The Super Bowl's number 'I' problem | Bleader

The Super Bowl's number 'I' problem

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And were not talking about Pete Carrolls glasses.
  • Matt York/AP
  • Coach Pete Carroll readies himself for Super Bowl XLIX, aka Super Bowl 49.
Credit should go where it's due, and it's due any sportswriter who doesn't write like this:

The twists and turns of N.F.L. careers seldom intersect in the Super Bowl. Only twice has a head coach defeated the franchise that no longer wanted him: the Jets' Weeb Ewbank against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jon Gruden against the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

What's wrong with that? If you're wondering, compare it to the very next paragraph of this New York Times story, a paragraph that looks back on a time in football history so ancient Roman numerals hadn't been invented yet.

Ewbank had coached the Colts, with Johnny Unitas at quarterback, to the 1958 and 1959 N.F.L. championships, but after three ordinary seasons (6-6, 8-6 and 7-7), he was dismissed by the owner Carroll Rosenbloom just when Sonny Werblin, the Jets' new owner, needed a coach in 1963 to turn the American Football League franchise around after a 19-23 start in three years.

Do you see how much more pleasant journalism can be when it remembers to tell us when something happened and in the numerals we all learned in school? It's asking too much for sportswriters to refer to Sunday's game as anything other than Superbowl XLIX, but when they look back on games of yore, they might want to be a little more explicit about where they're looking.

Here's a third passage from the same Times story: "Carroll spent nearly a decade as a successful but sometimes denigrated University of Southern California coach before joining the Seahawks in 2010, assembling the 2013 N.F.C. champions who stunned the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII a year ago, and proving that he could win as a pro football coach."

We can live with that, but a paper less emphatic about its writers' classical educations would simply have written that the Seahawks beat the Broncos "in last year's Super Bowl." A pretty good rule of thumb is to write in language it's possible to read aloud.

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