The Super, Super Bowl! Or "Who Dat?"
The triumph of the New Orleans Saints over the Colts
of Indianapolis in Super Bowl 44 was watched by more than 106
million people, the biggest audience for a television event ever.
The hype, the hoopla, histrionics and the attendance
and global village on parade all underscored just how far the event
has come from what now seems like a modest start on January 15,
The merger of the American Football League and the
National Football League led to the need for a championship game.
The Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers squared off against the Kansas
And, although the contest was officially known as the
AFL-NFL World Championship, its unofficial name - the Super Bowl -
was used in the media, the fans and the players, and the name stuck.
One theory for how the high flying name came about is
that at an owner's meeting centered on what to call the game, one of
the moguls had a "super ball" in his pocket that he had taken away
from his youngster earlier in the day. The owner, not bemused enough
by the long and ordinary sounding suggestions for what would become
professional football's ultimate game, squeezed the bal and
suggested the name Super Bowl. His suggestion was not greeted with
much enthusiasm by the assembled group. Nevertheless, he mentioned
the name to a reporter who loved it and, as they say, the rest is
The first Super Bowl witnessed the first
dual-network, color-coverage simulcast of a sports event in history,
and attracted the largest viewership to ever see a sporting event up
to that time. The Nielsen rating indicated that 73 million fans
watched all or part of the game on one of the two networks, CBS or
In actuality, the game was a contest between the two
leagues and the two networks. CBS' allegiance was to the NFL. NBC's
loyalty was to the AFL - a league it had virtually created with its
From the start there were special features to the
Super Bowl including its designation with a Roman numeral rather
than by a year - a move on the part of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle
to give the contest a sense of class.
That first Super Bowl was played at the Memorial
Coliseum in Los Angeles before 61,946. Quarterback Bart Starr was
the first Most Valuable Player, leading the Packers to a 35-10
victory over Kansas City. Starr completed 16-of-23 passes for 250
yards and three touchdowns.
Max McGee of the Packers became an interesting
footnote to Super Bowl history. "I knew I wouldn't play unless
(Boyd) Dowler got hurt," he said in later years.
So McGee went out on the town the days (and nights)
prior to the game. Curfews, it seems, were there for him to break.
He stayed out until 7:30 a.m. on the day of the game. Then, the
unimaginable happened. Dowler suffered a separated shoulder throwing
a block on the opening series.
In came the 11-year veteran McGee who had caught only
four passes all season. He snared 7 passes for 138 yards. McGee and
Starr hooked up in the first quarter for a 37-yard score, and again
at the end of the third quarter for a 13-yard touchdown. Elijah
Pitts ran for two other scores. The Chiefs' 10 points came in the
second quarter, their only touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Len
Dawson to Curtis McClinton.
But Max McGee stole the show and set a pattern in
that first Super Bowl that would be part of the ultimate game's
history of unlikely heroes, strange twists of fate, footballs taking
a wrong bounce for some teams and the right bounce for others.
Witness what happened in Super Bowl last.
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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