The game has really evolved, especially when one looks back at the first Super Bowl.
Jan. 15, 1967 was the date. The Green Bay Packers of the NFL were taking on the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL for the very first time. The event wound up becoming something called the Super Bowl, although most called it the AFL-NFL World Championship Game then.
Now, a lot of people ask how the Super Bowl came upon its name. It actually came from Lamar Hunt's daughter. Hunt was the then-owner of the Chiefs, and like most kids of that era, Hunt's daughter had a super ball.
The super ball was a rubber ball (with something super inside it) that could bounce way up into the air from the sidewalk and over houses. I had one myself. Anyway, that is how the Championship Game between the NFL and the AFL got its name.
It occurred after the merger of the two leagues in June of 1966, after the AFL had been trying to sign big-name stars out of the NFL as well as bidding against them to sign talent out of the college ranks after their respective drafts.
To illustrate the magnitude of the game, it was televised by two networks, CBS and NBC. CBS was the NFL's network, while NBC was the AFL's network. Between the two, there were over 51 million viewers that day.
The event was also the only game in Super Bowl history that was not a sellout. It was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the attendance was only 61,946 in a stadium that could seat close to 93,000 people in it. Why?
For one thing, Los Angeles wasn't awarded the game until six weeks before the event, nor was a date set until then.
Head coach Vince Lombardi of the Packers was extremely nervous leading up to the game, and had been getting calls and telegrams from a number of NFL owners wishing him luck before the game.
Lombardi felt like he was carrying the weight of the NFL on his shoulders, and he wasn't going to let a team from that "Mickey Mouse" league beat his Packers, who had won four NFL championships in six years.
Bart Starr ended up winning the MVP award in Super Bowl I (and in Super Bowl II as well), but in the first game, who can forget the performance of Max McGee.
McGee was a star receiver for the Packers in Lombardi's years, but through 1965-67, he didn't get a lot of playing time but when he did, he was clutch.
Before Super Bowl I, McGee caught a 28-yard TD pass from Bart Starr that was the difference in the 34-27 1966 NFL Championship Game win in Dallas against the Cowboys. But Super Bowl I was where he really made his legend.
McGee didn't expect to play, so he snuck out after curfew the night before the game. McGee couldn't convince roommate Paul Hornung to go with him that night, but he stayed out late that evening and didn't return until the team breakfast the next morning.
Little did he know what was going to happen that day, as he took a one-hour nap after breakfast. Starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler injured his shoulder and McGee had to go into the game and was startled as he heard Lombardi yell, "McGee! McGee! Get your ass in there."
Max got his behind in there alright. Besides catching the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history, McGee put up amazing stats as he ended up with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns. That's only a 19.7 reception average.
McGee didn't get the game's MVP award, it went to Starr, but Max was the "star" that day. McGee was never All-Pro and only went to one Pro Bowl. All he did was produce. Like in Super Bowl II, when he caught only one pass...for 35 yards!
Starr was 16-23 for 250 yards and also threw two TD passes (both to McGee) in winning the game's MVP honors in the 35-10 win. Starr was especially deadly on third down, as the Packers were able to convert 11-of-15 chances on that crucial down.
On the other hand, the Chiefs were just 3-of-14 on third down. It took a while for the Green Bay defense to figure out the Kansas City offense, but they dominated them in the second half and held them scoreless.
The Packers sacked Len Dawson of the Chiefs six times, led by Willie Davis, who had two sacks.The key play of the game happened early in the second half, when a fluttering pass by Dawson was intercepted by Willie Wood, which the All-Pro safety returned 50 yards to set up an Elijah Pitts TD run. The Packers took a 21-10 lead and never looked back.
Bottom line, the Packers passed the big test. The NFL had won the first championship contest vs. the AFL. Lombardi was pressed by reporters to compare the Chiefs to teams from the NFL. Lombardi refused to do so for a while, but finally said, "I don't think they are as good as the top teams in the National Football League. They're a good team with fine speed, but I'd have to say NFL football is tougher. Dallas is a better team, and so are several others. That's what you wanted me to say, now I've said it."
The winner of the Super Bowl gets the same trophy that Commissioner Pete Rozelle gave Lombardi after Super Bowl I. The only difference is that Vince Lombardi's name is now on the trophy. It's been that way since Super Bowl V, the first one after Lombardi died of cancer in September of 1970.
Super Bowl II followed a remarkable season in which the Packers had won their third straight NFL championship. A feat that has never been duplicated in the playoff era. The Packers also won three straight NFL titles from 1929-1931, but that was before the playoff era, which started in 1933.
Yes, the Packers and Lombardi made their mark in the very first Super Bowl. Last year, the Packers carried on that tradition, as they were able bring home a Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time (4th Super Bowl trophy overall) behind the MVP performance of Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV.
This year there will be a new champion. Whether it will be the Giants or the Patriots is yet to be determined. What is known, is that the new champ will hoist a trophy that has the name Vince Lombardi written on it.
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