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Super Bowl: Why does the NFL use Roman numerals for the game?

It’s one of the longest traditions associated with the big game.

Tampa Prepares For Pared-Down Super Bowl During Pandemic Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images

In 2016, the NFL abandoned the use of Roman numerals for the 50th Super Bowl, which would have been Super Bowl L had it been used. A year later and the NFL returned with Super Bowl LI. But this leaves one important question: Why do we use Roman numerals for the Super Bowl?

The answer is actually not as complicated as people might expect. Here’s one explanation from an NFL media guide:

The Roman numerals were adopted to clarify any confusion that may occur because the NFL Championship Game—the Super Bowl—is played in the year following a chronologically recorded season. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls.

Makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Despite being played in 2021, Super Bowl LV will be crowning the champion of the 2020 NFL season. Also in 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs technically won the 2019 championship, and trying to make so many qualifiers hurts the brain after a while. It’s a lot easier to just say “the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV.”

As mentioned above, the NFL removed the Roman numeral for Super Bowl 50, robbing us of a chance to say the Denver Broncos “took the L” by winning that game (or endless references to Cam Newton taking plenty of Ls that day). But it’s been back for years and we couldn’t be happier. May we all live long enough to see Super Bowl C one day.

Super Bowl LV kicks off on Feb. 7 with the Chiefs defending their LIV title against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.