The First Super Bowl Was a Thrill
The very long National Football League
season is now over. The losers and their fans look to the ultimate game
- - and the winners and their fans rejoice in the big competition.
Hype, hoopla, histrionics and sometimes a great game is the result of
all the activity.
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 Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers squared
off against the Kansas City Chiefs.
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 was not too taken with the long and
ordinary sounding suggestions for what would become professional
football's ultimate game.
Squeezing the ball, he 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 history.
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.
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
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
as he led 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
"I knew I wouldn't play unless (Boyd) Dowler got hurt," he said in 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. 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.
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
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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College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage
in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
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