Super Bowl 50

Let’s start off with the best thing about this Super Bowl, the lack of Roman numerals. Because the NFL realized that a graphic of “Super Bowl L” would simply confuse people, they went with “Super Bowl 50” instead. I don’t think “Super Bowl LI” looks any better, so let’s hope this becomes a permanent change. The Roman Empire folded about 1,500 years ago, or about 700 if you want to count the Eastern, non-Roman, part. so I think we can let go of their numerals. (But not Latin, they should still teach Latin for a year in schools everywhere because it teaches kids how English grammar works. However, I digress.)

As for the game itself, ugh. That was an ugly, ugly, football game. Denver won and didn’t even get 200 yards of offense. If you liked punting, this was your game. Peyton Manning wasn’t very good, but he managed to avoid making huge mistakes- something Cam Newton did not. Newton was terrible, and his postgame performance will hurt him in the future.

And now football goes away for six months. I predicted in my New Year’s column that the NFL would make radical changes in the game to address head injuries, and I still think that will happen but not in the way I envisioned at the start of the year. The missed extra point which ultimately cost the Patriots a tie in the AFC Championship doomed my prediction that the league will eliminate that play. But, I still think something radical will happen this offseason that will change football more than we have seen it changed in years. Time will tell.

And tomorrow I will talk about Derek Fisher and the Knicks.



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  • blmeanie  On February 9, 2016 at 7:39 am

    one takeaway from the SB for me is – after seeing the story leading up to the game that the field was grown in a secret field somewhere, for the sole purpose of being a SB field, they put the grass down, with new methods, and the field still is a slippery piece of crap. Seems like any outside SB now has field issues at some point. Almost (almost may be generous) makes me want to suggest it should only be on artificial turf. I don’t mind weather, I don’t mind non perfect conditions, but new grass put down three weeks prior cannot put the roots down to support 300 lb men pushing off to get an extra inch. Arizona has it right, grow grass outside and slide it in, no re-sodding. Goodbye Peyton, lots of respect for you from all the battles over the years.

  • Greg  On February 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Missed the game; I was in Italy (vacation). Looks like I didn’t miss much, anyway, Then again, not a football fan and have missed most SBs in my life . . .

    Much impressed with your comment about the Eastern Roman Empire. Most Americans I know are completely unaware of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and of the Great Schism (want to understand the Russian antipathy towards the West? Then you need to be familiar with the Great Schism between the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade). Great comment about Latin and English grammar. You’ll get almost zero support for it, though. I can hear the kids now — “Why do I have to study a dead language? Boring . . .” I’ve studied Greek Grammar and it helped make English grammar make sense to me, and also helped me immensely in studying Spanish, Italian, French and German. It’s also applicable to Russian. The Greek and Latin grammars have much in common, except Greek never had the Ablative case (as far as I know) and Modern Greek has done away with the Dative case.

    So yeah, not much going in MLB right now, so I am rambling on about history and grammar. On a sports blog. Can’t wait for pitchers and catchers.

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 10, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      I adore ramblings about grammar and history, feel free anytime.

      Where did you go in Italy? That is one beautiful country.

      You are quite the polyglot. That’s an impressive list of languages. I found Latin powerfully improved my skills in English. I never studied Greek, but I have heard good things. I know that neither one is going to make a comeback in U.S. schools anytime soon.

      I have always been fascinated by the split of the Roman Empire and the subsequent dissolution of one half, while the other lasted over 1,000 years. It’s an amazing story and, as you point out, still has ramifications to this day.

      BTW- If you want to read a great book on the Roman Empire, Mary Beard just released SPQR. It starts at the beginning and ends in 212 AD, so before the split, but an excellent read.

  • Greg  On February 10, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Well, that makes us birds of a feather, I suppose.

