Franco Harris, Julius Caesar, and The World’s Most Beautiful Woman
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online

Welcome to "Fishing with Fredo" …

First quarter
The Set-up: The Titans' 40-year-old center Bruce Matthews was introduced.

The Quip: "I think Bruce Matthews played at USC when it was actually in Troy."

The Read: According to Greek mythology, the goddess Eris (Discord) set out to disrupt a wedding feast by sending a gold apple to the hall with a note saying it was to be given to the most beautiful goddess.

Head god Zeus knew such a contest could only get ugly, so he let Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy, select the winner. Paris chose Aphrodite, since she had promised him the most beautiful human woman in the world: Helen, wife of the Spartan king Menaleus.

Paris swiped Helen and fled back to Troy, which was located near the Hellespont, the entranceway from the Aegean Sea into the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Menaleus and his brother Agamemnon assembled an enormous Greek army, including such famous heroes as Achilles and Odysseus, and set sail across the Aegean to fetch Helen, whose face did indeed launch a thousand ships.

The siege of Troy (or Ilium in Latin) lasted 10 years, during which time Achilles killed Paris's much more heroic brother Hector (as told in the Iliad) and in turn Paris killed Achilles (with an arrow in his heel, Achilles' only vulnerable spot).

Trojan Horse
I want you inside my belly!
It was Odysseus who came up with the plan to sneak a commando force of Greeks into the walled city of Troy by hiding them in the belly of a giant wooden horse idol. The Trojans fell for it and took the idol inside the city, and at night the Greeks emerged from the horse and opened the gates of Troy from within, allowing their army to stroll in and slaughter Priam and the men of Troy.

Of course the trips home weren't all ticker-tape parades for the Greeks; Odysseus was lost at sea for another 10 years, and Agamemnon's wife hacked him to pieces in his bathtub upon his homecoming, but those are both stories for another time.

The actual site of the city of Troy was lost in antiquity and for a time scholars were convinced it had only been a figment of mythology. However, in the late 1800s German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered a 105-foot mound of archeological debris in Turkey that turned out to be the ancient city of Troy. Today most historians believe that there probably was a war fought between Greece and Troy around 1250 BC, though it was most likely over trade access through the Hellespont and not a pretty face. Truth is always so much more banal than myth.


Second quarter
The Set-up: A field goal attempt by Titans kicker Joe Nedney struck and bounced off the goalpost upright.

The Quip: "The Immaculate Deflection."

The Read: We just thought we'd take this opportunity, since Pittsburgh is, of course, home of Franco Harris's 1972 "Immaculate Reception," to clarify a point of Catholic dogma. If you're Catholic you already know this, but if not maybe it'll come in handy in a game of Trivial Pursuit, or during your "Millionaire" appearance.

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus' virgin birth, as is so often assumed by those who get most of their theological knowledge from watching football on Sunday. In fact it refers to the Roman Catholic Church's argument that Jesus' mother, Mary, in order to conceive and bear the Son of God, must herself have been born free from Original Sin.

Next week we'll explain why the Council of Trent wasn't a trade between the Ravens and the Seahawks.

Third quarter
The Set-up: After Steelers linebacker Kendrell Bell made a play, Fouts commented on his performance this evening.

The Quip: "Yeah Kendrell looks great, man. He hit Jerome Bettis in the preseason, it was like Enrico Fermi-time."

Enrico Fermi
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi, known to his friends as "Fermi."
The Read: In the years before World War II, Enrico Fermi, working in Italy under Mussolini's fascist regime, came literally within a hair's-breadth of discovering nuclear fission -- the foil in which Fermi and his team had wrapped a uranium sample they were experimenting on hid the effects of the fission they'd inadvertently caused. Had it not, and had they cracked the secret of fission while working in Italy in 1934, the outcome of WWII might have been very different, giving the Axis the key to The Bomb years ahead of the United States.

Instead, once Fermi was allowed to travel to Sweden to collect the Nobel Prize, he fled to the U.S. in 1938. Once there, he became aware of the possibilities of nuclear fission and quickly got in contact with President Roosevelt, warning him that Germany could someday have an atomic weapon. Roosevelt put Fermi on the Manhattan Project, the plan to create an atomic bomb. Fermi co-invented "the pile," the 25 foot by 20 foot uranium-powered nuclear reactor built under the west stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago in 1942.

After the war, and the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy, Fermi argued against the U.S.'s development of the hydrogen bomb. In 1974, the National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, where subatomic particles are smashed into each other inside a four-mile-long ring, was renamed Fermilab.

The Set-up: A pass by Titans quarterback Steve McNair strikes Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington in the back.

The Quip: "Et tu, Brutus?"

The Read: In Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar," when the titular character arrives at the Roman Senate House on March 15, 44 B.C. (the Ides of March), he is stabbed to death by conspirators led by Gaius Cassius Longinus.

Among them is Marcus Junius Brutus, Caesar's friend. In the play Brutus stabs Caesar in the back, causing the stricken dictator to turn and with his last breath exclaim, "Et tu, Brute! [roughly translated, "You too, Brutus!"] Then fall, Caesar." The play then becomes not Caesar's tragedy, but Brutus'-- an honorable man trapped by fate.

But it was not the first time he'd sided against Caesar: five years earlier Brutus had joined Pompey's army in the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, but upon Pompey's death a year later, Caesar pardoned Brutus.

Brutus -- who despite Shakespeare's heroic portrayal, could be cruel in his business dealings -- still chaffed under Caesar's increasingly dictatorial rule, and so he joined Cassius' plot to assassinate him.

