The Super Bowl is the most extraordinary human spectacle. Between the emotions displayed by two teams vying for the NFL’s greatest prize, the intensity of the fans, the love of country during the singing of the national anthem, the over the top halftime shows, there is no sporting event that provides such joy, drama, and wonder.
How did the Super Bowl Become a Worldwide Spectacle?
The first Super Bowl was a watershed moment in sports. Featuring the American Football League champion Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, it was played on January 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The Packers, led by the legendary Vince Lombardi and league MVP QB Bart Starr, defeated the Chiefs 35-10. Marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling State University performed the national anthem and the halftime show.
Unlike the World Series, the NBA Finals, or the Stanley Cup Finals, the Super Bowl is a single event, and it captures the attention of more Americans than any other televised event. Although the first Super Bowl was not sold out, the game was watched by 65 million people, the biggest draw for any American sporting event at the time. With the first game commanding such a large audience, it provided much promise for the overall evolution of the game of football from a niche American game, to a globally-beloved sport.
It also established a blueprint for large sporting events to maximize major advertising. In order to attract prominent advertisers, the Super Bowl was made a primetime event in 1978, and Super Bowl XII was the highest-viewed Super Bowl at the time.
Star Power and Big Brands
Super Bowls throughout the 1960s and 1970s featured powerhouse football brands from big markets, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Jets, and the Miami Dolphins, who had recognizable and commercial stars such as Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, and Joe Namath.
From the first touchdown in Super Bowl history scored by Green Bay’s Max McGee, to Lynn Swann’s heroic catch, to Marcus Allen’s 74-yard dash to paydirt, to John Elway turning into a helicopter to extend a game-sealing drive, to David Tyree’s physics-defying helmet catch, to the New England Patriots’ historic comeback in 2017, the Big Game has delivered moments that will echo in eternity.
If not for the first Super Bowl, the NFL and the game of football itself would probably not have seen such a meteoric rise in popularity throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
In 1967, the Super Bowl was merely a championship game, a big gamble that relied on football as a quality sports product in the United States. Today, the game is a staple of American culture and the ultimate convergence of sport, pageantry, violence, and entertainment.
Since the mid 1960s, football has been the most popular sport to watch. It is a uniquely American event and experience. There is one mainstay on American television, and that is the NFL.
It does not matter if we do not like the teams involved. Each year, we gather around the television with family and friends, enjoy our wings and pizza, and watch the greatest game in the world play out on the world’s biggest stage.
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