With football in the air for a few more weeks, with phrases like Super Bowl, New York Giants, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens occupying headlines for a while now—the back story of these names and a few others have a lot of history and a lot of interesting sidebars.
SUPER BOWL: The merger of the American Football League and the National Football League created a need for a championship game. On January 15, 1967, the first contest was played. As the story goes, at an owner’s meeting there had been a discussion as to what to call the contest. Agreement was reached on “National Football League Championship Game.”
But one of the owners had no fondness for the long, and in his view, unexciting name. He had a “super ball” in his pocket that he had taken away from his youngster earlier that day.
Squeezing the super ball, he came up with an idea. Call the big game—“Super Bowl.”
So although the National Football League Championship Game was the official name. The “unofficial” name, the Super Bowl, was used in the media, fans and the players.The name stuck. The name has remained through all the decades and has even gotten glossier, grander and more glamorous.
From the beginning, each Super Bowl was designated with a Roman numeral rather than by a year. This was a brilliant idea on the part of National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle to give the ultimate game a sense of class, a feeling of continuity.
That first Super Bowl saw the first dual-network color-coverage simulcast of a sporting event in history and attracted the largest viewership ever to witness a sporting event up to that time. The Nielsen rating indicated that 73 million fans watched all or part of that game on one of the two networks, CBS or NBC.
The game was a contest between the two leagues and two television networks. The CBS allegiance was to the NFL, and NBC was allied with the American Football League, which it had virtually created with its network dollars.
How other names in the news as the world awaits Super Bowl 46,oops, XLVI , came to be are also interesting.
NEW YORK GIANTS: Back in 1925 owner Tim Mara adopted the name “Giants” from the baseball team of the same name that played in New York. It was a common practice back in the day.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: A group of sportswriters from New England came up with the name Patriots, a tip of the cap to Patriot’s Day, celebrated in Boston for Paul Revere's ride. The team, which moved to Foxborough, Mass., was originally located in Boston. It began life on November 16, 1959 as the eighth and final club in the American Football League.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers: The franchise entered pro football in 1946 as a member of the All-America Football Conference. Their name originated from the gold diggers during the gold rush in northern California of 1849.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: The poem “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, who lived the last few years of his life in Baltimore, was the inspiration for the nickname for the Baltimore team. The name was chosen in a contest among fans in 1996. The three Ravens' mascots include “Edgar,” “Allan,” and “Poe.”
**A noted oral historian and sports journalist, Harvey Frommer has written many sports books, including Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, and of course Bleacher Report among other publications.
Visit his website and purchase books here: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/