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‘Super Sunday’ turns 50 years old

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

The Super Bowl organizers are having a party and were all invited. The big game that pits the top teams in the American Conference and National Conference will square off at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

This mega game really needs no hype but this year will be Super Bowl 50. The NFL will celebrate with special guests and a crowded halftime show. More on that later.

And to get into the spirit of the big game, here is a quiz question. What team has won the most Super Bowls? The answer will appear at the end of the column.

Fifty games means this contest has been around a long time. But I have been around a long time as well. I actually remember the first Super Bowl. This was so long ago that the first game was not even called the Super Bowl back then. It was officially titled the AFL-NFL Championship Game.

The fervor and buzz that surrounds recent Super Bowls was lacking from this game. The Green Bay Packers won the NFC title game in the so-called “Ice Bowl” in December of 1966. The Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

The National Football League and American Football League decided to finally meet in a championship game played at a neutral site. Since the game was going to be played in January, a warm-weather city was going to serve as hosts.

The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFC representatives and there was even some talk they could defeat Green Bay. They had some star players in quarterback Len Dawson and running back Mike Garrett. However, I’m not sure anyone bought into that. The championship game was played early in the afternoon on Jan. 15, 1967 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Lots of us watched the game at home out of curiosity. The stadium was not even sold out. The Packers, after a slow start, romped to a 35-10 victory. Legendary Packer head coach Vince Lombardi was asked how the Chiefs compared to other NFC teams. He replied that they were like facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were then perennial cellar dwellers in the NFC before moving to the AFC. Ouch.

The Packers rolled over the Oakland Raiders the following year. “Broadway Joe” Namath staged an amazing upset in 1969 as the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7, for the AFC’s first Super Bowl. The game had arrived. The contest was still played earlier in the day and marching bands performed at halftime. The marching band gave way a few years later to the “Up With People” singers.

In regards to the Super Bowl game, legend has it that the children of Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt were bouncing a Super Ball, a tightly wound ball that would bounce repeatedly. It was popular toy for kids in the mid-1960s. Hunt watched in amusement and later brought it up to some reporters. He casually referred to the championship game as the Super Bowl. Some reporters continued to use the term and, as they say, the rest is history.

The games began to start later in the day to assure a larger television audience and allow for charging higher fees for commercials. Well-known musical acts began popping up in the 1990s like Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Shania Twain. The 2000s had Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. The NFL then elected to bring on established veteran rockers who were deemed safer like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Prince. But there were complaints about the Stones’ “Start Me Up” and Prince’s unique way of gripping a guitar behind a screen.

For the most part, these halftime shows are entertaining. The only problem is of late these performances have a Las Vegas glitz to it. This year, Coldplay will perform at halftime but they will also be joined by Bruno Mars and Beyonce. The stage appears to be a little too crowded for a 20-minute show but the NFL is all into excess.

So, the halftime show has to be big. The commercials are another reason casual fans tune in to see some of the first-run advertising moments. Some of them are funny while others fall flat. That will be debated the next day.

Oh, and there is the game. In case you didn’t know the AFC will be represented by the Denver Broncos while the NFC has the Carolina Panthers . This is a championship game in which a lot of people will tune in who could care less about the contest. I guess that’s the appeal of the Super Bowl. The game is played on a Sunday in early February. The NFC has the stage to themselves.

Now back to that quiz question. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls, more than any other NFL team. Now get prepared for two hours of pre-game hype, Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars. It’s show time.

Joe Boyle is the editor of the Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .