I have always been passionate about the game we American's call football. I was in second grade when the first Super Bowl took place. I can still recall the build up and the bragging rights that were at stake leading up to the first big game.
Bert Bell, the commissioner of the NFL, along with his owner's, had denied other's entrance into the league. Lawsuits insued and for good reason. Why, it was argued, could a small town like Green Bay Wisconson have a team while larger cities such as Kansas City, Miami and Houston be denied. I could relate to this as a second grader because once a sixth grader said "go find your own swing kid, this is our playground". Men such as Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams did just that. They held there first league meeting in 1959 giving memberships to Dallas, New York, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The NFL soon began a campaign to undermine the new league. The AFL, much to the dismay of the NFL, started signing big name players like 1959 Heisman trophy winner Billy Cannon. Then a multi-million dollar television contract with ABC. The league was however suffering financially. Average attendance for NFL games was nearly 60,000, while the AFL could only muster about 10,000. AFL owners borrowed money from anywhere they could just to stay afloat.
A turning point came in 1965 with the signing of two of the greatest players in the history of sport. Gayle Sayers and Joe Namath entered the AFL that year and would eventually wind up in NFL Hall of Fame. Talk of a merger between the two league's ensued. But dispite all the leagal an financial ramifications this would bring, it started very simply. A game played between the two. But what shall we call it? Lamar Hunt of the AFL saw his granson bouncing a small rubber ball in the driveway. A super ball it was called. "Let's call it the Super Bowl", he said. Now, I must admit that when the first Super Bowl was played in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers of the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL, I was rooting for the Packers. Even Vince Lombardi called the AFL inferior.
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls under Lombardi's guidance. And then in 1970 something wierd happened. As the favored NFL's Baltimore Colts with the great Johnny Unitas and Mike Curtis took on the Upstart New York Jets of the AFL. Some wanna be playboy named Namath was the Jet's quarterback. Well, history records this as one of the greatest upsets of all time as the Jets soundly beat the Colts. A merger took place that year and the game is now played in February. The greatest sopting event the world has ever seen is coming up again. Not since the ancient olympics in Greece or the Coliseum in Rome have so many people entertained by the simpicity of competition.
So amidst all the hype and advertisement and all the bragging and pre-game interviewing, let us remember it is still just a game. And its origins are on a playground, where a bigger person said "there's no room for you kid".