What does LVIII mean? Decoding the Roman numerals for Super Bowl 2024
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: As the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers gear up to face off in Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday, February 11, many fans are puzzling over the meaning of the Roman numerals used to designate each year's big game, per NBC Sports.
Unlike regular Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), Roman numerals employ combinations of letters to represent numbers. So what do those letters stand for, and why does the NFL insist on using this archaic system for its championship match? We break it down below.
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When did Roman numerals become part of the Super Bowl tradition?
The use of Roman numerals to number the modern Super Bowls began with the very first championship game in 1967 (then dubbed the 'AFL-NFL World Championship Game'). According to popular legend, Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt was the one who came up with the idea.
Hunt believed that Roman numerals would imbue the contest with a sense of grandeur and tradition, while also neatly sidestepping confusion over the year.
Since the NFL season finale spills over into the following calendar year, dubbing the game by its season rather than the year it takes place avoids potential mix-ups. For example, this Sunday's showdown is considered Super Bowl LVIII even though it's taking place in 2024.
Over 50 years later, Hunt's suggestion continues to lend a dash of old-world flair and mystique to professional football's most hotly anticipated event each year.
How to decode Roman numerals for this year's Super Bowl?
For those who slept through history class or simply need a refresher, Roman numerals represent numbers using combinations of the following seven letters:
V (5) X (10) L (50)
C (100) D (500) M (1,000)
Unlike the decimal system we use today where position determines a digit's value (ones place, tens place, etc.), in Roman numerals each letter retains its value no matter where it falls within the number. So VII is 7 (V+II) and IV is 4 (V-I).
Roman numerals also follow a 'subtractive' rule. In numbers with more than one digit, when a letter of lower value precedes a letter of higher value, you subtract the first number from the second. So IX is 9 (X-I), XL is 40 (L-X) and XC is 90 (C-X).
With these basic rules, deciphering the Roman numeral for any Super Bowl is straightforward. This year's LVIII simply translates to 58: L = 50, V = 5, and III = 3.
The curious case of Super Bowl 50
In 2015, when it came time to assign Roman numerals for the 50th Super Bowl, things hit a bit of a snag. Representing 50 using a standard Roman numeral would result in the letter L. But the NFL shied away from this designation since 'L' signifies 'loss' in sports vernacular. Plus, it lacked gravitas for such a momentous occasion.
As a result, the 2015 championship went down in history books as a numeric outlier: Super Bowl 50. Arabic numbers were employed exclusively for this game while Roman numerals picked back up again the following year with Super Bowl LI.