The First Super Bowl

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

(Image credit: Jimberg13)

The first Super Bowl took place on January 15, 1967. The game was not universally called "the Super Bowl." Many sources called it the much more syllabic AFL-NFL World Championship Game. It would still take a year or two before the more catchy "Super Bowl" became the game's agreed-upon moniker.

The rivals in this soon-to-be classic duel were the NFL's Green Bay Packers, led by their immortal coach Vince Lombardi and the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, under coach Hank Stram. The Packers had finished the 1966 season with a 12-2 record, they had just beat the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL championship the previous week  by a 34-27 score. The underdog Chiefs had just whipped the Buffalo Bills for the AFL title by a 31-7 score.

The historic game was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum on a sunny, pleasant 72 degrees day. A crowd of 61, 946 attended the game, a nice crowd, but they far from filled the arena (the coliseum held over 93,000) and thus there were over 30,000 empty seats. This was to be the only non-capacity crowd in Super Bowl history (despite a TV blackout in the L.A. area).

L.A. had actually not been awarded the game until December 1, 1966, just six weeks earlier. The official date of the game had not been set until December 13th, 1966, a little over a month earlier. Prior to the game, several local newspapers had printed angry editorials complaining about the exorbitantly priced $12 tickets for the game.

This was also the first and only Super Bowl to be simulcast on two different networks. Both CBS and NBC broadcast the game (CBS had the season rights to all NFL games, while NBC had the AFL rights).

 

There was a bit of bad blood still between the NFL and the AFL at the time, and both teams had something to prove. The NFL, being the older, more established league, wanted to clearly demonstrate their superiority to the nation. The "upstart" Chiefs, representing the AFL, wanted to show that their fairly new league could compete on the same field as the NFL. (And of course, what would a great football game be without a little testosterone-fueled male ego-driven rivalry rearing it's head?)

Put simply, both teams wanted to trounce the other. The game's starting quarterbacks would be Bart Starr for the Packers and Len Dawson for the Chiefs.

The heavily favored Packers scored first in the game as quarterback Bart Starr threw a 37-yard touchdown reception to receiver Max McGee. In the second quarter, the first touchdown run was made by Packer Jim Taylor,who took the handoff from Starr and ran it in from 14 yards. It was a close and exciting first half, and at halftime the Packers clung to a slim 14-10 lead. According to Packer Willie Davis, Coach Lombardi "was concerned" in the locker room.

The halftime entertainment included trumpeter Al Hirt, the college marching bands from both Arizona and Grambling State University, plus a demonstration of flight by the hydrogen-peroxide propelled Bell Rocket air men- not to mention the release of 300 pigeons and 10,000 balloons. Television commercial ads for the game cost $42,000 for a 30-second spot.

It looked to be a close second half, but in the third quarter Packer safety Willie Woods intercepted a pass by Dawson and returned it 50 yards for a Packer touchdown. This play was to be the proverbial "turning point" and Green Bay never looked back, scoring the next 21 unanswered points.

After the historic dust had settled, Green Bay declared victory, the final score: Packers 35, Kansas City 10.

Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr had thrown for 250 yards, had completed 16 of his 23 passes, plus two touchdowns and an interception. After the game, he was declared the first Super Bowl's "Most Valuable Player."

 

Kansas City quarterback Dawson finished the game with 210 yards, was 16 for 27, threw one touchdown and one interception.

The ratings for the game were very good. NBC drew 26.8 million viewers, scoring a 22.6 rating, with CBS doing slightly less, attracting 24.4 million viewers and capturing an 18.5 rating. All told, over 51 million people had tuned in to watch not only football, but sports -and world- history.

Little did anybody watching at the time know the future of the Super Bowl or realize just how big a monster the Super Bowl would eventually grow into. Now almost rivaling Christmas and Thanksgiving in the US, the game has grown into our biggest undeclared national holiday and an event watched and enjoyed all over the world.

[ed. note: Fifty years later, the Super Bowl will take place Sunday, February 5, in Houston.]


McGee was an aging backup wide receiver who didn't expect to play that day. So he stayed out all night, took the field with a massive hangover when Boyd Dowler was injured, caught seven passes, and nearly took home MVP honors. The moral of the story is don't prepare.
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Back in October 1980, I was living in Tampa and went to the Holiday Inn to try and meet Bart Starr who was coaching the Packers then. The Packers were in town to play the Bucs on Monday night. While I waited in the lobby, I met an older man who sat down next to me and we started talking football. He was a GB fan and noticed I was wearing a GB hat. After about 20 minutes or so of telling him what a huge fan I was of Bart and he was the reason I was there, he introduced himself..."I'm Ben Starr. I'm Bart's dad.". Needless to say, my jaw dropped. We continued our talk which included stories from the Packers glory years and coach Vince Lombardi. It was the coolest thing ever!

When the Packers team bus arrived at the hotel, Ben Starr personally introduced me to his famous son. His arms were full so he was unable to sign an autograph but Bart (after being told by his dad that I waited several hours just to meet him) invited me up to his room along with his wife and dad. I remember thinking how cool this was while I was in the elevator with the first ever Super Bowl MVP and the QB who won the Ice Bowl against Dallas.

A few days later, I sent a personal thank you letter to Bart. He sent me back a personally signed 8x10 picture that I still have hanging to this day. He'll always be one of my greatest memories. A very awesome day indeed.
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