Are NFL Fans Tired of the Super Bowl’s Roman Numerals?

What web searches for the big game can tell us

Roman numerals on dice
When you think of this year's Super Bowl, do you think of it as Super Bowl LV?
Achim Raschka/Creative Commons

Pop quiz: If you went to your search engine of choice, how would you go about looking up information on this year’s Super Bowl?

Formally, it’s Super Bowl LV, but that’s not how most people are referring to it when they go to Google, Bing or some other service. Writing at Sportico, Jacob Feldman explored the growing gulf between the game’s official title and how people actually think of it.

Feldman points out that the Super Bowl held in a given year determines the champion of the season that ended the year before — in other words, next Sunday’s game will will crown the champion of the 2020 NFL season, making “Super Bowl 2021” a bit confusing as an official title for the game. The Roman numerals entered usage in 1971 to address this issue.

However, a look at a number of Google searches provides a telling look at how people are actually thinking of the game. Close to 10 times as many people are searching for “2021 Super Bowl” as they are searching for “Super Bowl LV.” Those proportions are similar, though not quite as pronounced, for “Super Bowl 2021” and “Super Bowl LV.”

As Feldman notes, the use of Roman numerals has led to some frustratingly dense logos over the years, including Super Bowl XXXVIII. With some debate over whether people still need to know Roman numerals at all, it’s not hard to see why the discussion remains heated. Though this year is also far from the only time a Super Bowl has prompted this conversation; a 2012 HuffPost article raised similar concerns. That one coincided with Super Bowl XLVI.

Second pop quiz: What’s LV minus XLVI? Your response to that might point to where you stand on the “Roman numerals or not” debate.

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