Roman Numerals Get the X in Super Bowl

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 6.09.12 PMI 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.

Football Haiku

For a moment put aside the extracurriculars of professional football-the money, the smack talk, the police records of prominent players-and just watch the athletes. Watch a play set in motion, the choreography of who runs where, the focus, grace, and power of a superstar receiver as he pulls an impossible pass out of mid-air, hugs to his chest and fends off would-be tacklers. I am not the first to recognize the poetry, nor am I the first to put it in haiku form. Heck, it’s fun to write about play off the field, too. Enjoy.

Polamalu’s hair,
insured for a cool million,
sells dandruff shampoo.

Ben Roethlisberger
tested team’s code of conduct.
His word against hers.

Is that a gun in
Plaxico’s sweatpants or is
he glad to see me?

Retire at your peak,
some say, to preserve legend.
Brett Favre should have listened.

Men in spandex pants
bent over before the snap.
No close-ups, thank you.

Bieber and Ozzy
to star in Superbowl ad,
in Tron costumes. Ecchh.

Pressure Tom Brady
and the Patriots will fall
just like the redcoats.

Coach Jimmie Johnson
silver hair, saggy man boobs
kicked off Survivor

Rex Ryan can fit
several feet in his mouth.
Kink, or weight loss plan?

Care to indulge in a bit of word play and write your own? Let’s hear it!