This year’s game will be Super Bowl XLIII, but I’d be surprised if there are more than DC or DCC football fans in all L states combined who could tell you off the top of their heads that XLIII is number 43. Roman numerals may be appropriate for royalty: Louis XVI, Elizabeth II. We also tolerate the use of Roman numerals for legal documents: “The provisions of Title IX, as the plaintiff asserts, are hereby…” and so forth. But to use that system of numerical notation for a head-knocking, bone-crunching game of football just seems wrong.
I wonder if the National Football League decided to go with Roman numerals to cover the mistake they made by naming it the Super Bowl. OK, the prefix super- does mean “above” or “beyond”, and the league’s top brass probably wanted to suggest that their bowl was above and beyond all those bowl games the college kids play. In common usage, though, super has lost its value; it has become prosaic, as in “Your hair looks super today, Joyce,” or “Did you want to super-size that burger?”
Back in MCMLXVI when the NFL executives were brainstorming about what to call their biggest game, maybe they should have stayed at the conference table a little longer…
“Whatd’ya got, Ernie?” ”I dunno — Sun Bowl?” “Already taken. Dwayne?” “I’m thinking — you ready for this? The Hegemony Bowl.” “…The what?” “”Hegemony. It means world domination, and I think that kind of captures what we’re all about here.”
After a lot of paper shuffling and throat-clearing, it was agreed that Super Bowl would be a place-holder name — just for the time being, they assured each other. Then someone suggested that using Roman numerals to designate each year’s edition would give the game a touch of class.
“Hm. Yeah, it’s pretentious — I like it.”
With that, the meeting was adjourned, and we’ve been stuck with Super Bowl ever since.
As far as the 2009 Super Bowl is concerned, here’s my prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers XXVII Arizona Cardinals XXI. Enjoy the game. Oh — and Hail, Caesar!