The French Revolution and the Super Bowl: Roman Numerals for Years

I watched the Superbowl today and briefly lamented the Seattle Seahawks' unfortunate loss. (They're Alaska's unofficial NFL team.) After my moment of caring about sports, however, my thoughts returned to something I'd tweeted earlier:


next year's logo (source)
Well, I found out there actually won't be a "Super Bowl L." It'll be officially labelled "Super Bowl 50," basically for the reason in my tweet: "Super Bowl L" would look dumb. In 2017, though, the NFL will return to its Roman numeral ways with Super Bowl LI.

I don't know who originally thought up keeping track of the National Football League's championships with Roman numerals, or what the arguments for it were among those who decided on it 49 or 50 years ago. Regardless, I can understand it was simply a decision based on style and marketing, and it's been a steady tradition kept for 49 years, with only a short interruption next year. Who knows, maybe the practice will end before the Super Bowl C vs. Super Bowl 100 choice rolls around. Nonetheless, it's a tradition Americans are familiar with, even if it still confuses us sometimes.

This use of Roman numerals got me thinking: Who else has labelled years with Roman numerals, ever since the widespread adoption of "Arabic" (Indo-Persian-Arab) numerals began centuries ago? There's just one answer I can think of—the French.

a French Republican calendar
(source)
Yes, here's a short history lesson for those who weren't aware: During the French Revolution, the revolutionary government decided to adopt a new, radical calendar that did away with all references to religion and neutralized impractical crap like having inconsistent numbers of days per month. (I discuss related issues in my post "Decimalization: New Ways Forward.") Additionally, the French began counting their years from when their Republic was established—September 22nd, 1792. The calendar was adopted near the beginning of the year III, and the French kept counting from there. Had the Republic lasted, the French might be in the year CCXXIII today.

As it turned out, though, Napoleon sent his country from the year XIV back up to 1806, where the rest of Europe and European America was, and France has stayed with us ever since. The experiment in Roman numeral years was short-lived, and in the end there's just one takeaway:

The NFL has been a lot more hard-headed than the French.

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