After 49 increasingly complex years of writing our Super Bowls, the NFL has made things slightly easier this year. This year's Super Bowl is called "Super Bowl 50" rather than "Super Bowl L" after 49 years of Super Bowls described by Roman numerals.
The change is temporary. The NFL will return to Roman numerals next year with Super Bowl LI. But the designers of the Super Bowl logo just didn't like the way "Super Bowl L" looked.
"When we developed the Super Bowl XL logo, that was the first time we looked at the letter L," (NFL vice president of brand/creative Jaime) Weston said. "Up until that point, we had only worked with X's, V's and I's. And, at that moment, that's when we started to wonder: What will happen when we get to 50?"
Weston said her team has been working on the Super Bowl 50 logo since April 2013, having gone through 73 versions. At some point along the way, it was concluded that having the "L" stand alone didn't work.
It's a break from a tradition started in 1971, the first Super Bowl after the AFL-NFL Merger. Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who also coined the name "Super Bowl," liked that the Olympics used Roman numerals and felt it added pomp and gravitas to the all-important championship game.
It's an incredibly minor change: We still call the game "Super Bowl Fifty" with our mouths, just like we called last year's "Super Bowl Forty-Nine." It's an incredibly minor change, and I think it's really stupid and want to yell at the people who made it.
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Roman numerals are a trash numbering system. The Etruscans developed a system of counting similar to tally marks, the Romans made a few tweaks and somehow conquered the entirety of Europe while using a numerical system a toddler would develop.
There's no zero. The numbers don't have places. There's no symbol higher than a thousand, which is a problem, because there are lots of numbers that have many thousands. You have to write "four" as "five minus one" and nine as "ten minus one" and "forty" as "fifty minus ten" because otherwise you'd have to write four of the same symbol in a row, and that would be ugly. This subtractive method of constructing numerals means you actually have to do math just to write some numbers that you are using for math.
Multiplication and division are damn near impossible to visualize if Roman numerals are your only frame of reference. I cannot fathom how the Romans undertook some of the world's most impressive engineering projects using this garbage-ass method of counting stuff. It's not surprising that the acceptance of Hindu-Arabic numerals in the Middle Ages was almost immediately followed by a dramatic uptick in math, science, art and everything else besides dying of the Black Plague while tilling a field for your feudal lord.
For some reason, Roman numerals still creep into our lives in a few ways. We put them on grandfather clocks, probably because they used to be on sundials. We put them on buildings to signify construction dates, probably because Romans used to do that on all those aforementioned dope architectural feats, and we like feeling like the Romans when we build stuff. We put them as the publication date in movie credits, allegedly because it will prevent people watching movies on TV from realizing how old the movie they're watching is.
And we put them on grand events, like Olympics, WrestleManias and Super Bowls. Why? Because it lends gravitas. Why does it lend gravitas? Because an important bunch of dead people used it millennia ago, I guess.
We bought this reasoning for 49 years. We bought it back when it was Super Bowl V and Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl X, and by the time we got to Super Bowl XXV, it was a deeply ingrained tradition. And then we were stuck with Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XLIV and Super Bowl XLVII. The names were confusing and difficult to write, but we put up with them, because that's the way it was.
The numbers in the 30s and 40s are confusing to write in Roman numerals, but there was a light on the horizon. Because the Roman numeral for 50 is simply "L" and not "XXXXX." Finally, this year, we could easily write the Super Bowl's name.
Except, somehow, the folks at the NFL's creative department couldn't come up with a way to represent "Super Bowl L" in a pretty way.
HOW? This is the easy one! This is the one that only has one letter, instead of an entire word's worth of X's and V's and I's! How is this the one that stumps you?
No! This is the smallest, most reasonable change, and I'm furious about it! Y'all made me write "Super Bowl XXXVIII." X. X. X. V. I. I. I. We could've just written "38," and it would've been easily distinguishable from Super Bowl 37. Instead, we used seven letters, for the sake of tradition.
The NFL asked us to use a dead civilization's trash numbers for decades. I am furious that they stripped us of the opportunity to use the only reasonable Roman numeral there is.
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