    My wife and I are members of a ski club They do numerous short (weekend) trips every year as well as two long trips every year — the first big trip alternates annually between North America and Europe; the second big trip is always in North America. I don’t ski as I tore up my knee skiing many years ago, but when they go to Europe, I go with them as there is plenty for me to do. This year we spent 7 days in Zermatt Switzerland followed by 3 non-skiing days in Milan. In 2014 we spent 7 days in Cortina d’Ampezzo (the Dolomiti in Italy) followed by 3 days in Florence. In 2010 and 2008 we couldn’t go (family obligations). In 2006 we went to Interlaken (Switzerland) followed by 3 days in Prague. I completely agree with you — Italy is beautiful. I took a 2-year leave of absence from work in 1994-1995 to realize some of my dreams: living in and traveling around Greece, learning the language, and island hopping in the summer (I am of Greek descent); living in and traveling Spain, learning the language; and traveling in Europe. I spent 11 months in Greece, 7 months in Spain and the rest in Western and Central Europe. I was unmarried then, and had no mortgage, so it was easier to do than it would be now. People often ask me if I had to recommend just one country, which I would choose — I tell them it’s a tough choice between France and Italy, but if I was forced to choose only one, it would probably be Italy. I have to be honest — I am not really a polyglot. When I came back from Europe I took an adult education course in French, another in Italian and another in German. But I can’t hold a complex conversation in any of these languages. Iam familiar with the basics of the grammar, but I can’t speak fluently.

    Thanks for the tip on the Mary Beard books. I can also give you a tip on three books by John Julius Norwich:

    Byzantium: The Early Centuries
    Byzantium: The Apogee
    Byzantium: The Decline and Fall

  • Greg  On February 14, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Sorry for the delayed response; I’ve been busy the last couple of days and unable to reply. Thanks for sharing the link — a nice read. The Great Schism will not be healed any time soon. Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met in 1964 (see Most dialogue at a high-level has been between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox; the Russians have been conspicuously absent (and hostile). As was mentioned in the article, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is generally seen as the cradle of Orthodoxy and therefore has historical and symbolic importance. What they don’t have is numbers — the Russians are more numerous. And unlike the Roman Catholic church, which is generally unified across national borders, the autocephalous (self-headed) Eastern Orthodox Churches splintered along national lines long ago, so there is a Greek Orthodox Church, a Russian Orthodox Church, an Armenian Orthodox Church, a Bulgarian Orthodox Church, a Serbian Orthodox Church and so on, each headed by its own Patriarch, all of whom jealously guard their prerogatives. Therefore, no one Patriarch speaks for all Eastern Orthodox peoples. Even if a Pope and an Orthodox Patriarch were to come to an agreement — a very tall order, indeed — the other Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs would not feel bound by it. Further, the historical anger and resentment felt by the Eastern Orthodox against the Roman Catholics is real, persisting to this day. We in the US, far more focused as we are on the future rather than the past as compared to other peoples, have a hard time grasping this. For instance, anger persists to this day about the Fourth Crusade, which was theoretically supposed to be about the liberation of the Holy Land from the “infidel” Muslims, but which entailed the sacking of Constantinople by the Western Europeans (Franks et al) and attempts to forcibly convert the Byzantines to “Christianity” (by which was meant Roman Catholicism). Indeed, for a long time, it was a widely held amongst the Byzantines that rule by the Ottoman Turks (who were Muslims) was preferable to rule by the Latins, because at least the Ottomans did not try to forcibly convert the population (the Koran instructed that Jews and Christians, as peoples “of the book”, were not be subjected to forced conversions). In modern times, one need look no further than Serbia and Croatia for an example of how vigorous these divisions can be: they speak the same language, but the written language differs — the Serbs, an Eastern Orthodox people, employ a Cyrillic-based alphabet (which itself looks like a blend of Roman and Greek letters), just as the Russians do. The Croats, a Roman Catholic people, employ the Roman alphabet. I would argue that this goes to the heart of the antagonism between the two peoples, who really are one people divided along sectarian lines.

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 17, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      And the calendars are different- Julian vs. Gregorian.