Following the murder Brutus and Cassius were hounded out of Rome by Caesar's faithful commander Mark Antony. In Macedonia they raised an army and fought Antony and Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) but eventually were defeated. Brutus committed suicide in 42 B.C.


The Set-up: The commentators discussed the sandwiches at Primanti Brothers restaurant in Pittsburgh with the camera showing a painting of the two brothers. The camera then cut to a half-naked, body-painted, wig-wearing, towel-waving Steelers fan in the stands.

The Quip: "That's the Fredo Primanti brother right there."

The Read: In Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather," Fredo, as played by John Cazale, is the weak and stupid middle son of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Upon the death of older brother Sonny (James Caan) and then the Don himself, the power in the family passes not to poor, dumb Fredo, but to the youngest brother, Michael (Al Pacino).

In "The Godfather, Part II," Fredo, frustrated at his diminished role in the family business, secretly plots with Miami mob leader Hyman Roth to have Michael killed. But, ever inept, Fredo unknowingly lets details of his involvement slip out, allowing Michael to see through and foil the plot.

Later Michael confronts his older brother, saying "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart." Michael refuses to speak to or see Fredo for several years, until the death of their mother, after which everything is cool and everybody's happy and Fredo and Al Neri go fishing.


The Set-up: In discussing the layout of Pittsburgh's new Heinz Stadium, Al asks Miller, a Pittsburgh native, if the open end of the structure is to the south.

The Quip: "What am I, Magellan?"

Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan, international badass.
The Read: Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan is credited with being the first to have circumnavigated the globe, despite the fact that Magellan himself didn't actually make it all the way around the planet. But one of his ships did, and that's what counts in these deals.

Magellan made his historic journey not for Portugal, but for Spain after Portugal would not give him a raise and a promotion. In September of 1519 Magellan set sail with five ships and 270 men, heading first to the east coast of South America. From there he made the treacherous journey around the southern tip of the continent, passing from the Atlantic into the Pacific by way of a strait that would come to bear his name. In the South Pacific, Magellan headed to Guam and then to the Philippines, where, in April of 1521 he was stabbed and killed in an altercation with the natives.

The journey was completed by one of Magellan's navigators, Juan Sebastian de Elcano. In September of 1522, almost three years after they departed, Elcano sailed the last of Magellan's ships back to Spain with only 21 other men.

A year later, Elcano set sail again, this time with 16 couples determined to have a wild time on the high seas as they competed to win one million doubloons. Within six months Elcano and his crew had fed all 32 passengers to the sharks.

Fourth quarter
The Set-up: A commercial bumper showed molten steel being poured inside a Pittsburgh steel foundry.

The Quip: "Was that a Bessemer converter?"

The Read: In the mid-1800s, English inventor Sir Henry Bessemer was trying to create a new type of artillery shell to sell to the French. However, the French cast-iron cannons were not strong enough to fire the shell without their barrels shattering. Bessemer, who had previously come up with a secret process for making "gold" paint powder from brass (much in demand in those days of gilded everything), set out to strengthen the cast iron.

Bill Cowher, man of steel jaw.

Steel was known, but its creation was slow and impractical for industrial uses. But Bessemer found that if he blew air through molten iron it strengthened the metal by burning out the impurities, and also allowed the super-heated material to be poured more easily. Though this air-blown process still had some kinks to be worked out over the next few decades, Bessemer's invention paved the way for the great steelworks of the 20th century, including Bill Cowher's jaw.


The Set-up: When the Steelers, already backed up to their own end zone, drew a false-start penalty, the official declared the ball would be moved back half the distance to the goal line.

The Quip: "This measurement's out of 'The Hellstrom Chronicle.'"

The Read: In 1972, Marcel Ophüls's landmark documentary probing French citizens' memories of life during WWII's German occupation ("The Sorrow and the Pity") was beat out for the Best Documentary Oscar by a film about how insects will someday rule the Earth.

"The Hellstrom Chronicle" featured extreme microphotographic close-ups of bugs' lives, including bug eyes and bug legs and bug mouths, all of which made it very popular among those filmgoers who also enjoyed special "enhanced" viewings of "Fantasia" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." The film was written by David Sletzer, who before that had written "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and would go on to write "The Omen" and "My Giant." Which pretty much makes him the king of films no one has ever seen sober.


The Set-up: Al Michaels plugged next week's MNF game with the Broncos at the Raiders.

The Quip: "In Oakland, Al, it will be rocking and, contrary to what Gertrude Stein says, there is a there there."

The Read: Avant-garde writer Gertrude Stein is probably better known for her support of such Modernist artists and writers as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway than for her own writing.

Stein grew up in Oakland, and in the 1890s went to Boston and attended what would become Radcliffe College. In 1902 she dropped out of medical school at Johns Hopkins and moved to Paris with her brother. There she lived for the next 44 years until her death, most of it with her lifelong companion, Alice B. Toklas.

Hosting salons and proclaiming herself a genius, Stein set out to oversee what she dubbed the "Lost Generation" of post-WWI expatriate American writers, including Hemingway and Sherwood Anderson. Her own writing attempted a sort of literary "Cubism" with mixed success -- her manipulations of language, intended to mimic the jarring distortions of Cubist painting, were not enthusiastically received by mainstream readers. "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," was about as daring wordplay as most readers were ready for.

In the '30s Stein returned to the States for a lecture tour and went looking for her childhood home in Oakland. She explains in her book "Everybody's Autobiography" that she was unable to find the exact house, resigning herself to the fact that "there is no there there." So there.

Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.

Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld


 
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