(From the Vault)
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
Super Bowl is an invention of American business. It is American
business.” - Roger Angell
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 empty seats – the first and only time the legendary event failed to
sell out even with ticket prices that topped out at $12.
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.
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 appropriated from his youngster earlier in the
day. Not too taken with the long and ordinary sounding suggestions for
what would become professional football's ultimate game, Lamar Hunt
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.
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.
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.
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 while
Jack Whitaker took over in the second half.
Curt Gowdy and Paul
Christman handled the NBC telecast.
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.
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.
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.
of the Packers became an interesting footnote to Super Bowl history.
"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
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 McClinton.
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 touchdowns.
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.
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 as much as $2.5
million 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. The 2012 Super Bowl drew a television viewership of 111.3
It is all
a mind boggling situation very different from 1967 when the Chiefs and
the Packers clashed. And soon Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans will be
upon us. Watch out.
Frommer is at work on REMEMBERING SUPER BOWL ONE: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE
HISTORY. He welcomes hearing from anyone with memories, perceptions,
leads, memorabilia for his newest book. ****
# # #
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
five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth
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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