The football contest between my Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers to be played later today in Dallas, Texas has world event ramifications. It is estimated a billion people will watch the game, and the lucky 100,000 on site attendants will have forked over considerably more than the listed 1500 dollars a ticket for the privilege to be present at the event. During the game, television commercial sponsors will pony up 3 million dollars for 30 seconds of air time for the exposure to the teeming masses watching the game. What a change from the first “super” bowl contests between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City chiefs in January 1967, and subsequently the Green Bay Packers and the Oakland Raiders in January, 1968. The ticket price to the first game came in a very tolerable twelve dollars, and barely 60,000 seats were able to be sold in the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum, leaving large swaths of the stadium uninhabited. By the second game in Miami, Florida, there was considerably more buzz and attendance, but the game featured the mighty Packers, who were felt to be too dominant for a lowly American Football League team to compete with.
In a general sense, the pressure was all on the Packers, who had everything to lose in terms of prestige in the case of an upset to the upstarts from the AFL. The NFL team owners had been under a progressive financial onslaught from the newer American Football League for some five years, as the burgeoning technology of 1960’s television broadcasting and its higher revenues made clear to all that the real money was to be made not in ticket sales, but commercial sales. The Packers, as representative of the establishment, were expected to uphold the quality standard of the NFL, but in truth the dispersal of talent through money was progressively “leveling” the talent pool between the two leagues.
There is still a bit of the quaint quality to looking back at the simpler processes of the first two super bowls when compared to the current extravaganza. Perhaps this is most epitomized by a game the Raiders participated in the following year. With the New York Jets leading the Oakland Raiders with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a late season AFL contest, the NBC television network broadcasting the game ran up against the hard hour change of their scheduled Sunday television event and simply left the game in mid-stream to go to the broadcast of the movie “Heidi”. The nation, tuned in to the game, was left blind to a stunning comeback by the Raiders, scoring two touchdowns in the last minute to defeat the Jets, viewed by no one except those in the stadium. It was the first occasion for the network to understand the attraction and power building in the public’s passion for the sport event Peter Rozelle, the NFL commissioner was devising, as howls of protest for the nation’s fans watching nearly shut down the network. It was a blunder that NBC, nor any other television network for that matter, would ever make again. By the second super bowl game, it was becoming clear that the public was becoming attached to the winter spectacle of a final professional game clash between the two “best” teams, and the game, initially referred to as the NFL- AFL Championship Game, had metamorphosized into something “Super”.
On the occasion of hopefully the Green Bay Packers achieving their thirteenth professional football world championship and fourth Super Bowl triumph today, let’s look back at the two games that started it all: