not so much Polamalu’s hair. I’m afraid that if I stick my hand in there, I might never see it again.

Anyway. February 7 will mark the fiftieth Super Bowl. The NFL has been using Roman numerals after “Super Bowl” for…let’s just say for almost as long as I’ve been alive. On the surface, the convention doesn’t appear to make sense. It’s 2016, so why not call the sports-a-palooza “Super Bowl 2016” in the very sensible way that hockey and baseball handle their championships? But the NFL season splits the calendar year, so to be absolutely accurate, you’d have to call it “Super Bowl 2015-2016,” and nobody wants to put all those characters on a T-shirt. Or a beer cozy, a cap, a foam finger, or all those Doritos posters.

So I can see why they opted for the Roman numerals in the first place. And for a while, all those Xs looked kinda fun and powerful. It gives an impression of gladiators duking it out, except with better padding and a halftime show.

But I can just imagine what went on at the marketing meeting as the NFL got ready for publicizing the golden anniversary of the Big Game.

“So, hey, what are we gonna call this thing?”

“Uh, it’s fifty, so we just change the numbers, right? Toss another X or I on there, right?”

“Dude. Fifty in Roman numerals is L.”

“Super Bowl L? What the hell is that? Nobody knows what that means. X and I, they get. Maybe V, if they’re smart. But L? Most people are gonna think Superman’s playing football on Krypton or something.”

And…meeting adjourned. Cue the promotion department to break out the Maalox and trash seventeen boxes of merchandise.

Super Bowl 50 it is. But don’t worry, traditionalists. The Roman numerals are returning next year with Super Bowl LI.

The official story of the temporary suspension is that the designers couldn’t come up with an aesthetically pleasing way to render the “L.”

I call bull on that one. I’ve been a designer; I know designers; we specialize in finding solutions. And how would the “L” be less challenging than next year’s “LI,” which will probably end up looking like a “U”? The more likely story is that the change in convention was a marketing call, because I’m also a marketing person and I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings. I know what goes on there. I’m willing to bet my Super Bowl 50 commemorative chip-and-dip bowl that it was the Krypton thing.

Baseball and Writing and Baseball

Photo by Robert Boris

Photo by Robert Boris

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was big enough to reach the TV dials. (Yes, they had dials back then…) Much to my father’s chagrin, I chose to fall for that “other” team, rather than his beloved, pinstriped Yankees.

The soothing voices of the New York Mets’ announcers and the slow, meditative pace of the game appealed to me. And maybe to my budding writer’s mind as well. Watch a pitcher try to hold a notorious base-stealer on the bag. There’s a story behind that dance. The runner tries to rattle the pitcher, throw him off his rhythm. The pitcher tries to catch the batter flat-footed and pick him off base. Watch the tango of catcher and pitcher. A volume goes unsaid as the catcher flashes his signals and the pitcher shakes them off. [Find a copy of Bull Durham if you want a fast lesson in how catchers and pitchers work together.]

Some other lessons I’ve learned from the game speak directly to a professional writers’ career: Continue reading

16 Uses for My Old Livestrong Bracelets

alg-troy-hair-jpgYeah. I bought into the whole Livestrong thing way back when. I rooted for the guy. When I was a health blogger, I even applied to become part of the Livestrong division on a website I will not name. And even though I knew more about omega-3 fatty acids and visceral massage than any civilian has a right to, I was turned down for lacking, I don’t know, something they called the “high Livestrong standards.” Yeah. Irony. But now I have all these Livestrong bracelets. Even though they’re made in China, I hate waste and I’m a recycling girl from way back, so if you’re in my situation as well, here are a few things you can do with them.

  1. Melt down and make new solidarity bracelet for Manti T’eo.
  2. Wear inside out until Tibet is free.
  3. Change to LOVESTRONG and give to marriage equality causes.
  4. Keep several pairs of socks together in the dryer.
  5. Physical therapy tool for relieving texting-induced tendonitis in thumbs.
  6. Pea shooter (Thank you, Carmy!)
  7. Fit over beverage container of choice to prevent slippage.
  8. Change to LIVESTRANGE and distribute in Woodstock and Portland. (Kidding. I love you guys.)
  9. Extra-strength exercise band to build up toe muscles.
  10. Secure hems of yoga pants so they don’t catch in the StairMaster.
  11. Bind together several dozen colored pencils or markers to make one big rainbow.
  12. Bring to the farmer’s market to keep the broccoli stalks from falling apart.
  13. Beauty pageant sashes for Barbie dolls.
  14. Change to LIVE LONG AND PROSPER and give away at ComicCon.
  15. Hairbands for Troy Polamalu.
  16. Mail them back to Lance Armstrong for a refund. And an apology.

Olympic Writing Events

Fully recovered from asphyxiation after laughing your asses off at the opening ceremonies? Great. Now we can get on to the more serious business of the Olympics: the events. Because I’m still pissed that softball and baseball were eliminated after Beijing, I’ve decided to start my own Olympic-style competition. This is for a group of athletes who have been training hard, putting in the time, the effort, the blood, sweat, and tears, and are deserving of some well-earned recognition. They’ve broken land-speed records in coffee brewing and set new endurance milestones for keeping one’s rump in one’s chair. This is for…the writers. Continue reading

Give the MLB All-Star Game to the Minors

David "Big Papi" Ortiz celebrating another long ball...

I love the Home Run Derby. A fairly recent addition to the All-Star Game festivities (it’s televised tonight, at 8PM, check your local listings), it pits the big bats, like David Ortiz and Prince Fielder, head-to-head in a contest to see, you guessed it, who can hit the most homers. It’s fun. It’s a family thing. Some of the players bring their small children onto the field with them, and they sit together on the sidelines in special tiny uniforms. I could squeal from the adorableness of it. Even though David Wright was never quite the same hitter after whacking a record 16 home runs in the first round of the 2006 competition, the HRD is one of my favorite pro sports events of the year. (‘Cause according to Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, “chicks dig the long ball.”)

But the All-Star game itself? It’s become a charade. Who cares who gets voted in? Who cares that your kid voted, like, a thousand times for Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia, Mariana Rivera, José Reyes, Justin Verlander, A-Rod, or Chipper Jones? They’ve already been yanked out, substitutes announced, either because their managers don’t want to risk injury to their superstar players, or, in the case of José Reyes and Alex Rodriguez, they’re already injured.

And if the superstar pitchers nominated by the managers of their respective teams have pitched in the last couple of games before the break, like Rivera and Sabathia, they are automatically yanked because of rules Major League baseball has set up to protect the pitchers.

I understand injury prevention. I’m a Mets fan. Half our team is injured at any point in the season. We just lost José Reyes, the team sparkplug, to a hamstring pull. Even if he was healthy, he might’ve been yanked. What manager these days wants to risk their best players for a game that essentially doesn’t count, is nothing but PR?

But if the superstars aren’t going to come out, that not very good PR.

So I think they should ditch the All-Star game altogether. Save our overpaid thoroughbreds for the pennant races. And how about using all that great media time and goodwill (and still give Major League players a few days off midseason) to highlight the accomplishments of minor league ball players? How about an All-Star game for the guys coming up? I still crow about watching José Reyes play for the Binghamton Mets, before the Mets drafted him. Wouldn’t it be great to see, in prime time, the next A-Rod? The next Derek Jeter? These guys work hard, often on their own time, or for not very much money. Give them a shot at the big time, or a bonus; give them some publicity, a big hand for how hard they work, and let the MLB superstars spend the break on ice.

I’d definitely watch that.

Football Haiku

For a moment put aside the extracurriculars of professional football-the money, the smack talk, the police records of prominent players-and just watch the athletes. Watch a play set in motion, the choreography of who runs where, the focus, grace, and power of a superstar receiver as he pulls an impossible pass out of mid-air, hugs to his chest and fends off would-be tacklers. I am not the first to recognize the poetry, nor am I the first to put it in haiku form. Heck, it’s fun to write about play off the field, too. Enjoy.

Polamalu’s hair,
insured for a cool million,
sells dandruff shampoo.

Ben Roethlisberger
tested team’s code of conduct.
His word against hers.

Is that a gun in
Plaxico’s sweatpants or is
he glad to see me?

Retire at your peak,
some say, to preserve legend.
Brett Favre should have listened.

Men in spandex pants
bent over before the snap.
No close-ups, thank you.

Bieber and Ozzy
to star in Superbowl ad,
in Tron costumes. Ecchh.

Pressure Tom Brady
and the Patriots will fall
just like the redcoats.

Coach Jimmie Johnson
silver hair, saggy man boobs
kicked off Survivor

Rex Ryan can fit
several feet in his mouth.
Kink, or weight loss plan?

Care to indulge in a bit of word play and write your own? Let’s hear it!

5 Things The Designated Hitter Rule Taught Me About Business

On January 11, 1973, Major League Baseball’s American League enacted the Designated Hitter rule. It’s a stupid rule, in my opinion, and many baseball purists agree with me. The rule states, in part, that the position in the batting order normally taken by the pitcher may be replaced with a “designated hitter,” and therefore the pitcher may remain an active player (on the mound) without having to hit and, you know, break a nail or something. Since professional baseball, outside of its art and poetry, is also a business, here’s what the consequences of this rule have taught me about the business world:

1. Keep your skill set updated. Have you ever watched an interleague or World Series game and noticed that the American League pitchers (when they are forced to step up to the plate at a National League team’s park) look like little leaguers taking their first swings at the ball? Since they don’t have to bat, they lose the ability, while some of the National League pitchers, like current free agent Dantrelle Willis, are pretty decent at the plate. Therefore, if you’re in the market for a pitcher for a National League team, one who doesn’t embarrass himself in the batting box is a much more attractive option.

2. Think strategically. Part of the manager’s job is to think strategically. The game of baseball has many moving parts, including where you position your fielders, how your batters fare against left- or right-handed pitching, and how to keep tabs on a speedy baserunner like the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes. The designated hitter rule removes from the manager’s purview decisions about keeping the pitcher in the game as the ninth spot in the batting order grows closer. This is a huge part of a National League manager’s responsibility. Letting the American League managers off the hook is doing them a disservice. Yes, it can be said that relieved of this responsibility, AL managers can better focus on other parts of the game, but I believe a NL manager is more well-rounded in his strategic thinking. At work, too, if you opt out of some aspects of strategic thinking, you could be letting your competitors hit your hanging curve out of the park.

3. Change can be good…if you allow it to happen. In the American League, a heavy hitter who is no longer as effective in the field, like Boston Red Sox DH David “Big Papi” Ortiz, is very often put into the designated hitter position. This allows a player who has grown slower or battles chronic injury to extend his career. This, some say, also saddles a team with yet another player on the roster with limited abilities when they could shop for a player who can hit and field well. In the business world, many people are afraid of change, even hanging on to concepts and practices that no longer work as well as they used to.

4. Don’t hide your talent. If a pitcher comes up to bat with a man on first, he may attempt a bunt to move the player into scoring position. Because this happens so frequently, many National League pitchers are excellent bunters. In the National League, a random position player may not be able to lay down a killer bunt or even an effective one. American League pitchers, although they might have this ability, rarely get to try. It deprives them of a chance to show that they have other ways of helping their teams win than just on the mound. Maybe you can help your business succeed by using some hidden talent.

5. Life isn’t fair. Historically, American League teams score more runs than National League teams, and some say have an advantage in interleague and World Series games. This is, I believe, because National League managers are saddled with more responsibility. Until Major League Baseball decides to either enact the DH rule for the National League or get rid of it entirely, this inequity will continue. But that’s life, and the faster you accept that some things are not fair, the better you can focus on continuing to do your best. And maybe work on correcting those inequities for the future.