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

Kelly Corbett - Author
By

Feb. 8 2022, Published 8:46 p.m. ET

Who’s ready for the big game? Super Bowl LVI will take place on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. It'll be played between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Also stepping foot into the stadium that night will be Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar, who will all be performing during the halftime show. As the days lead up to 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.

SoFi Stadium
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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, Super Bowl LVI stands for 56. As in, the 56th Super Bowl game will be played between the Rams and the Bengals in February 2022.

But if you're sitting here wondering why the Super Bowl wasn't just named Super Bowl 56 or Super Bowl 2022, you're not alone. That's a great question.

According to the 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."

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 Tom Brady won his last Super Bowl in 2021, he actually won the culminating game of the 2020 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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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 that took place in 2020. It was the 54th Super Bowl.

As we mentioned before, this year's game, Super Bowl LVI, is the 56th Super Bowl game. When it comes to the numerals, LIV and LVI are pretty similar except the I and V symbol are 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:

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 LVI = 50 + [ 5 + 1 ] = Super Bowl 56.

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

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The center prepares to snap the ball to the quarterback.
Source: Getty Images

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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