Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he was one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls
up until last year. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
The Origin of the Super Bowl -- Part 1
Shuck - NFL Historian
The Super Bowl is an
unofficial national holiday affectionately entitled "Super Sunday."
It is also the biggest food production day in the food retail business. One in
every six televisions is bought just prior to the game. Snack companies increase
production of potato and tortilla chips in anticipation of higher sales. Pizza
delivery companies hire more drivers and sell more pies than at any other time
of the year. The big game sends sales of beer, soda, chips, guacamole, salsa and
assorted dips through the roof.
Sunday is the third-largest alcohol consumption celebration behind New Year’s
Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. One in four workers will participate in a game pool
while Super Sunday weekend is the slowest for wedding bookings.
Two professional football leagues created a financial strain.
game was created from the merger between the established National Football League
(NFL) and the younger American Football League (AFL). From the AFL’s inception
in 1960, the upstart coalition had pestered the NFL to have a championship game
between the two leagues.
football throughout its history had always parlayed whatever Major League Baseball
(MLB) teams did. They were the kings of sports and Americans followed the game
intensely. MLB had two leagues and at the end of the year the two participated
in a championship structure called the World Series.
The NFL was considered the "National League" in pro football, and their
AFL counterparts envisioned their entity as the "American League" which
needed a championship game at season's end.
However, there was a huge difference. With MLB, both leagues were under the same
umbrella. With the NFL and AFL, they were separate leagues with separate financial
structures and governorship by-laws.
What the NFL wanted most was for the AFL to fold up its tents and just go away.
The established league always propagated that the younger entity was inferior
– and in fact was a minor football league.
The last thing the NFL wanted was a championship game that might verify that their
new rivals were supposedly an equal. Just wasn't going to happen.
Both leagues had their own championship games and crowned their own champions
every season. The AFL wasn't a minor league nor was it a developmental league
or some sort of farm system for the NFL. It was an NFL rival league.
Although the two entities had a "gentleman's agreement" not to touch
each other's veterans who were under contract, they fought mightily for rookie
players. The end result was that salaries for the new rookie players escalated
out of control because the AFL offered more contract money. A lot more. The NFL
standard was that rookies made the least (no matter what round they were drafted
in) and the longer you played, the more money you made.
seasoned veterans were making much less than their rookie teammates. In the past
when a player's contract was up for renewal, he was at the mercy of his respective
team as to how much of an increase he would receive. Now, with the AFL as an option,
veterans suddenly had leverage. Not only to get more than a rookie playing the
same position, but all they had to do was call clubs in the AFL and get an offer
that was higher than what their NFL club was willing to pay.
the first five years of the AFL's existence, player salaries had increased as
much as triple. An average player in the NFL in 1960 averaged around $8,000 a
year. For comparison, MLB players made $18,000. But the AFL was paying an average
of $12,500 a year. By 1965, players in both leagues were receiving $25,000-$35,000
or more depending on his playing position. And there weren't any bonuses or incentives
or guaranteed money back then.
had to give. Clubs in both leagues were going into the red every year.
two leagues finally decided to merge into one entity beginning in 1966 and cease
the bidding wars and salary escalation. Things began to change between the two
leagues even though they would not become one until the 1970 season.
For starters, a common draft was instituted. Secondly, a salary structure for
rookies and veterans was instituted. Thirdly, a common preseason schedule was
put into place pitting AFL clubs against NFL teams in exhibition games. And most
importantly, a World Series of Football was designed to pit the National League
champs against the American League champs.
AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
through 1969, both the AFL and NFL had their own league title games. This meant,
each league had its own league champion. Each league also operated independently
from each other.
From the agreement
period from 1966 to 1969, there was an AFL Champion and an NFL Champion each year.
Beginning in 1970, there would be only one champion.
In 1966, the Kansas City Chiefs were the AFL's best team with an 11-2-1 record
and then dominated the Buffalo Bills 31-7 in the AFL Championship Game. The winner's
share was $5,308.
That same season,
over in the NFL’s number one team was the Green Bay Packers with a 12-2-0 record.
They faced the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game and defeated them,
34-27. The winner's share was $8,600 per player.
This set up the AFL Champion Chiefs against the NFL Champion Packers. The first
pro football World Series would begin, except this sport had a single contest
for the instead of a series of games.
The first game was booked at a neutral site at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los
Angeles, Cal. The game was called the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game"
and appeared that every subsequent game from this point on would be called that
Tickets ran either $6, $10 or
$12. Both leagues had their own television broadcast contracts. NBC covered the
AFL while CBS broadcast for the NFL. It was decided that both networks would broadcast
the first installment. The arrangement allowed both networks to share the same
video feed, but each league would use its own booth commentators.
setting up to cover the big game, tensions between the technical crews became
so intense that a temporary fence was installed to separate the two. A blip later
appeared between the two networks after the first half. The second half kickoff
was televised on CBS, but NBC was still in a commercial break. The referee then
ordered a re-kick.
The Coliseum held
93,607 but the game sold only 61,946 tickets despite a local blackout. The winner
would receive $15,000 per player while the loser's share was exactly half.
referee crew was an equal blend of officials from both leagues and featured a
new unique style that did not reflect the uniforms either league used in order
to promote parity. When the Chiefs were on offense, the officials used an AFL
Spalding football while the NFL's Wilson football was utilized when the Packers
had the ball on offense.
of not retaining archives on expensive film and thus taping over the content,
neither network saved the footage of the game. NFL Films did retain some footage
but not in play-by-play format. However, in 2016 the league made an announcement
that they had pieced together the entire game in all of its 145 plays through
different film sources.
destroyed the Chiefs, 35-10, in the first "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."
The following year, the Oakland Raiders were the AFL Champion while Green Bay
once again won the NFL title. They would face off in the 1967 "AFL-NFL World
Championship Game", the second in this series. The Packers once again dominated
as they defeated the Raiders, 33-14.
After the second installment in this championship series, with Green Bay (as representatives
of the NFL) dominating both games, it became the buzz as to whether the AFL was
indeed a minor league outfit.
NFL made a huge mistake in agreeing to merge with the AFL's 10 teams two years
from then? Should the NFL renege and continue on as a 16-team entity and hope
that the AFL would somehow eventually fold? These were actual questions raised
at the next NFL owners’ meeting. After all, the NFL was about to become 50 years
old whereas the AFL was still considered an upstart.
But the third and fourth installments answered all concerns.
In the third AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the 1968 NFL champion Baltimore
Colts were favored by 18 points. The AFL champion New York Jets defeated them,
In a related situation, in 1969
the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings and their "Purple People Eaters"
defense were 13.5 point favorites but lost to the AFL champion Chiefs, 23-7, in
a game that was never close.
two games were similar. Except the fourth game had a new name.
The "Super Bowl."
Barry Shuck is a pro football historical writer and may be reached for questions
or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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