With the next Super Bowl almost upon us, here is a flashback to my opus of the first one - - -and ten things I learned researching, interviewing, writing the book. Enjoy.
1. Other rivals to the NFL through the decades had sprung up: American Football League (1926), American Football League (1936–1937), American Football League (1940–1941), All-America Football Conference (1946–1949) None of them had the financial muscle and the organizational skills behind them that Lamar Hunt’s American Football League, had.
2. One of Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s suggestions for the name of the new game was "The Big One." That name never caught on. “Pro Bowl,” did not work. “World Series of Football.” That died quickly. It was deemed too imitative of baseball’s Fall Classic.
3. Quarterback Bart Starr of the Packers on Vince Lombardi: It was a fabulous experience all of us had playing for him, being coached by him. I could hardly wait for the next morning to get into the meeting to start that day off. He made everything so exciting, so challenging. He was a brilliant teacher and because of it he was a fabulous coach.
4. KC player Ed Lothamer said of Kansas City Coach Hank Stram: There were times when he had practices and a band playing. If an entertainer or celebrity was in Kansas City, often they would call Hank, and Hank would invite them to come over and watch practice. People like Muhammad Ali, Jim Nabors, Al Hirt, Edie Gorme and Steve Lawrence, all watched us practice. You never knew who was going to pop up.
5. Prior to that first Super Bowl Game on January 15, 1967 – the Packers and the Chiefs has never played against each other. Actually, no NFL team had ever played against an AFL team – even an exhibition game.
6. The Saturday night before the game even chubby Jackie Gleason, one of the famed comedians of that era, got into the act by ending his CBS television urging his huge audience to make sure to tune in the next day to CBS and watch the world championship football game.
“It’s gonna be murder!” Gleason bellowed
There were those who thought “The Great One” went a bit too far, that he was too much of a shill for his CBS network that carried the NFL broadcasts.
7. Some celebrities of the time at the game included: famed movie and TV stars Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Chuck Connors, Danny Thomas, CBS TV anchor Walter Cronkite, comedian and serious sports fan Bob Hope, late night TV host Johnny Carson.
8. Two different footballs were used in the game. When the NFL Packers were on offense, they used the NFL ball and when the AFL Chiefs were on offense, the AFL ball was used.
9. Two kick-offs incredibly took place to start the game’s second half because NBC-TV was in commercial for the first one and a “do over” was allowed.
10. Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s wish was that the game would one day surpass baseball’s World Series. It would do much more than that.
With that first game history - The Super Bowl has evolved into the grandest, grossest, gaudiest annual one-day spectacle in the annals of American sports and culture. All of this incredibly spun off the game that was played that January day in 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a game that for a time lacked a name, a venue, an identity, a game that didn’t even sell out.
One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone. In 2010, he was honored by the City of New York to serve as historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field.
. A professor for more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also the founder of www.HarveyFrommerSports.com.
His newest book is The Ultimate Yankee Book http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html
Autographed copies of When It Was Just A Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl are available from the author.
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About the Author:
Written by acclaimed sports author and oral historian Dr. Harvey Frommer, with an introduction by pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, When It Was Just a Game tells the fascinating story of the ground-breaking AFL–NFL World Championship Football game played on January 15, 1967: Packers vs. Chiefs. Filled with new insights, containing commentary from the unpublished memoir of Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram, featuring oral history from many who were at the game—media, players, coaches, fans—the book is mainly in the words of those who lived it and saw it go on to become the Super Bowl, the greatest sports attraction the world has ever known. Archival photographs and drawings help bring the event to life.
Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College, is in his 40th year of writing books. The author of hundreds of articles and 43 sports books including the classics: best-selling New York City Baseball, 1947-1957 and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball ,the prolific Frommer also authored the acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium (second edition 2016) and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park..He is at work on “the Ultimate Yankee book” to be published in 2017.
Together with his wife Myrna Katz Frommer, he has written the acclaimed oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami.
Along with his wife Myrna Katz Frommer, he is a professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College where he teaches oral and cultural history. Dr. Frommer has also taught "Sports Journalism" and "Sports and Culture" at Dartmouth College, Adelphi and New York University.
Frommer’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, The Sporting News, Men's Health and other publications.
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*Autographed copies of Frommer books in mint condition are available .