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Rubino: You're cordially invited to Roman Numeral Bacchanal


It was LVII years ago, but it seems like yesterday.

Elementary school. Grade IV. Nuns teaching Roman numerals. Teaching method was by rote, and we're not talking about Tobin Rote, the only quarterback who started on an NFL (MCMLVII) and AFL

(MCMLXIII) championship team. No, rote here means repetition, repetition, and more repetition.

Written and verbal. A kazillion times.

Or at least MMMCMXCIX times. Resistance is futile. You learn by rote, you never forget.

A smart aleck asks the nuns why bother learning Roman numerals? Why bother learning something that we'll never ever find useful?

If only the nuns had an answer other than smacking the smart aleck's knuckles with a ruler. If only the nuns had a vision of the future, a vision of the Promised Land, aka the Super Bowl, that included media saturation for a game with equal parts grace and ugliness, brotherhood and brutality.

The NFL insists on designating each year's Super Bowl in Roman numerals. Not sure why, other than pretentiousness. Not sure why the sports media play along, considering it's difficult to imagine average pro football fans recalling or referring to championship games in Roman numerals.

"Hey, Charlie, what's the best Super Bowl ever?"

"Oh, I'd have to say it was Super Bowl XLII."

"Really? Have to disagree with you there, pal. Super Bowl XLVII was a classic. Except for that power outage that stopped play for XXXIV minutes. That was just X%$#@! inexcusable."

The association with Roman anything is troubling: Roman Empire (decadence), Roman Colosseum (Christians vs. lions, and not the ones from Detroit), Roman emperors (despotic whack jobs), Roman vomitoria (ew, gross), Roman orgies (pagan perverts), Roman Gabriel (no Super Bowl appearances), Greg Roman (one Super Bowl appearance, one loss), Bill Romanowski (OK, four Super Bowl championship rings, but long associated with performance-enhancing drugs, not to mention a reputation for, shall we say, unsportsmanlike conduct).

Anyway, back to Roman numerals. The NFL insists on Roman numerals for the Super Bowl, so let's let loose with Roman numerals. Let's embrace a veritable Roman numerals bacchanal, as it were.

Here goes.

This is Super Bowl XLVIII. The Denver Broncos vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

For the Broncos, this marks VII times they've been to the Super Bowl, but it is their first appearance in XV years, their first since Super Bowl XXXIII in MCMXCIX, when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons, XXXIV to XIX. For John Elway, it culminated a brilliant XVI-year career and gave him a Super Bowl record of II wins and III defeats.

For the Seahawks, this makes II times they've made it to the Super Bowl, but it's their first in VIII years, their first since Super Bowl XL (and no, that doesn't mean extra large) in MMVI, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, XXI to X.

The Broncos (also known as the Horse Ghosts, according to The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, commenting recently on the team's logo), are an offensive juggernaut. They scored an NFL record DCVI points in the regular season, an astounding average of XXXVII.IX points per game. In the postseason, they've only averaged XXV points, but still, XXV points mean a lot of scoring -#8212; III touchdowns, III extra points, a field goal and a rouge, if this were the Canadian Football League, and too bad it isn't because scoring a rouge sounds kind of cool, or at least colorful.

The Seahawks (also known as the Sad Birds, again according to Stewart, referring recently to that team's logo), are a defensive powerhouse. They yielded a measly CCXXXI points in the regular season, a stingy average of XIV.IV points per game. In the postseason, they've been only slightly more generous, giving up an average of XVI points per game. The 49ers scored XVII points at Seattle in the NFC Championship and came oh-so-close to scoring XXIV points, but it wasn't to be. For Niners fans, the wait for the team's first championship since Super Bowl XXIX in MCMXCV (a XLIX to XXVI victory over San Diego) continues.

That's nothing, though. Pity the poor Raiders fans, still waiting for the team's first championship since Super Bowl XVIII in MCMLXXXIV (a XXXVIII to IX win over Washington). And that was when the Raiders called Los Angeles home. The Oakland Raiders haven't won the NFL championship since Super Bowl XV in MCMLXXXI (a XXVII to X rout of the Eagles). That's XXXIII years ago. That's a long time.

Yes, when you learn by rote, you never forget. Thank you, good sisters, for those Roman numeral lessons. It was bound to come in handy someday.