I don’t blog much about football, unless it’s haiku about Troy Polamalu’s hair. But when my husband told me about this story, I couldn’t help but mess with it. The story, that is. Not so much Polamalu’s hair. I’m afraid that if I stick my hand in there, I might never see it again.
Anyway. February 7 will mark the fiftieth Super Bowl. The NFL has been using Roman numerals after “Super Bowl” for…let’s just say for almost as long as I’ve been alive. On the surface, the convention doesn’t appear to make sense. It’s 2016, so why not call the sports-a-palooza “Super Bowl 2016” in the very sensible way that hockey and baseball handle their championships? But the NFL season splits the calendar year, so to be absolutely accurate, you’d have to call it “Super Bowl 2015-2016,” and nobody wants to put all those characters on a T-shirt. Or a beer cozy, a cap, a foam finger, or all those Doritos posters.
So I can see why they opted for the Roman numerals in the first place. And for a while, all those Xs looked kinda fun and powerful. It gives an impression of gladiators duking it out, except with better padding and a halftime show.
But I can just imagine what went on at the marketing meeting as the NFL got ready for publicizing the golden anniversary of the Big Game.
“So, hey, what are we gonna call this thing?”
“Uh, it’s fifty, so we just change the numbers, right? Toss another X or I on there, right?”
“Dude. Fifty in Roman numerals is L.”
“Super Bowl L? What the hell is that? Nobody knows what that means. X and I, they get. Maybe V, if they’re smart. But L? Most people are gonna think Superman’s playing football on Krypton or something.”
And…meeting adjourned. Cue the promotion department to break out the Maalox and trash seventeen boxes of merchandise.
Super Bowl 50 it is. But don’t worry, traditionalists. The Roman numerals are returning next year with Super Bowl LI.
The official story of the temporary suspension is that the designers couldn’t come up with an aesthetically pleasing way to render the “L.”
I call bull on that one. I’ve been a designer; I know designers; we specialize in finding solutions. And how would the “L” be less challenging than next year’s “LI,” which will probably end up looking like a “U”? The more likely story is that the change in convention was a marketing call, because I’m also a marketing person and I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings. I know what goes on there. I’m willing to bet my Super Bowl 50 commemorative chip-and-dip bowl that it was the Krypton thing.