What started as a major sports feud has become the ruling single athletic event in the history of sports.
Super Bowl: Introduction
From the crazy Media Day to the final seconds of the game clock, the Super Bowl conquers the eyes of the world for a few weeks. With even the commercials to the telecast being major events themselves, the Super Bowl is truly its own animal in the worlds of entertainment and sports. Super Bowl tickets are a rarity and are worth far more than gold on the open market. Before it became the spectacle of the year, the Super Bowl was simply the culmination of the feud between two professional football organizations.
Super Bowl: NFL vs. AFL
The NFL is the top football organization in the world and the unquestioned ruler of professional football. This was not the case however in the 1960s, where future Hall of Fame owner Lamar Hunt founded his own football league, the American Football League. Splitting recruits from the NCAA ranks caused a bidding war that superseded both the AFL and NFL Drafts. This struggle truly came to a head when quarterback Joe Namath played the NFL and AFL against each other for a huge contract. "Broadway Joe" would eventually sign with the AFL New York Jets.
It soon became clear that the two football organizations were not feasible and were bleeding each other dry. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle led the negations to merge the two leagues, finding stiff resistance from famously obstinate AFL Commissioner and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt was the voice of reason and got the matter settled. An AFL-NFL Championship was to be held in 1967. Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the AFL-NFL Championship Game as a "super bowl", and the name quickly stuck.
Super Bowl: The First Super Bowl
Super Bowl tickets to the first AFL-NFL Championship sold out quickly as fans of the organizations were often big rivals, as were the cities the teams represented. The Green Bay Packers under legendary coach Vince Lombardi qualified as the NFL Champions while Lamar Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs won the AFL Championship. Many fans saw the AFL as a "B-League" and gave the Kansas City Chiefs no chance. A precedent was set before Super Bowl I even started, with a media circus and trash talk circulating for weeks.
In addition to the presence of Vince Lombardi on the sidelines, the Green Bay Packers also had QB Bart Starr and one of the toughest men to ever play football, LB Ray Nitschke. Fans sold out the Los Angeles Coliseum to see history made. Bart Starr showed why he was the NFL MVP and led the Green Bay Packers to a 35-10 victory, cementing Green Bay, Wisconsin, as "Title Town USA". Super Bowl I established the tradition of great halftime entertainment and a huge television audience that would only grow in decades to come.
Super Bowl: The Second Super Bowl
While Super Bowl I had made the history, the standard of the spectacle of the Super Bowl was truly created in Super Bowl II. Super Bowl goers traveled to the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Green Bay Packers were back to represent the NFL but had been weakened by injury. The AFL was sending the dangerous Oakland Raiders, armed with a prolific offense and a literally dangerous defense. Vince Lombardi was the story of the day as there were rumors of his retirement flying though the media.
Bart Starr would again come up big for the Green Bay Packers as they hammered the Oakland Raiders early and never let them get up. Even with Al Davis screaming from the sidelines, the dynamic passing attack of the Oakland Raiders sputtered. The Green Bay Packers would take Super Bowl II easily with a score of 33-14. The win would mark the end of an era as Vince Lombardi retired after hoisting the trophy that would one day bear his name. Fans with Super Bowl tickets and those at home had no idea of the path that was soon to unfold.
Super Bowl: The Third Super Bowl
The Super Bowl returned to Miami, Florida, for the third championship game. This time the Super Bowl featured the Baltimore Colts, who had Johnny Unitas, one of the best QBs ever as a backup. With only one loss on the year, the Baltimore Colts had run roughshod over the NFL and were expected to destroy the AFL's New York Jets. The media storm turned into a hurricane when New York Jets QB Joe Namath guaranteed a victory over the Baltimore Colts. Most fans did not even give the New York Jets a chance to beat the spread of 18 points.
The guarantee from Joe Namath would turn out to be anything but typical Broadway Joe arrogance. With Johnny Unitas sitting on the bench in favor of hot backup Earl Morrall, the Baltimore Colts offense lumbered into early mistakes. The New York Jets defense also came up big and punched the vaunted Baltimore Colts offense right in the mouth, swinging momentum in the first quarter. With history staring them in the face and destiny seeming to steer them, Joe Namath executed a careful game plan and let his running back pound in the first touchdown.
Fans could not believe that the arrogant Joe Namath and the New York Jets were up 7-0 at halftime. The second half was another display of great defense and excellent quarterbacking by the New York Jets against a worn down Baltimore Colts team. QB Earl Morrall stayed in the game for perplexing reasons and continued to make mistakes that cost his team. The leg of New York Jets kicker Jim Turner would drive in three field goals and put them up 16-0. The Baltimore Colts scored one touchdown with three minutes to go, but the Super Bowl was over by that point.
Super Bowl: After Super Bowl III
The shocking 16-7 victory of the AFL's New York Jets sent shockwaves through the whole world of sports. The AFL had proved they belonged at the top and they were not "B" talent. Joe Namath took the Super Bowl MVP award and became an instant celebrity after the game. Fans with Super Bowl tickets were not only witnesses to sports history but also to the roots of the media blitzkrieg that would turn the Super Bowl from a classic game into an entertainment event.
Parity would be a part of the Super Bowl now, along with celebrity and fame. The day of NFL dominance and the reign of super teams like the Green Bay Packers was over. The concept of "Any Given Sunday" was born and fans from every team in the merged NFL-AFL could hope to see their favorite teams under the big spotlight. Fans would have an era characterized by a Steel Curtain and America's Team to look forward to in the coming years.