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How the Super Bowl Got Started

History of the Super Bowl

Every February Americans gather to celebrate the National Football League’s championship game. Some gather just for the food or the alcohol, while others are genuinely excited to cheer their team to a win (or loss), and others still are simply excited to be a part of the party atmosphere. If you’ve been living under a rock, the game is called the Super Bowl and it’s a big thing. In fact, it is not just a thing, it is THE thing. Super Bowl Sunday has become an unofficial holiday in the United States, with an estimated 16.5 million people missing work the Monday after the Super Bowl.

The First Super Bowl 1967

Green Bay Packers vs Kansas City Chiefs at the first Super Bowl game in Los Angeles, California – January 15, 1967 (ABC News)

But Why is there a Super Bowl and How Did it Get Started?

The American Professional Football Association (APFA) was started in 1920 with 10 teams from four states in different parts of the country. In 1922 the APFA was renamed the National Football League (NFL) and eventually became the first professional football league to establish a nationwide presence. There are only two founding teams that are still a part of the NFL, the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals). The oldest continually operating franchise with the same name and in the same location in the National Football League is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were founded in 1919 and joined the NFL in 1921.

Bart Starr Green Bay Packers First Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers QB Bart Starr in the first Super Bowl – 1967 (

The NFL struggled during its early days, but started to become more stable by the late 1920s / early 1930s and had its first official championship game in 1933. Things became even more stable after World War II, when the the NFL President’s office was changed to a more powerful Commissioner system. And, in 1952 the NFL absorbed three teams (San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Colts – now the Indianapolis Colts) from the briefly successful rival league, the “All-American Football Conference.”

The Greatest Game Ever Played

Contrary to popular opinion, a game played in 1958 was NOT the first Super Bowl and should not be thought of as such. The 1958 National Football League Championship Game was the 26th NFL Championship Game and was the first NFL playoff game to go into sudden death overtime. The game was between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants and held at Yankee Stadium in New York City. The final score was Baltimore Colts, 23, New York Giants, 17.

Greatest Game Ever Played - 1958 NFL Championship

The 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants was the first ever NFL playoff game to go into sudden-death overtime. The game is commonly known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” (YouTube)

One reason this game was so popular is because the game was televised on NBC. Then, of course, there was the stellar play of Baltimore receiver Raymond Berry who intercepted the ball 12 times, rushed for 178 yards, and scored a touchdown. The record of 12 inceptions in one game stood for 55 years.

The Beginning of the AFL

In 1946, De Benneville “Bert” Bell was hired as the new Commissioner of the NFL, but he would accept the job only on one condition: the headquarters must be moved from Chicago to Philadelphia. The unusual condition was accepted, and the headquarters of the NFL was moved to Walnut Street in Philadelphia from 1946 until 1959, until Bell’s death from a heart attack at a football game. Shortly after his death, the office was relocated to Manhattan, New York where it remains today.

In 1950, the NFL had a monopoly on professional football in the United States. However, by the 1960s, a group of professional football owners nicknamed “The Foolish Club” were tired of trying to buy their way into the NFL. These men, Harry Wismer, Ralph Wilson, Lamar Hung, and Bud Adams were tired of the monopoly of the NFL and decided to form a rival league called the the American Football League (AFL). This was the eighth professional league to use the name American Football League and was only the fourth to be considered a major competitor to the NFL.

Lamar Hunt and the Foolish Club

Lamar Hunt and the Foolish Club (

Things went along with the two leagues vying to be the premier American football league for a while. But, problems eventually started to get the best of both leagues. Problems such as separate college drafts which served to drive up the players salaries’ and general competition between the leagues for top players became major issues. In 1965, quarterback Joe Namath signed with the New York Jets of the AFL for $427,000, instead of an NFL team as was the general consensus. Then in 1966, the New York Giants broke the “unwritten agreement” between the two leagues and signed placekicker Pete Gogolak who was, at the time, under contract with the AFL’s Buffalo Bills. This angered AFL Commissioner Al Davis so much that he made it his mission to sign players away from the NFL.

At this point some NFL franchise owners, such as Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm, met with AFL owners to negotiate a player agreement. And, a deal was negotiated between Schramm and Lamar Hunt on June 8, 1966. The new deal assured there would now be a common draft and an end-of-the season World Championship game which would come to be known as the Super Bowl.

