The Fate of the Flip

Heads or Tails? Ship or Head? Cross and Pile. Indian or Wheat? No matter what you want to call it, you have to call it in the air.

People have been settling disputes via the coin toss for quite some time, dating back to the Romans. In Rome they say, “navia aut caput”, meaning Ship or Head, as one side of the coin had a ship, and the other had the head of the emperor.

Cross and Pile is the term for the coin toss in England.

During the California gold rush, prospectors would pass time by playing “Indian or Wheat.” Although we lack much of the history of this game, it has survived to present day. The game is simple: it involves one coin and two people. The coin itself is much larger than any coin in circulation today (approximately 3×3 inches). Very few coins of these coins remain from the 19th century, featuring the head of an Indian on one side and a bunch of wheat on the flip side. Anyone can play as the rules are very simple. The flipper tosses the coin into the air than catches it, from here they have two options: reveal the coin as it landed or flip it on to their other hand. The other player must guess head or Indian before the coin is revealed. Many players suggest choosing the Indian side.

The coin toss has played a vital role in sports as it provides even odds to deterimine a desison. In football a coin toss occurs before the game to decide which team will kick off and who will recieve. In soccer the winner of the coin toss will chose which goal they want to shoot on and the loser of the coin toss gets to kick off to start the game. In the second half both aspects are reversed.

When a draw occurs at the end of regulation a coin toss comes back into play. Winning the coin toss before overtime used to be a huge advantage in the National Football League, because of the sudden death format. In recent years they have augmented the overtime rules to not make the coin toss as much of an advantage. In soccer the winner of the coin toss can choose whether to shoot first or second in the shoot out.

The coin toss has also been used to determine more unusual disputes such as the case of the naming of Portland, Oregon. Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, who owned the claim to the land that would later become Portland, each wanted to name the new town after their respective hometowns of Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine; Pettygrove won the coin flip.

Face your fate tonight at The Front Porch, where every Wednesday is Flip Night!