I’m sure I speak for everyone out there when I say that the fall of the Roman Empire often is an obsession. 

I recently had an epiphany about the demise of Rome.  

Oh, it wasn’t a moment accompanied by LXXVI trombones with CX cornets close behind. There wasn’t a XXI-gun salute. In fact, I was just sipping on a cold VII Up and enjoying a delicious III Musketeers bar while watching “XII Angry Men” when it hit me.

It wasn’t inner moral decay or barbarians at the gate that destroyed Rome (although those things sure didn’t help). 

It was those blasted Roman numerals that caused Romans to go screaming into the night. How can any society survive when it has a bunch of C’s and M’s and X’s for numbers? 

I mean, you’re Publicus Publius, and you just get your real estate tax bill. DCLXXXVII denarii, it says. By the time you figure out how much that’s going to set you back (good luck, by the way, trying to get all that into that little space on your check), you’re already getting a XV percent penalty for late payment. 

Or you’re heading down to the local Chariot Mart, where some oily salesman tells you that little baby will set you back only MMMDCLVII. You’re overwhelmed by those Roman numerals, thinking it’s only MMCXXXVIII, but it’s too late. Your signature is already on the parchment. 

You’re waiting in the deli, and your number is XVII. You’re so confused that you pick up XVIII’s roast beef on pastrami by accident. 

You’re a commander in the field. Surrounded by hordes of Vandals and Goths, you send a message requesting MMMMMMMMMM. Headquarters, trying to figure out those Roman numerals, instead of sending 10,000 troops (to use the Arabic numerals we’re so used to), send instead a batch of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Mmmmmmmmmm, in deed.

I think you get the message. Now, agreed, hindsight is always XX/XX, but those Roman numerals are sure confusing. I mean it’s MMXVI, not XXVII. It’s a year when we elect CDXXXV representatives and a new occupant of MDC Pennsylvania Avenue. Our modern minds aren’t equipped to handle dollar amounts that look like movie ratings. It’s just not in our XXIII chromosomes. 

I’m particularly obsessed with Roman numerals at this time, because of a little thing called the Super Bowl. You might have heard about it. 

Since its inception in MCMLXVII, the Super Bowl has been designated by Roman numerals. While the practice has added a mysterious, almost other worldly quality to the games, it has also caused some confusion as to recalling the contests. 

Yeah, remember when Jackie Smith dropped that touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII? Uh, wasn’t that Super Bowl XX? No, that was when Garo Yepremian tried to weenie arm a pass? No, that was Super Bowl VII. Refrigerator Perry scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX. Are you sure that wasn’t Super Bowl XXXIX? 

Other than the Super Bowl, the only remaining provinces of Roman numerals are British monarchs, popes and the end credits of movies, and if there’s one thing worse than the year of movie being in Roman numerals, it’s Roman numerals that zip by before you’ve even got past the MC.....

This year, though, in its omniscience, the NFL has decreed that Super Bowl L will be known as Super Bowl 50. Whether the NFL just finally realized that Roman numerals were confusing all those players who had yet to even learn all their Arabic numerals, or if it was concerned that it would be losing out on royalties from all those size L shirts, good old red-blooded American numbers will be used this year. 

After all, the American flag has 50 stars, not L stars. If God had intended us to use Roman numerals, He would have given Moses the X Commandments. 

I mean, think about it. If Dirty Harry had said he had a .CCCLVII Magnum, that punk at the end of the barrel would have probably just looked at him blankly and uncomprehendingly, and he wouldn’t have gotten his head blown clean off by the most powerful handgun in the world. We would have missed so much. 

Thank you, NFL, for coming to your senses. 

David Holsted is a writer for the Harrison Daily Times. Contact him at davidh@harrisondaily.com

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