The First Super Bowl

January 15, 1967 was the day when, for the first time, the NFL and the AFL would meet for a championship game – AKA the Super Bowl – between the two leagues. The game was held at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the teams were the Green Bay Packers from the NFL and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The AFL was still relatively new and Green Bay was favored to win. 60 million people tuned in to watch the Packers dominate the Chiefs on national television.

The First Super Bowl Jan 15 1967 - Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The first Super Bowl – January 15, 1967. Packers vs Chiefs. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with Goodyear Blimp flying overhead. (

The Chiefs kept up with the Packers in the first half of the game and at halftime, Green Bay only lead by a score of 14-10. After halftime though, the Packers broke away from the Chiefs and scored three touchdowns, while holding the Chiefs scoreless. The final score of the first Super Bowl was Packers 35, Chiefs 10. The quarterback for the Packers, Bryan Bartlett “Bart” Starr, completed 16 out of 23 passes on that night and was declared the Most Valuable Player of the game. When asked for a comment, infamous Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi is reported to have said that even the best of the AFL doesn’t compare with the top NFL teams.

Revenge is a Dish Better Served Cold

During Super Bowl III, in 1970, Joe Namath led the AFL’s New York Jets to a 16-7 victory over the NFL’s Baltimore Colts – despite Baltimore being a three touchdown favorite. During that same year, 1970, the AFL and the NFL merged into one league after the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to join the existing 10 AFL teams, forming the American Football Conference (AFC). The remaining teams in the original National Football League became the National Football Conference (NFC).

Joe Namath Under Center Super Bowl III Colts vs Giants

Joe Namath under center at Super Bowl III – Colts vs Giants. (Double G Sports)

Super Bowl LII

February 4, 2018 is the date for Super Bowl LII. The contest is scheduled to take place between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Interesting Super Bowl Facts

  • The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and 1968.
  • Player bonuses for the first and current Super Bowls… Each player for the Green Bay Packers received a a bonus of $15,000, while Kansas City Chiefs players received $7,500. Players on the winning team for the 2018 Super Bowl will receive a bonus of $107,000. Players on the losing team will receive $53,000.
  • Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest food consumption day in the United States. (Thanksgiving Day is the first.)
  • 111 million viewers tuned-in to watch the 2011 Super Bowl, which made it the most watched television program in American history.
  • TV commercials for the first Super Bowl cost between $75,000 and $85,000 for one minute of air time. Today, Super Bowl commercials average $2.8 million for a 30 second commercial.
  • Peyton Manning is the only quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with two different teams – the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos.
  • The term “Super Bowl” was not coined until the third NFC/AFC championship game in 1970.
  • Bill Belichick has coached the most Super Bowls, at nine games.
  • The Super Bowl holds nine of the top 10 spots for the most watched television broadcasts of all time in the U.S. The last episode of M*A*S*H is the other.
  • Oldest / Youngest Players: Green Bay Packers lineman Bryan Bulaga is the youngest player to ever start a Super Bowl. He was 21 years and 322 days old. Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover is the oldest player at 42 years and 11 days.
  • Lowest Winning Score: January 14, 1973 – The Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.
  • Highest Winning Score: January 28, 1990 – The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV in the Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans.
  • The lowest passer rating for a Super Bowl winning quarterback was 22.6 by Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • There are 72 footballs used during the Super Bowl. There are more than 700,000 footballs purchased by the NFL every year.
  • There has been only one opening kickoff returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history – Devin Hester did it in Super Bowl XLI.
  • Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has the record for touchdowns caught in Super Bowl performances with eight. The second highest player has only three.
  • Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon has the Super Bowl record for most interceptions in a single game with five.
  • The Lombardi Trophy (named after coach Tom Lombardi of the first Super Bowl winning team – the Green Bay Packers) is given to the winning NFL Super Bowl team each year. The trophy weighs seven pounds, is 21″ high, and costs approximately $25,000 to make.
  • The Denver Broncos, winners of three Super Bowls, have the record for the most Super Bowl losses with five. That is more losses than 22 NFL teams have even appeared in the event.
  • According to Forbes, fans will consume approximately 1.33 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday 2018.
  • No team has ever been shutout in the history of the Super Bowl. (Miami holds the record for fewest points scored, when it only scored three points in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.)

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How the Super Bowl Got Started


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