Super Bowl I - Defining a Tradition by Defying Tradition
Super Bowl XXXVII saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win their first Super Bowl in the history of their franchise. A franchise that was considered the laughing-stock of the NFL during their tumultuous beginnings where every record they had was a losing one (History, 2003). It's fitting in a way, considering the rise of the Super Bowl came from similar beginnings that the Buccaneers won with the force that defines a NFL team, beating Oakland Raiders 48-21.
After all, the first Super Bowl, played in 1967, found Green Bay giving Kansas City a similar thrashing (35-10) amidst skepticism on how successful the AFL would become. To understand the birth of the Super Bowl, one has to step back in time a bit and rediscover how the AFL came to be.
You could compare the birth of the AFL to the birth of the United States of America. In 1959, Lamar Hunt of Dallas announced his intentions to form a second pro-football league (Chronology 1951-60, 2003). His intentions were spurred by disappointing attempts to attain a NFL franchise and though he successfully created the AFL, it was not an easy path. Originally, Hunt had a team in Dallas, but when the NFL created the Cowboys, Hunt was forced to move his team to Kansas City.
Through the years preceding Super Bowl I, many teams had joined the AFL, including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City and Minneapolis, who, rejoined the NFL a year later. Hunt was also elected Commissioner of the AFL in 1960.
The year also saw the AFL sign a five-year television contract with ABC (Chronology, 2003). NFL games had already been televised for almost 20 years, with the first televised NFL game airing on NBC in 1939 (Chronology 1931-40, 2003). Television rights were again awarded to NBC in 1963, allowing the network to air the 1963 AFL Championship Game for $926,000 (Chronology 1961-70, 2003) which led to their signing a $5-million, five-year contract with the television affiliate in 1965. CBS won the contract bid for NFL for $14.1 million. CBS acquired the rights to the championship games for 1964 and 1965 for $1.8 million per game (1961,-1970, 2003).
Television played a huge part in entertainment and news coverage in America during the 1960s. From the first ever war-coverage during the Viet Nam War, to the famous first steps on the moon, the television was now in over 90% of American homes with over 96% of them being on for an average of 31 hours or more out of 72 (television timeline, 1996).
By 1968, the year of Super Bowl I, America accounted for over 78 million households with televisions (out of a worldwide 200 million) and its popularity was ever increasing. At this point, television shows that are now steady re-runs on Nick at Nite, were entertaining Americans as they lived their 'American Dream'. Televised football games were highly popular (much like today) and were a ready source of commercial income for broadcast stations and football franchises. Television programs and commercials were defining what Americans should buy, eat and live by. It was a viable force then as it is now.
Much like the NFL, who felt it, was their decisions and theirs alone to decide on how football franchises should be defined. Lamar Hunt, felt differently, and following the franchise success of the AFL, he and Tex Schramm (Dallas) sat together through a series of secret meetings in 1966, planning and converging over an event to have the two hard-hitting football leagues meet in a battle that would finally decide who was better equipped to define the sport.
Already the two leagues had spent a combined $7 million over draft picks (Chronology 1961-70, 2003) and the NFL had already sold the rights to their 1966 and 1967 championship games to CBS for a whopping $2million per game.
You could say, it was inevitable that the creation of the Super Bowl should occur, just by looking at the figures alone. Fans had their favorite teams, and it was clear Americans were choosing their sides by way of their pocket. Now it was up to the NFL and AFL commissioners to give the people what they wanted. On June 8th, 1966, Commissioner Rozelle announced the NFL-AFL merger, where the two leagues would form an expanded league of 24 teams, later to be increased to 26 in 1968, and then 28 in 1970.
Most importantly, "all existing franchises would be retained, and no franchises would be transferred outside their metropolitan areas. While maintaining separate schedules through 1969, the leagues agreed to play an annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game beginning in January, 1967, and to hold a combined draft, also beginning in 1967" (Chronology 1961-1970, 2003).
On October 21, Congress approved the merger, solidifying, in my opinion, the business behind the pigskin. The merger may have been in the name of football, but at the end of the game, it was the faithful dollar signs that dictated the acceptance of a 'super bowl' to the franchise owners in the NFL and AFL.
With revenues already reaching record highs and draft expenditures in the millions, it is easy to see how the monetary factor in the NFL progressed up until today, where players receive re-signing contracts in the multi-millions, and new draft-picks attain salaries fit enough to house and cloth poor families in Third World countries.
Lombardi's Green Bay Packers achieved the status of representing the NFL in the first ever championship game (later to be named the "Super Bowl" by Lamar Hunt) while Kansas City earned the same right for the AFL. Television rights to the Super Bowl had already been given to CBS and NBC in a 4-year, $9million contract. One-minute TV commercials sold for $75,000 on the NBC network and $85,000 on CBS (McGee, 1967). The stage was set for some of football's biggest legends to do what they did best.
Super Bowl I was played before 61,946 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and to an estimated 60 million television audience. "For many weeks of the regular professional season, through weeks of playoffs and the uninterrupted ballyhoo, football devotees had awaited the initial confrontation of the two football behemoths, the champions of the youthful American Football League and the long-established National Football League" (McGee, 1967).
The opening ceremony was like any befitting a marked occasion in sport with the game's kick-off highlighted with the release of 8,000 pigeons, and like any sporting event, there were triumphs and glory, coupled with despair and defeat. McGee, who didn't win the first MVP in Super Bowl history, is still probably the most well-known legend of the league's first match-up.
Legend has it he snuck out the night before, (against Lombardi's warnings) not expecting to play at the Super Bowl unless Dowler got hurt. Throughout the year, McGee had an unimpressive 4 passes for 91 yards.
As it so happens, fate intervened, and McGee had to play for an injured Dowler. Max McGee played impressively for someone who had broken curfew and Lombardi's $5,000 penalty rule. McGee caught 7 passes and scored 2 touchdowns. Incidentally, quarterback Bart Starr was the league's first Super Bowl MVP leading the Green Bay Packers to their 35-10 win over Stram's Kansas City Chiefs.
Subsequent Super Bowls would continue the tradition of 'hoopla', controversy and memorable moments, as clearly as Tampa Bay showed us what being an NFL franchise all is about. Despite the numbers being stacked against them, they triumphed and proved what it means to be athletes. Just like Super Bowl legends before them: Joe Namath, Doug Atkins, Larry Csonka and Chuck Howley.
Today, Super Bowl commandeers the same kind of televised numbers, and contract figures, with the event being shown live and/or taped in over 70 countries around the world. Over 116 million Americans watch it live in North America.
Half-time shows have become major productions that condense fireworks and dance routines with some of today's hottest artists, while television commercials during the Super Bowl have become notorious (and famous) for being the stage for corporate annual 'releases', and big-budgeted 'mini-shows'.
Commercial airtime during the 2003 Super Bowl was estimated to cost $2.1million for 30 seconds, with a lot of the commercials averaging an added production cost of at least $2million.
During 2003, 83 of these mega-commercials were aired. During Super Bowl I, it is safe to say that costs were not that high for commercials. In Fact, according to an article after the Super Bowl XXXVII, "In 1967, advertisers paid $42,000 for a 30-second spot, and football fans paid between $6 and $12 for tickets. Green Bay, behind quarterback Bart Starr and receiver Max McGee, beat Kansas City 35-10. The Packers collected $15,000 per man and the Chiefs $7,500 -- the then-largest single-game shares in the history of team sports (Ads, 2003).
The growth of Super Bowl and the NFL has become a monetary game where ticket prices have risen, commercial time…