A Dicey Move

Jan. 12 - I watched all four NFL divisional championship games this weekend. Here in Denmark they were broadcast from 10:30 Saturday night to 5:30 Sunday morning, and from 7 pm Sunday to 2 am Monday.

The Danish channel that broadcast the games, TV2/Zulu, has only two NFL commentators. They sit at a desk in a little studio and provide live commentary on the games. During breaks, when Americans would be viewing Budweiser and Toyota commercials, TV2/Zulu shows rock videos interstitched with NFL Films footage. At halftime they sometimes show little NFL Films featurettes. Other than that, it's just the two guys in the studio. I've been watching them all season. I've grown to like one of them and hate the other. This helps me enjoy the games—it's always important to know where you stand with your commentators.

The double-overtime Rams-Panthers slugfest ran so long that its final moments overlapped with the start of the Pats-Titans game, depriving the Danish commentators of their expected between-game break. Consequently, by the third quarter of the second game they were both getting a little punchy. The good one was visibly struggling to remain upright and keep his eyes open. He had trouble completing his sentences. I enjoyed that. It was like watching Jerry Lewis lose his shit on the telethon.

As a Patriots fan, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to watch their Sunday morning victory over the Titans, but a little disappointed at having had to do so over coffee and toast. I was sorry to see the Packers lose to the Eagles, but I'm also a little relieved. I don't give a damn about the NFC Championship any more, meaning I don't feel compelled to be tuned in when the game kicks off next Monday morning at 12:45 am. Instead I can go to sleep as soon as the Patriots have knocked off the Colts in next Sunday's "early" game (kickoff 9 pm).

And the Pats will knock off the Colts.

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I've been on such a rampage lately that I thought I'd take a step back today and cover more traditional almanac material.

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If you ever took Latin, I don't need to tell you what jacta alea est means. But if you're like most Americans, to whom Latin is about as familiar as Urdu, I'll translate: it means the die is cast. At least that's how it's usually translated. Back in the early days of English, when the phrase was first translated, that's how they would have said "the dice are thrown."

This Latin snippet is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it demonstrates the popularity of gambling with dice in the ancient world, which is an important bit of trivia for keeping wayward adolescents interested in the classics; secondly because it's a short little Latin phrase you can drop into conversation to impress snobs; thirdly because the event of its utterance changed the course of western civilization for ever.

The line was uttered by Julius Caesar on this very date in 49 BC. Caesar and his army had just crossed the Rubicon, a little stream in northern Italy. The Roman Senate had long ago established a rule that Roman citizens should be forbidden from crossing the the Rubicon with their armies, since they figured anyone coming south toward Rome with an entire army probably wasn't up to any good.

(If the Roman Senate had really wanted to play it safe, maybe they should have designed the infrastructure of their empire so that all roads didn't lead to Rome—but that's beside the point.)

You may be wondering why Caesar would set out to break the law this way. He had, after all, been a popular and successful general and had been governor of Gaul for some time. But that's exactly why he decided to cross the Rubicon: he had become so popular and so powerful that the Roman Senate ordered him to disband his army and give up Gaul.

Which has always made me wonder why the Roman Senate didn't say "jacta alea est" after issuing their demands. Maybe they were just too eager to get back to their dice.

Anyway, by crossing the Rubicon Caesar had officially committed treason and launched the Roman Civil War.

The rest is history.


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Today is the birthday of Kirstie Alley (1955), Howard Stern (1954), Rush Limbaugh (1951), Joe Frazier (1944), Glenn Yarborough (1930), Jack London (1876), and Edmund Burke (1728).

Today is Zanzibar Revolution Day in Tanzania.

Happy Monday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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