The First Super Bowl- Less Than Super
Officially called the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”, the first Super Bowl was less super and more scrimmage.
The inaugural match of what would become one of sports’ biggest annual extravaganzas took place on January 15, 1967 between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers were favored by 13½ points and eventually prevailed 35-10.
However, the spirit of the encounter was closer to a contest for league supremacy than a faceoff between two top teams chasing a coveted trophy. Seven months earlier, following years of waging bidding wars for players and competing for TV viewers, the established NFL and the upstart AFL agreed to merge.
The deal included an annual "World Championship Game" between the two bitter foes. The term “Super Bowl” wouldn't officially be enshrined by the newly-established organization until its fourth edition in 1970 and the iconic roman numerals wouldn’t appear until Super Bowl V.
Originally dismissed as another doomed league trying to nip at the heels of the entrenched NFL, the AFL got started in 1960 and actually succeeded in advancing its eight teams to the national football spotlight.
With the title game approaching, tensions ran high as celebrated coach Vince Lombardi and his dynastic Packers were under pressure by the NFL to outperform Lamar Hunt, founder of the AFL and owner of the Chiefs.
Before Lombardy joined Green Bay as their head coach in 1959, the franchise had posted an NFL worst record of 1-10-1. The future Hall of Famer turned the team around and secured 4 NFL titles by the time they would face off against the Chiefs.
Today’s Super Bowl trophy was named after Vince Lombardy following his death from cancer in 1970 .
Prior to the initial championship match, the Packers and Chiefs had never played each other and even took to the field with different balls for their offensive lines. Kansas City used the AFL’s narrow and ¼ inch longer Spalding football that threw better, while Green Bay played with the NFL’s fatter Wilson ball that was more kickable.
While the head referee was an NFL veteran, the rest of the officiating crew was comprised of a combination of NFL and AFL referees.
Both leagues were also followed by their respective broadcasters, a media rivalry in its own. CBS telecast the NFL and NBC covered the AFL. On the ground, their TV trucks were even separated by a fence while they simultaneously transmitted the game.
Almost as an after-thought, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was hastily picked six weeks earlier for the venue. Tickets ran $6 to $12 but only 2/3 of the stadium’s 93,000 seats were filled.
A 75-mile radius TV blackout around Los Angeles angered fans who found the top-tier tickets too expensive and refused to attend. More spectators showed up a month earlier to watch the Packers take on their hometown LA Rams.
By the time it was all over, the NFL emerged triumphantly but the world was indifferent. Both NBC and CBS lost or just deleted their tape footages of the match, assigning little importance to the game and its value for posterity.
It would take 49 years for all the available film fragments to be sourced and stitched to replay the epic match. Simply unimaginable today.
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TENNIS June 12, 2009 Former German tennis star Boris Becker weds model Sharlely Kerssenberg in St. Moritz, Switzerland; the couple would separate in 2018. Turning professional in 1984, Becker won six grand slam singles- 2 Australian, 3 Wimbledon, 1 US Open- and retired 15 years later. At age 17, Becker was the youngest male at the time to claim a grand slam when he won Wimbledon in 1985.
SOCCER June 19, 1999 Team USA dispatches Denmark 3-0 at the opening round of the Women’s World Cup, which was held in the U.S. The ladies would go on to sweep Group A and defeat Germany at the quarterfinals, Brazil at the semifinals and China in penalties (5-4) for the World Cup title. With over 90,000 spectators in attendance at the Rose Bowl, it was the most watched event ever in women’s sports.
BASKETBALL June 13, 1989 The Detroit Pistons sweep the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 for their first NBA championship. The tournament was a rematch of the previous year’s series which saw the Lakers defeat the Pistons 4-3. Detroit’s Joe Dumars was named MVP for averaging 27.3 ppg. The Pistons would go on to wear the national crown again in 1990 after defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 4-1.
GOLF June 17, 1979 Hale Irwin takes the U.S. Open, firing an even 284 and beating former champions Gary Player and Jerry Pate by two strokes. It was the second major victory for Irwin, who went on to win his third and last in 1990; all three majors were at the U.S. Open. Irwin turned professional in 1968 and is the all-time leader in the PGA Tour Champions (seniors > 50) with 45 wins, including 7 senior majors.