From the First to
Super Bowl 51
By Harvey Frommer
The very long National Football League
season is now over. Now we all look ahead to “the ultimate
Hype, hoopla, histrionics and sometimes a great game is the result of
Super Bowl is America at its
best and also America at its worst. American conspicuous consumption.
grossness. American fandom, American power. American marketing.
ingenuity. American skills and talent. All are on parade, all turned
in at the same time for the same event. All of that is the greatest
the greatest weakness of the big game.
in the dead of winter in the
United States across various time zones, the “Super Bowl” on “Super
become a de facto American holiday, right up there with Christmas, New
Eve, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. For many, better.
it all came to be is in many ways more
fascinating than whatit has become. The
merger of the American Football League and the National Football League
the need for a championship game. The first contest was played on
1967 The Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers squared off against the
although the contest was
officially known as the AFL-NFL World Championship, its unofficial name
Super Bowl - was used in the media, the fans and the players, and the
for how the high flying
name came about is that at an owner's meeting centered on what to call
game, owner Lamar Hunt had a "super ball" in his pocket that he had
taken away from his youngster earlier in the day. Hunt was
not too taken with the long and ordinary
sounding suggestions for what would become professional football's
the story goes, squeezing the
ball, he suggested the name “Super Bowl.” His suggestion was not
much enthusiasm by the assembled group. Nevertheless, he mentioned the
a reporter who loved it and, as they say, the rest is history.
first game witnessed the first
dual-network, color-coverage simulcast of a sports event in history,
attracted the largest viewership to ever see a sporting event up to
The Nielsen rating indicated that 73 million fans watched all or part
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
NBC's loyalty was to the AFL - a league it had virtually created with
From the start
there were special
features to the Super Bowl including its designation with a Roman
rather than by a year - a move on the part of NFL Commissioner Pete
give the contest a sense of class.
Super Bowl was played at
the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles before 61,946. Quarterback Bart
the first Most Valuable Player as he led the Packers to a 35-10 victory
Kansas City. Starr completed 16-of-23 passes for 250 yards and three
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
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
the opening series.
In came the 11-year veteran
had caught only four passes all season. He snared 7 passes for 138
and Starr hooked up in the first quarter for a 37-yard score, and again
end of the third quarter for a 13-yard touchdown. Elijah Pitts ran for
other scores. The Chiefs' 10 points came in the second quarter, their
touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Len Dawson to Curtis McClinton.
Max McGee stole the show and set a pattern in that first
Super Bowl that would be part of the ultimate
history of unlikely heroes, strange twists of fate, footballs taking a
bounce for some teams and the right bounce for others.
knows what history holds in store for 2017’s Super Bowl?
Dr. Harvey Frommer is
a noted oral
historian and sports journalist, the author of 43 sports books
classics: best-selling New York City Baseball, 1947-1957,g “Shoeless
Ragtime Baseball. He also authored the acclaimed Remembering Yankee
best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His “The Ultimate Yankee book”
will be to
be published fall 2017.
copies of When It Was Just A Game: Remembering the
First Super Bowl are available from the author.