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 took place on January 15, 1967 between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs- Packers were favored by 13.5 points and eventually prevailed 35-10.
However, the spirit of the encounter was closer to a contest for league supremacy than that of 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 championship game between the bitter foes.
Originally dismissed as another doomed league trying to nip at the heels of the entrenched NFL, the AFL took off in 1960 and actually succeeded in advancing its eight teams to the national spot light. 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.
The two teams had never played each other and even took to the field with different balls for their offensive lines- KC used the AFL’s more narrow and ¼ inch longer Spalding football that was said to throw better, while GB played with the NFL’s customary, fatter Wilson ball that was more kickable.
Both leagues were also followed by their respective broadcasters, a media rivalry in its own- CBS covered the NFL and NBC the AFL. On the ground, their TV trucks were even separated by a fence as they simultaneously telecast the event.
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; more spectators showed up a month earlier to watch the Packers face off against their hometown LA Rams. A 75-mile radius TV blackout around Los Angeles also angered fans who found the top-tier tickets too expensive and refused to attend.
By the time it was all over, the NFL emerged triumphantly but the world was indifferent- both NBC and CBS lost or simply deleted their tape footages of the match, assigning little value to the game for posterity. It would take 49 years for all the available film fragments to be sourced and stitched to replay the epic match entirely on tape- an unimaginable concept today.
BASEBALL July 13, 2010 The NL beat the AL 3-1 in the All-Stars exhibition game. Held at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in California, the game was preceded with a short memorial honoring George Steinbrenner who had died early that morning. The AL fielded the likes of Derek Jeter (SS-Yankees), Ichiro Suzuki (OF-Mariners) and Mariano Rivera (P-Yankees), while the AL brought out David Wright (3B-Mets), Albert Pujols (1B-Cardinals) and Roy Halladay (P-Phillies).
SOCCER July 2, 2000 France defeats Italy 2-1 at the UEFA European Championship. It was their 2nd title at the quadrennial extravaganza, which has been held since 1960 to determine the continent’s best national team; Germany and Spain are tied at the top with 3 wins each. One of the most exciting finals in tournament history, France equalized a goal in the closing minute of official time to send the game into overtime and then land a ‘golden goal’ in sudden death.
TENNIS July 7, 1990 Martina Navratilova claims a record 9th Wimbledon singles title after defeating her American opponent, Zina Garrison, 6-4, 6-1. It was Navratilova’s last career grand slam singles after compiling 17 victories since her first one at Wimbledon in 1978. Considered one of the greatest female athletes in the game, the Czech-born and U.S.-naturalized tennis star was ranked No. 1 in singles for a total of 332 weeks, and No. 1 in doubles for a total 237 weeks.
BOXING July 7, 1980 Larry Holmes knocks out Scott LeDoux in the 7th round to retain his WBC Heavyweight title. It was the 35th professional and undefeated bout for the Georgia native who swung one of the fiercest left jabs in boxing history. Holmes battled the greatest heavyweights of his era and he would defeat Muhammad Ali in the 10th round just 3 months after his encounter with LeDoux. The “Easton Assassin” retired in 2002 after posting a career record of 75-69-6.