Time For The Super Bowl To Drop Roman Numerals?
Time to end a 41 year tradition?
Some people are wondering if it isn’t time for the NFL to ditch Roman numerals, especially considering that the 50th Anniversary of the one of the world’s biggest sporting events will be symbolized by the letter L if they don’t:
The NFL is four years away from its 50th Super Bowl, which means it is already trying to plan around a peculiar self-inflicted marketing nuisance: How can the world’s most powerful sports league get around putting a big, fat “L” on hundreds of thousands of souvenir T-shirts?
The first thing the winning players will do when Sunday’s game ends is drape themselves in celebratory gear emblazoned with the Super Bowl logo. This year, that logo consists of the Lombardi Trophy above the silver Roman numerals XLVI.
But come 2016, the Roman numeral for Super Bowl L happens to be the lone letter that most connotes losing.
“Wouldn’t that be a nice time to switch over to Arabic numerals?” said Bob Dorfman, the executive creative director for Baker Street Advertising.
The NFL has been using Roman numerals to identify each Super Bowl game since Super Bowl V in 1971 when then-Commissioner Pete Rozzelle made the move in the apparently belief that it would help add to the hype of a game that, at that point, still had not reached the level of hype and anticipation that surrounds it today. On some level, the Roman numerals probably have added a level of mystique and importance to the game that something like “Super Bowl 22” probably wouldn’t do. Without the Roman numerals, in fact, it’s quite probable that the nomenclature would evolved into something similar to what other sports do and that, this year, we’d be getting ready for the “2012 Super Bowl” or something similar.
One could also argue that, at some point, there’s not really any need to number the games at all. Baseball certainly doesn’t do it. Otherwise the Texas Rangers would have been meeting the St. Louis Cardinals in World Series CVII. Of course, it’s different for the NFL. They’ve used Roman numerals to name each Super Bowl for 42 years now. Changing it is going to seem odd and may actually harm the brand a little bit.
What to do about the L in 2016, then? Well, there are a couple ideas:
In the next four years, the NFL may unearth new means of interpretation for the L. McCarthy dryly noted it could stand for “learning” or “love.” Just as Super Bowl XL in 2006 was tailor-made for apparel, Dorfman suggested the NFL could spin Super Bowl L as the largest Super Bowl ever.
Then there is the option of awarding Super Bowl L to a city that might integrate the Roman numeral into a logo. Colts owner Jim Irsay said this week that London remained a possibility for Super Bowl L. The site of the first Super Bowl, Los Angeles, currently lacks an NFL franchise but is considered a contender for the 2016 game. “We’re well aware of where the first Super Bowl was held,” McCarthy said.
The Los Angeles option would seem the most sensible, both because it would bring the game back to the place that it started half a century before and because I’m not sure that playing the game outside the United States makes all that much sense to begin with. When it comes down to the question of whether to keep the Roman numerals or dump them, though, I’ve got to say that I come down on the side of tradition. Besides, who doesn’t want to be around for Super Bowl XCVIII?
H/T: Ann Althouse, who has a poll up about this issue.
Photo via IBD Times