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On the Sunday when the Super Bowl is played, the country stops. Families and friends collect around televisions armed with beer, brats, bravado and Buffalo wings to experience the ultimate water-cooler event. As evidenced by the 2011 game on February 6, 2011, when the Green Bay Pa ckers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV, the game is bigger than the sport itself. On television, nothing eclipses the power of the Super Bowl. An estimate d television audience of 111 million tuned into that game, making it the most wa tched program in history. Pete Roselle presenting the first NFL - AFL World Championship Trophy to Vince Lombardi - January 15, 1967 "If Jesus Christ were alive today," minister Norman Vincent Peale allege dly once said, "he'd be (watching) the Super Bowl." So how did this game come to be called the Super Bowl? The legend began auspiciously in 1959 when Lamar Hunt was instrumental in forming a competitive f ootball league to the long-existing NFL. On the strength of his great inherited oil wealth, Hunt applied for an N FL expansion franchise in 1959, but was turned down. The thinking among NFL exec utives was that the league must be careful not to oversaturate the market by exp anding too quickly. Hunt also attempted to purchase the NFL's Chicago Cardinals franchise in 1959 with the intent to move them to Dallas, but was again turned d own. In response, Hunt approached several other businessmen who had also unsu ccessfully sought NFL franchises, including fellow Texan and oil man K.S. Bud Ad ams of Houston, about forming a new football league. The American Football Leagu e (AFL) was established in August 1959. The league began play on September 9, 19 60, with eight teams - the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans and Oakland Raid ers. Hunt became owner of the Dallas Texans and hired future Hall-of-Famer, H ank Stram, as the team's first head coach. By 1963, the Texans struggled to comp ete for attendance and interest against the popular Dallas Cowboys, so Hunt re-l ocated the club to Kansas City and the Chiefs were born. Reggie White achieved his Super Bowl dream, and we all rejoiced with him . In the meantime, the AFL's credibility was on the rise. Since the NFL's inception in 1920, the league fended off several rival leagues before the AFL be gan play in 1960. The intense competition for players and fans led to serious me rger talks between the two leagues beginning in 1966. From those talks, the idea of an NFL-AFL Championship Game was born but not given an official nickname. The origin of the Super Bowl name may have had a subconscious lineage ba ck to college. In 1902, the Tournament of Roses committee decided to enhance the day's
parade festivities by adding a football game - the first post season college-foo tball game ever held. Stanford accepted the invitation to take on the powerhouse University of Michigan, but the West Coast team was flattened 49-0. The lopside d score prompted the Tournament to give up football in favor of Roman-style char iot races, according to the Tournament of Roses website. In 1916, football retur ned to stay and the crowds soon outgrew the stands in tiny Tournament Park. Will iam L. Leishman, the Tournament's President in 1920, envisioned a stadium simila r to the Yale Bowl, the first great modern football stadium, to be built in Pasa dena's Arroyo Seco area. The new stadium hosted its first New Year's football ga me in 1923 and soon earned the nickname "The Rose Bowl" in honor of the Rose Par ade and the fact the new venue was literally shaped like a bowl that sat over 10 0,000 revelers. Exploiting the popularity of the Rose Bowl stadium and the college champ ionship game of the same name, the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl football games wer e created in 1935, followed by the Cotton Bowl in 1937. "Bowl" thus became a sta ndard term and other "bowl games" were created in later years. So, when the established NFL began to merge with the upstart AFL in 1966 , football fans finally got their wish - a showdown between the two league champ ions, billed as the "NFL-AFL World Championship Game." In the book, The Super Bowl: An Official Retrospective, Lamar Hunt recou nts the origin of the name he concocted. "There were three super balls given by my wife to our three children at that time, Lamar Jr., Sharon and Clark. It was a highly concentrated rubber ball manufactured by the Wham-O company. You could bounce it off concrete and it would literally bounce over a house. The kids were always talking about these super balls. I think that's how the name came about. "In the fall of 1966, in one of our joint committee meetings between the AFL and NFL, we were talking about where we were going to have this championshi p game. One of the people said, 'Which game are you talking about?' I said, 'Wel l, you know, the last game after the last game. The final game. The championship game. The Super Bowl.' The members of the committee - three of us from the AFL and three from the NFL and (commissioner) Pete Rozelle - looked at me, and we al l kind of smiled. Thereafter, the committee began to refer to the game as the Su per Bowl. It was three or four years before the league officially adopted that n ame, but the media and public seized on it. Especially when CBS and NBC promoted that first game as Super Sunday." Later that summer, Hunt sent a memo to Commissioner Rozelle suggesting t hat the merged leagues should finally coin a proper phrase for their new champio nship game. "I have kiddingly called it the Super Bowl," Hunt wrote, "which obvi ously can be improved upon." Rozelle agreed. The commissioner despised the word "super" because it la cked sophistication. Rozelle, with his background in journalism and public relat ions, was a stickler on words and grammar. The game, for now, would continue to be called the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game." That bulky title didn't last. People caught wind of Hunt's name and soon everyone, from media members to players, were calling the title game the Super Bowl. By the end of 1966, network executives were referring to the day of the fi rst game as "Super Sunday." After Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in the AFL Championship Game, the next day's Kansas City Star headline de clared that the Chiefs were "Super Bowl Bound." In Los Angeles, on the morning o f Jan. 15, 1967, an NFL Films crew member could be heard giving a sound cue - "S uper Bowl, reel one" - before shooting the first pre-game footage at the Los Ang eles Memorial Coliseum.
The first two NFL-AFL Championship games were anything but "super" as th e NFL's 1960s powerhouse Green Bay Packers demolished their AFL counterparts bot h times (35-10 over the Chiefs in January, 1967, and 33-14 over Oakland in 1968) . At the time, some doubted the competitiveness of AFL teams compared with NFL c ounterparts. Even Coach Vince Lombardi famously told his players before the meeting a gainst Oakland that, "You damn well better not let that Mickey Mouse (American F ootball) league beat you. It'd be a disgrace, a complete, utter disgrace." But that perception changed when the AFL's New York Jets defeated the Ba ltimore Colts 16-7 in the third such championship game in January, 1969. The merger between the leagues became official after the 1969 season and beginning with the 1970 season, the American Football Conference (AFC) and Nati onal Football Conference (NFC) were formed with each conference's winner meeting in what was now officially called the Super Bowl. Yet few fans noticed as they'd been calling the big game the Super Bowl since the first one was played.
Share your historic moments in Green Bay Packers' history and submit a memory that we can post on the Packer's Hall of F ame Digital Archive. http://packershalloffame.com. Keeping Packers History Alive.
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