Super Bowl LVII Is Almost Here! Here's Why the NFL Always Uses Roman Numerals

There is a good reason why the NFL adopted Roman numerals to name each Super Bowl game. Here's how to decode the NFL's Roman numeral game names.

Kelly Corbett - Author

Feb. 10 2023, Updated 2:36 p.m. ET

Source: Getty Images

Who’s ready for the big game? Super Bowl LVII will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. It'll be played between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Also stepping foot into the stadium that night will be new mom Rihanna, who will perform during the halftime show. As we near the big game, you probably have a lot of questions going through your mind.

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While we can’t predict the winner or tell you how much money you should bet on brackets, we can answer some simple inquiries about the game. Like, why does the Super Bowl exclusively use Roman numerals to name each year's game? Also, how exactly does one decipher these numerals? Keep scrolling to find out.

state farm stadium
Source: Getty Images

Super Bowl LVII will be played at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

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Why does the Super Bowl use Roman numerals to name its games?

To make sure we’re all on the same page, LVII stands for 57. As in the 57th Superbowl took place in 2023 between the Chiefs and Eagles.

But if you're sitting here wondering why the Super Bowl wasn't just named Super Bowl 57 or Super Bowl 2023, you're not alone. That's a great question.

According to the NFL, "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."

OK, cool, but what does all that mean exactly?

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Let's break it down: Each Super Bowl game takes place at the beginning of a new calendar year (typically in January, but sometimes February). But get this? The game is actually being counted for the season prior. For example, when the Los Angeles Rams won the last Super Bowl last year in 2022, they actually won the culminating game of the 2021 football season.

Therefore, it would get awfully confusing if the NFL opted to name each game by the season it was played.

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Furthermore, the late Lamar Hunt, who founded the Kansas City Chiefs and came up with the name Super Bowl, opted for using Roman numerals because they add "pomp and gravitas to the public mind." Not to mention, Roman numerals are internationally recognized, which makes it easier for people from all over the world to understand the event.

Here's how the NFL's Roman numerals system for naming games works.

Understanding how to read Roman numerals is easier said than done. To get started, let's take a look at Super Bowl LIV which took place in 2020. It was the 54th Super Bowl.

As we mentioned before, this year's game, Super Bowl LVII, is the 57th Super Bowl game. When it comes to the numerals, LIV and LVII are pretty similar except there is an extra I in the latter, and the V symbol have been switched. So how exactly do you read these and distinguish the difference? Learning the values of the Roman numerals is the first place to start:

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I represents 1.

V represents 5.

X represents 10.

L represents 50.

C represents 100.

D represents 500.

M represents 1,000.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, each number is deciphered from left to right, although you may be required to do a little math.

When a symbol follows a larger or equal symbol, the two numerals are added together. But if a smaller symbol appears before a larger symbol, the smaller numeral is subtracted from the larger one.

So, using our previous examples: Super Bowl LVII = 50 + [ 5 + 2 ] = Super Bowl 57.

However, Super Bowl LIV = 50 + [ 5 - 1 ] = Super Bowl 54.

The center prepares to snap the ball to the quarterback.
Source: Getty Images
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One exception: The NFL ditched Roman numerals for the 50th Super Bowl in 2014.

Every Super Bowl game has followed the rules of Roman numerals except for the 50th game in 2014. It was simply called Super Bowl 50.

As the league's vice president of brand and creative Jaime Weston told ESPN at the time, the "L" (aka the Roman numeral for 50) just wasn't very pleasing to the eye.

"When we developed the Super Bowl XL logo, that was the first time we looked at the letter L," Jaime said at the time. "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?"

The following year, the league returned to Roman numerals.

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