most fun thing was watching the development
of the Super Bowl because the game is what
it's all about. I really felt a high at
every Super Bowl with all the glitz and the
spectacular halftime shows.'' – Pete Rozelle
The big news just announced by the National
Football League is that the fiftieth Super
Bowl will not be designated by a Roman
numeral. It will simply be Super Bowl 50.
That is an incredible change of pace and
will save lots of us the trouble of counting
on our fingers tracing to figures things
Back in the day things were still much
simpler - -if more boring
The following flashback serves as a brief
preview of my scheduled 2015 opus on the
first Super Bowl - -working title: WHEN
IT WAS JUST A GAME.
The merger of the American Football League
and the National Football League led to the
need for a championship game. The first
contest was played on January 15, 1967. The
NFL’s Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers
squared off against the AFL’s underdog
Kansas City Chiefs coached by Hank Stram.
That first Super Bowl was played at the
Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles before
61,946. Yes, there were many empty seats –
the first and only time the legendary event
failed to sell out even with ticket prices
that topped out at $12.
The contest was officially known as the
AFL-NFL World Championship; however, its
unofficial name - the Super Bowl - was used
by media, fans and players.
The name stuck.
According to Lamar Hunt, Jr., whose dad
owned the Kansas City Chiefs and was the
force behind the creation of the AFL, the
high flying name came about at an owner's
meeting centered on what to call the game.
LAMAR HUNT, JR: I remember
showing my dad the Super Ball, the “whammy”
super ball and saying, “Hey look, this will
bounce over the house, this ball.”
You know, my dad was not
going to be preoccupied with toys that were
given to children. You know, he might have
bounced the ball. We just remember
But then what happened going
forward is my dad was in an owner’s meeting.
They were trying to figure out what to call
the last game, the championship game. I
don’t know if he had the ball with him as
some reports suggest.
My dad said, “Well, we need
to come up with a name, something like the
And then he said, “Actually,
that’s not a very good name. We can come up
with something better.”
But “Super Bowl” stuck in the
media and word of mouth.
It kind of came out of my
dad’s mouth. What do you want to call it?
Power of suggestion or just an idea or
whatever, it stuck.
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 NBC.
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 network dollars.
The networks charged $42,000 for a 30 second
commercial. Frank Gifford was a sidelines
reporter for CBS.
Ray Scott handled
the CBS play-by play for the first half
Jack Whitaker took
over in the second half.
Curt Gowdy and Paul
the NBC telecast.
There were many oddities and talking points
about that first game. Two jetpack pilots
shook hands at the 50 yard line after
landing there. Commercials for McDonald's
(then boasting of "Over Two Billion Served")
and Muriel cigars ("So much more cigar for
just 10 cents") were all the rage.
According to NFL Films President Steve Sabol,
Commissioner Pete Rozelle had wanted to call
the game "The Big One." That never came to
be. Neither did “Pro Bowl, another name the
NFL head man favored.
From the start (but not in that first game)
there were unique features to the Super
Bowl including its designation with a Roman
numeral rather than by a year - a move
attributed to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle
to give the game class and continuity. That
began with the third championship game
played in 1969.
Max McGee of the Packers became an
interesting footnote to Super Bowl history
in the first Super Bowl..
"I knew I wouldn't play unless (Boyd) Dowler
got hurt," he said later. So McGee went out
on the town the days (and nights) prior to
the game. Curfews, it seems, were there for
him to break. Then, the unimaginable
happened. Dowler suffered a separated
shoulder throwing a block on the opening
In came McGee who had caught only four
passes all season. He snared 7 passes for
138 yards, hauling in the first touchdown in
Super Bowl history—a 37-yard pass from Green
Bay's Bart Starr. He caught another 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
McGee stole the show and set a pattern 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, the right bounce for others.
Quarterback Bart Starr was the first Most
Valuable Player leading the Packers to a
35-10 victory over KC. Starr completed
16-of-23 passes for 250 yards and three
Today more Americans watch the Super Bowl
than vote in presidential elections.
Municipalities vigorously and ruthlessly
compete for the rights to host a game and
then work with the NFL, advertising and
talent agencies, merchandisers, security
personnel, and celebrity party planners more
than a year in advance fine tuning myriad
details. A couple of million large-screen
TVs are purchased weeks before the game.
The grandest and gaudiest annual one-day
spectacle in American sports, Super Bowl
Sunday has become an unofficial American
holiday with bragging rights to millions
of parties, betting pools, excessive
consumption of food and drink. TV networks
charge millions for a 30-second spot. Many
viewers do not even watch the game itself,
content to partake of the elaborate pre-game
or halftime entertainment.
It is all a mind boggling situation very
different from 1967 when the Chiefs and the
(to be continued)