A Modest Grandiose Proposal

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).

The Coin-Toss Decision Maker: Heads (or Tails) above the Magic 8 Ball*
The Coin-Toss Decision Maker: Heads (or Tails) above the Magic 8 Ball*

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.

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Kim Pederson
Kim Pederson has been a freelance writer and editor since 1996. Prior to that, he was Senior Editor with Charles River Associates, an international economics consulting firm. Kim earned a B.A. in English (Honors) from the University of Montana and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop. His plays have won awards and been produced in Seattle and other locations; his screenplays have won awards and been optioned, and he has done work-for-hire scripts for film production companies. Kim lives in Key West with his wife Kalo and two Maine coon cats, VeuDeu and Pazuzu.

5 thoughts on “A Modest Grandiose Proposal

  1. Once again I thank you for this random enlightenment. If not a coin toss for leader of the “free world”, perhaps a pugilistic contest or maybe a bake-off…

  2. I vote for the Super Bowl Half-time show option–a quick flip, some applause and booing from anyone paying attention (anyone who didn’t use the pause in the play action to get another brew), and then “on with the show.”

  3. Kim, Forgive me for introducing a bit of seriousness into this beautifully satirical piece, but, alas, I am hopeless before the strength of my own personality. I find it interesting that you choose the realm of football to make fun of all you make fun of here (which, if I’m not being delusional, is just about everything having to do with how America governs itself). I find quite a bit of consistency with the omnipotent rise of football in the American psyche and the decline of our national fortunes. The more popular this sport gets, the worse off the country gets. In my essay “I Don’t Like American Football”, I delve into all this. It appeared in this publication a few months ago. As usual, love your stuff, Jerome

  4. Kim,

    Coin Toss Presidency?

    How and who would make the coins? There would have to be a couple of spare ones developed.

    The consistency, balance and aerodynamic draft of each coin would have to be measured and certified.

    Who would secure and safeguard the coins from any tampering?

    Would they be tested for firmness, density, texture and flexibility prior to each game; and overtime if necessary?

    Oh wait!! Deflate-Gate…How will we account for cheaters???

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone. It strikes me that I could have added that using the coin-toss approach for the general election would likely increase voter turnout incredibly. After all, this might be the populace’s first opportunity to vote and come away with something substantial–yes, I’m referring to the shiny gold coin–for their effort. Who could resist that?

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