by Kim Pederson…….
Now that it’s football season again in America, the incidence of televised coin flipping has skyrocketed, as it always does at this time of year. In the NFL, the head referee stands in the center of the canyon formed by various players from each team and tosses a coin in the air. The head captain of the visiting team calls heads or tails and the winner of the toss decides whether to receive the opening kickoff. Whichever team kicks off, the other chooses which goal to defend in the first half. (In the “Things I didn’t know I didn’t know” department, the coin-toss loser then gets to make the same choice–receive or kick off–at the start of the second half. I thought the switch was automatic.)
So where, you may ask, does this heads or tails thing come from? Coins with an obverse (heads) and reverse (tails) have been around at least since Ancient Greek times. But sadly no other hard information jumps out from the web about when spinning or tossing a coin to make a choice came into vogue.
What makes this practice useful is a coin toss provides a quick answer that is always black or white, yes or no, heads or tails–unless, that is, you are the hapless main characters in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions in 2013 when the tossed coin stuck on its edge in snow or physicists studying Lagrangian mechanics. I don’t recommend trying the latter at home as it tends to have the same effect on brain synapses as a microwave oven has on computer chips (see Mr. Robot).
I have a feeling many Americans will be desperately turning to the coin toss thirteen months or so from now. (This foreboding has been reinforced after watching the second Republican debate last night.) In fact, I think it would be great if the two national political organizations, the RNC and DNC, got together after nominating their candidates and had a shiny commemorative gold coin struck with, say, Bernie’s head on one side and Donald’s on the other. They could then have an ample supply of these made to hand out at all voting locations. This would remove the stress of last-minute decision-making and quicken the process, cutting down those long lines. It would also level the playing field. In theory (and if no behind-the-scenes DebasementGate activity goes on), each person on the coin would have a 50/50 chance of winning the election.
Or maybe we should make things even simpler and less expensive. It would only take one coin, a fancy special one like they create for the Super Bowls. Better yet, why not hold the event at the Super Bowl? Some lucky fan could be picked at random just before the exorbitantly extravagant halftime show begins, stand between the two presidential candidates, and decide their political future with a quick flip. What could be better? We would instantly have a new president and then could put politics out of our heads immediately in favor of a different form of glitzy entertainment (Taylor Swift? Adele? Metallica? Kanye West before he becomes president himself?) and thirty minutes more of gritty gridiron action.
Wow. I believe I just trumped Donald in the “Make America Great Again” department. Genius. Pure genius. Sometimes (not often) I amaze myself. This would be one of those rare-chance events.
*”Antoninianus Tacitus-s3315-light” by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.