Super Bowl XLVI? Kids Have No Idea What That Means

Roman numerals don't translate quite as easily for this generation

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 4, 2012 8:52 AM CST

(Newser) – Quick, how many Super Bowls have we had if this year's is XLVI? You may be able to come up with an answer off the top of your head, but most modern-day kids have no idea that XLVI translates to 46—even if they know what one or two of the Roman numerals, like X or I, mean by themselves. Nowadays, Roman numerals "only ever get used for things like copyrights or sporting events," one mom tells AP, "which in my humble opinion harkens even further back to the gladiatorial barbaric nature of things like the Super Bowl."

Schools only teach the extreme basics of the Roman system these days, the AP notes, which means that math-centric websites like Numericana.com get a lot of hits on Super Bowl Sunday by fans attempting to decipher the Roman numerals; last year, Numericana.com actually crashed. The tradition of using Roman numerals began with Super Bowl V in 1971, and back then the simpler numerals were easier to figure out. Why not just switch to No. 46? "It just kind of sounds like an inventory. 'Inspected by Joe,'" says an NFL historian. "Those Roman numerals, they're almost like trophies." The Kansas City Chiefs historian agrees: "It's much more magisterial." (Click to see why the forthcoming "Super Bowl L" poses a few problems.)

Eli Manning hopes to win the 46th Super Bowl.
Eli Manning hopes to win the 46th Super Bowl.   (Getty Images)
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