On Sunday, we’re running a brief excerpt from this article by Michael MacCambridge, author of “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.” Here’s the entire article for our online readers. You’ll be well-armed with some Super Bowl trivia on game day.
By Michael MacCambridge/Special to The Washington Post
“If Jesus Christ were alive today,” minister Norman Vincent Peale said in 1974, “he’d be at the Super Bowl.”
The comment was audacious then, but it seems almost self-evident now. Pro football is perhaps the last of the great mass entertainments in America, and the Super Bowl has become the embodiment of our nation: big, convivial, gaudy, passionate and, surely, self-important. This is the weekend when Americans hold the fewest weddings and the most parties. And like a lot of quintessential American institutions, the game inspires numerous myths.
MYTH 1: The game wasn’t called the “Super Bowl” until 1969.
When the established National Football League merged with the upstart American Football League in June 1966, football fans finally got their wish – a showdown was planned between the two league champions, billed as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Later that summer, AFL founder Lamar Hunt sent a memo to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle suggesting that the merged leagues should coin a phrase for the new game. “I have kiddingly called it the Super Bowl,” Hunt wrote, “which obviously can be improved upon.”
Rozelle, with his background in journalism and PR, never cared for the name, deeming it unsophisticated. But even before the first game was played, Hunt’s title swept through the football, news media and advertising worlds. By the end of 1966, network executives were referring to the day of the first game as “Super Sunday.”
After Hunt’s Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in the AFL Championship Game, the next day’s Kansas City Star headline declared that the Chiefs were “Super Bowl Bound.” In Los Angeles, on the morning of Jan. 15, 1967, an NFL Films crew member could be heard giving a sound cue – “Super Bowl, reel one” – before shooting the first pregame footage at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The league held out for a few years before Rozelle conceded. “Super Bowl” first appeared on the program cover of the third game and on the tickets of the fourth game. Few fans noticed; they’d been calling it the Super Bowl since the first one was played.
Click on more for four more Super Bowl myths. Read more »