HOH: It's in the numbers

Posted Feb 12, 2012

Super Bowl roman numerals and Lamar Hunt. Chiefs History lives at

Lamar Hunt is credited for naming pro football’s championship game the Super Bowl and for suggesting the use of Roman numerals to give the game the status that he believed a competition of this stature needed.

Ever the showman, Hunt believed in creating excitement for his sporting enterprises and these were just two of his ideas, neither of which he believed deserved any special credit.  As a matter of fact, in a memo to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle in July of 1966, Hunt wrote of the first AFL-NFL championship:

“I have kiddingly called it ‘The Super Bowl,’ a name that obviously can be improved upon.”

This proves without hesitation that it was Hunt who fashioned the name Super Bowl and puts to rest any contention from some current researchers that the game was a natural outgrowth of such an idea.  (See Hunt and Pete Rozelle archives for proof.)

Well, over the years it hasn’t become improved upon and the name as well as the Roman numerals - heck, even the name of the championship trophy (The Vince Lombardi Trophy) was Hunt’s idea – are all now etched in sports lure.

But will it always be so?

A Washington Post columnist (February 4, 2011) by the name of Tracee Hamilton calls the use of Roman numerals in the big game “nonsense” and while in an attempt to poke a little sarcasm at their use – “did we gripe about the Redskins’ switch to a III-IV defense this season” – she misunderstands Hunt’s purpose. Still, she does have a point that in time they will become a bit unwieldy.  It will be a bit odd when Super Bowl MMMCMXCIX rolls around don’t you think?

Forgetting that this is just a newspaper column and someone has to have something to write going into Super Bowl weekend and this is kind of, I suppose might qualify as, how they say, “cute,” Miss Hamilton is right when she says there will be a problem as the numbers add up.

We all can probably stumble through the early numbers but as time marches on I’m certain we’ll all need a primer on what Super Bowl this exactly is, and the sponsors and layout artists will have to call upon their design props to make a go of it.

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