      I think your comment about the U.S. being focused on the future is one of our biggest weaknesses in diplomatic relations. We fail to take the time to understand the ancient, and I mean ancient, roots of many of today’s conflicts. I mean look at the mess in Syria right now where we have the Turks and Russians fighting proxy wars against each other. The roots of that can be traced back to the Grand Schism you mentioned with stops along the way like WW1, Crimean War, and so on. Take the faux descendant of the Byzantine Empire- the Holy Roman Empire. A lot of the rivalries in Europe were created from its disintegration and the subsequent wars around it.

      But when I think of our ignorance of world history, I then think about Europe and the whole idea of a unified currency among countries that have been historical enemies for centuries and I feel a bit better about us. Until I realize the incredible damage the destruction of that system would unleash on all of us.

  • Greg  On February 17, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Funny story about the different calendars. The Western and Eastern churches generally celebrate Easter on different days. Most years, the Eastern churches celebrate one week after the Western churches. There are a few years where they celebrate Easter on the same day and a few where the Eastern churches celebrate five weeks after the Western churches (like this year: March 27 vs. May 1). When Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met in 1964 and there was hopeful talk of reconciliation between the churches, including the harmonization of the calendars, my uncle (who was Roman Catholic and had married my mom’s Greek Orthodox sister) argued that they should leave well enough alone. He very much enjoyed celebrating two Easter dinners most years — one extra feast to enjoy!

    Your comments about conflicts with ancient roots are spot on. Virtually all of the enduring conflicts between nations have roots that stretch back centuries before the United States of America had even been conceived. Yet listen to our politicians, talk-show radio hosts and other self-important blow-hards, and everything has a simple solution, often entailing using the military to sort things out.

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 17, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      That sounds like an excellent idea by your uncle. I have a similar hope that they leave the calendars along because it helps me parking-wise in NYC. Thanks to alternate side parking being suspended for major religion holidays, I won’t have to move my car on Holy Thursday (3/24) or Holy Orthodox Thursday (4/28) Add in the fact that Passover and Easter aren’t lined up this year (happens about once every 8 years) and I have some sweet parking ahead of me!

  • Greg  On February 17, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Spoken like a true New Yorker! One thing I do not miss is alternate side of the street parking. Sometimes I had to park so far away from home I practically had to take a bus to get back.

    An interesting aside: Although the rules for calculating when Easter falls are complex (for both the Easter and Western churches), one requirement of the Eastern churches is that Easter cannot fall before Passover, because Jesus celebrated Passover before being crucified. So, in a year like this year — where the Eastern churches celebrate five weeks after the Western churches — the Passover and Western Easter will also be far apart.

    • nysportsfanatic  On February 17, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Yup, I’ve been there. At least they have cut it down to each side of the street only gets it once a week now. Boston was great for parking, only two times the whole month. Of course the streets were filthy, so not all great.

      The Eastern church makes a lot more sense that way. I was saying to someone earlier this week that I can’t understand how we can have Easter before Passover if the Last Supper was a Passover seder.

      Does the difference in dates have to do with the fact that the western church uses the same date (March 21st) for the equinox each year no matter what?

  • Greg  On February 18, 2016 at 12:40 am

    The short answer: It’s complicated.

    The less short answer: The Eastern Orthodox churches still follow the (older) Julian calendar, whereas the Wester churches follow the (newer) Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar. This is why the Russians still celebrate Christmas on January 7th and also why many Greeks (like my parents and their parents before them) don’t take their Christmas Trees down until after January 7th (I do the same; I really like having a Christmas Tree in the house). Further, the Eastern Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, that requires that Easter must take place after the Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion.

    The long answer: Read this —

  • Greg  On February 18, 2016 at 12:49 am

    In fairness, I should mention that the preceding link has a decidedly, let us say, Eastern Orthodox slant. Another useful link I found:

    I think this article nicely acknowledges the sensitivities of the Eastern Orthodox peoples.

    Interesting fact: Eastern Orthodox Easter eggs are all dyed red (symbolizes the blood of Christ, I believe). No polychromatic patterns nor spring pastels like Western Easter eggs.

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