SUPER BOWL LVII
Why does the Super Bowl use Roman numerals?
As we ready ourselves for the 57th edition of the NFL final, we take a look at why the league adopted the old numerals instead of modern numbers.
It’s been some playoff run , hasn’t it? Some shocks, some stunning performances, and a GOAT retirement thrown into the mix. All that has landed us within touching down distance of Super Bowl LVII, which will see the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday 12 February at the State Farm in Glendale, Arizona.
So we’re all set, right? Well, what if someone asks you which edition this is or how many have come before. We’re still writing the date of the game using the good old Hindu–Arabic numeral system (the symbols representing 0-9 and the concept of place value), but flip to Roman numerals for the Super Bowl name. What’s going on?
Understanding NFL seasons and the Super Bowl
From the outset, it was clear that you could not simply refer to the Super Bowl in the same way that you refer to the season itself. Being an autumnal and winter game, the season is played in one calendar year while the playoffs and Super Bowl are played in January (and now February) of the following calendar year. So recently-retired Tom Brady won his last Super Bowl in 2021, but it was the culmination of the 2020 season.
Back in June of 1966, when the NFL and AFL agreed to merge for the 1970 season, they also agreed an interim deal whereby each league would send their champion to meet in a winner-take-all decider after each of their seasons had ended. To avoid any confusion amongst the fans, the decision was taken to assign a number to this new NFL-AFL Championship Game. Since college games of this sort had traditionally been referred to as Bowl Games, the word naturally associated itself in the popular mind with the contest. Lamar Hunt, while negotiating the new game, began referring to it informally as the “Super Bowl” and the name, though not official, stuck.
By the time the actual merger took place, four years later, the Super Bowl was so entrenched in the football fans’ calendar that it was officially rebranded, making the name, as well as the use of Roman numerals, official for Super Bowl V. The previous NFL-AFL Championship Games 1-4 were retroactively renamed Super Bowl I-IV and the league never looked back.
Why are Roman numerals used?
Quite simply, Lamar Hunt felt that using Roman numerals would give the game added pomp and gravitas in the public mind. And the years have proven him correct. No other annual sporting event carries as much pageantry or anticipation.
All Super Bowls since V have used Roman numerals, with the exception of 50. For such a landmark event, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before finally settling on “50″. The following year, the Super Bowl reverted to form and went with LI.
In just a few days, we will all sit down to enjoy what many Americans call the greatest show on earth. Whoever wins and in whichever numeric system it is written, the Super Bowl promises to bring all the magic of its previous LVI editions.