Why do Super Bowl Championships Still Use Roman Numerals?

Why do Super Bowl Championships Still Use Roman Numerals (1)

What is the Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl is the largest American football contest of the year. All professional football clubs are presently a part of the National Football League (NFL), although there were formerly other opposing leagues. The NFL and the American Football League (AFL), two bitter opponents, agreed to hold a significant playoff game between their top teams in 1966. In 1967, they held the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, continuing the distinguished American tradition of only holding “world” championships within the borders of the United States. The contest quickly gained fame as the Super Bowl and only increased in popularity.

Why is there a Bowl in the Super Bowl?

 Bowl became a common term for designating stadiums resembling bowls in the early 1900s. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena quickly followed the construction of the first stadium, which was constructed for Yale in 1914. Soon, football matches played in arenas with a similar architecture came to be known as bowl games.

How are Roman Numerals used for the Super Bowl?

Ancient Romans employed a system of numeration called Roman numerals. They are still used today, notably when naming movies, novels, and other forms of popular culture. Roman numerals, which range from L, X, and C through numerals I through IV, employ letters to represent numbers. They are usually written in a certain sequence, with I denoting 1, V denoting 5, X denoting 10, L denoting 50, C denoting 100, D denoting 500, and M denoting 1000 (Bazley, 2023). Roman numerals may be written by adding the letters together, starting with the greatest number. Using Super Bowl 56 as an example, the ‘L’ would stand in for ’50’, and the ‘VI’ would stand in for ‘6’. This means Super Bowl 56 = Super Bowl LVI.

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When did the Super Bowl start using Roman numerals?

The first Super Bowl (Super Bowl I) was played in 1967, although Roman numerals weren’t used until the fifth Super Bowl (Bazley, 2023). In 1971, the Super Bowl was given a name in Roman numerals for the first time. Before this, the contest was formally called the “NFL-AFL Championship.” The fifth Super Bowl was played in 1971, and the names of the prior four contests were retrospectively assigned to them. Since then, the NFL has used Roman numerals to record the results of its championship games.

Tradition of Using Roman Numerals to Label Super Bowl Championships

Lamar Hunt used Roman numerals to keep track of the championship title bowls. The first game of this kind to be assigned a number using this approach was Super Bowl V. An example from the NFL media guide provides further details: The Super Bowl, the NFL Championship Game, is played the year after a season that is chronologically documented (Why, n.d.). Hence, the Roman numerals were selected to avoid any mistakes. After the fact, the first four Super Bowls were given the numbers I through IV.

The NFL decided to move to Roman numerals to give the Super Bowl a more legendary and traditional vibe. This is because the Super Bowl is played the year after the regular season, which runs from September through December. For instance, the Super Bowl winners for the 2022 season will be announced in February 2023. If the big game were referred to by either the season or the year – “Super Bowl 2022” or “Super Bowl 2023” – it would be simple to get confused. In addition to clearing up any ambiguity, the goal was to elevate the Super Bowl from a routine football game to a significant occasion that would last forever. Roman numerals contributed to the game’s current aura of heritage and distinction.

Surprisingly, Super Bowl 50 was the only Super Bowl game not to employ Roman numbers. The Super Bowl L title was considered too unappealing and unmarketable by NFL ad designers, so they elected to use the number 50 instead of the Roman numeral for 50, which is L. This infuriated a lot of football enthusiasts.

The “controversy” was succinctly summarized by Chris Chase of USA Today: “Preceding the use of Super Bowl L drew some early criticism that the league was dumbing things down for America as if clinging to an archaic counting system that was created without any foresight means we’re a nation of dunces. That’s nonsense. Roman numerals are like cursive: meaningless in the real world and not as pretty as people think.”


Though the Roman numerical system can be considered outdated, it is still widely used. The Super Bowl is among the most popular sports competitions using Roman numerals. This numerical system not only helps track championship title bowls but also brings this sports event a legendary and traditional vibe. The Super Bowl is now distinguished with the aura of heritage and distinction while using the Roman numerical system.


Bazley, H. (2023). Why does the Super Bowl use Roman Numerals? Best Sports DDS. https://www.bestsportsodds.com/news/why-does-the-super-bowl-use-roman-numerals.

Why does Super Bowl Use Roman Numerals? (n.d.). Roman Numerals. https://www.romannumerals.org/blog/why-does-super-bowl-use-roman-numerals-14.

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