The history of the Super Bowl
The Super Bowl was originally created as part of a merger agreement between the National Football League and the competing American Football League in 1966, a move to have the two best sides compete for a championship crown. Thus, it has become an annual final playoff game to decide the league champion today.
Before this year, the game usually was played on the second Sundays in early January, as has been the case since the formation of the AFL. Later, it was moved from early to mid-January to the later stages of it from 1979 to 2003, and soon to the first Sunday in February from 2004 to last year. Before the merger agreement, the first four of the game’s finals played between 1967 and 1970 were won by the NFL and the AFL, each of them winning the title twice. Winning sides were awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy, a special title named after Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, who famously won the first two Super Bowls contested between the two franchises.
Today, the day of the Super Bowl, which is usually on a Sunday, is often referred to as “Super Sunday.”
How did the Super Bowl name come about?
When that first AFL-NFL final game was played, not many people knew what it was all about or even what to call it—especially as these were two Midwestern teams competing for the honor: the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers.
Before this game, there was no record of an AFL team playing against an NFL team, and of course, the Chiefs and Packers had never faced off. So when the two leagues were merged to create a championship playoff game, no one knew what to call it.
Thankfully, with an ongoing NFL stakeholders meeting to replace NFL commissioner Bert Bell, a number of name suggestions began to emerge. The Big One, the World Series of Football, the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, and the Pro Bowl: none of these names eventually materialized. It was eventually Lamar Hunt, the founder of the AFL, who came up with the name “Super Bowl.” According to his son, Hunt Jnr., the term actually might not have been the best one for the competition, but he had his toy, “Super Ball,” to thank for that idea.
“My dad was in an owner’s meeting,” Hunt Jr. was quoted as having explained.
They were trying to figure out what to call the last game, the championship game. I don’t know if he had the ball with him, as some reports suggest. My dad said, “Well, we need to come up with a name, something like the “Super Bowl.” And then he said, “Actually, that’s not a very good name.” “We can come up with something better.”
And that was how the name “Super Bowl” stuck in the media and in the hearts of fans.
The Commercial Effects
Only second to the UEFA Champions League final, the Super Bowl, as famous as the competition is, remains the next most watched sporting event to date. Each of the seven most-watched broadcasts in American television history has been a Super Bowl game.
While the first ever game on January 15th, 1967, is well remembered for its exorbitant ticket prices of $15, $12, and $10, respectively, commercial TV airtimes during the Super Bowl broadcasts have recorded the highest rates of each year due to the high viewership, pushing companies that are affiliated with the game to often develop expensive ads for their goods and services to be broadcasted during the game. Up until today, the Super Bowl was the second-largest event for American food consumption, just behind Thanksgiving dinner.
The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, two teams who have been successful in the history of the competition, are tied at a record six wins apiece, with the latter having also made the most appearances in the showpiece: eleven Super Bowl appearances. Then, the Dallas Cowboys, who come in second with the Steelers and the Denver Broncos in the most featured Super Bowl teams’ eight appearances, along with the San Francisco 49ers, have five each to their names.
Two teams come in as the third-most successful teams, as they have four each to their names: the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers. Fourteen other NFL teams have at least one win to their names.
As per individual records, Bill Belichick, who handles the affairs of the New England Patriots, has the record for the most wins, eight in total, as well as making the most appearances, nine times as head coach and twice as defensive coordinator, which is the most any individual has accrued.
Another top performer is Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who has the most Super Bowl starts (ten) and has also won seven times as a player, while outside linebacker and defensive end Charles Haley has the second-most wins among players (five).
At least eight teams have appeared in a Super Bowl game without ever tasting victory. The first team to rack up that unsavoury stat was the Minnesota Vikings, who appeared four times and did not win, while the Buffalo Bills have the record of playing in a record four successive Super Bowls, losing in each appearance. Then, the most defeats in the competition’s history have been tallied by the duo of the Broncos and Patriots, with a loss of five Super Bowl games each.
Four teams never got to play in a Super Bowl showcase: the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars first started playing in 1995, and along with the Texans, who made their debut in 2002, they are the two youngest franchises in the league. However, the Browns and Lions had both won the NFL championships before the Super Bowl.
The Packers’ dominance in the 1960s
The first two AFL—NFL World Championship Games were won by the Packers, seeing off the challenges of both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs then, in 1966 and 1967, respectively. Before that, the Packers had won the NFL championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965, amounting to the most successful sweep in NFL history: five championship titles in seven years, the second threepeat in NFL history, and they remain the only side to have ever done that, equaling the one they did during the pre-playoff era (1929, 1930, 1931). At the center of it all was Packers quarterback Bart Starr, who led the team to those first two titles, scooping up the Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards along the way.
After the AFL and the NFL were merged, three franchises, namely the Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and Steelers, would go on to dominate in the 1970s, winning a combined eight Super Bowl titles during that time. Then, the Baltimore Colts flagged off the decade by beating the Cowboys in Super Bowl V. Cowboys’ linebacker Chuck Howley won the MVP award, and that was the first time to date that a player on the losing side had won the award. It was from this one that all other Super Bowls served as the NFL’s championship decider.
The Steelers then went on to beat the Rams in Super Bowl XIV to win a for the fourth title in six years.
Then, the Cowboys bounced back from a loss from the previous season to win Super Bowl VI over the Miami Dolphins.
However, it turned out to be the Dolphins’ final loss for over a year, as the next year, they would go 14–0 in the regular season and then win all of their playoff games, capping off with a 14–7 victory in Super Bowl VII, becoming the first and only team to finish an entire perfect regular season and postseason. The Dolphins would repeat as league champions by winning Super Bowl VIII a year later.
In the late ’70s, led by the legendary Chuck Noll, the Steelers became the first NFL dynasty of the post-merger era to win four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) in six years. Thanks to the exploits of his offensive stars, the likes of Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth, and the now famous “Steel Curtain” defense of Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Mel Blount, Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert.
The Steelers’ own dominance in the 1970s was interrupted only by the Raiders’ first Super Bowl title win in the XI edition and the Cowboys’ second in Super Bowl XII. The Steelers were the first team to appear in six AFC Championship Games during the decade; they won four Super Bowls, making the playoffs for eight successive seasons. Pittsburgh still remains, to date, the only team to win consective Super Bowls and four Super Bowls in a six-year period. Then the Vikings, renowned for their “Purple People Eaters” defense, made history as the only side to feature in four Super Bowl showpieces (I, VIII, IX, and XI) during the decade without winning any of them.
The top eight greatest players to play in the Super Bowl
It is fitting that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana headlines this list. Renowned for his passing exploits in the Super Bowl, no quarterback has accrued more rings (four) than the Pennsylvania-born. Each time he has appeared in the showpiece, trust him to put in one of the most sensational performances you will ever see.
You wouldn’t forget even in a hurry his effervescence, which was on display during Super Bowl XXIII, where he led a 92-yard touchdown drive, setting up John Taylor for the game-winning throw.
Brady is the Super Bowl’s all-time leader in passes, and not just that. He’s also equaled his boyhood idol, Montana, for Super Bowl titles and Most Valuable Player awards.
The New England Patriots man was quite a sensation.
Super Bowls XIII and XIV had prints of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw all over them. If there was one player who was synonymous with the famous “Steel Curtain,” it was Bradshaw, because you don’t get them any tougher than he was.
He was the first quarterback to win four Lombardi trophies, placing third with nine touchdown strikes, a tally only bettered by the duo of Brady and Montana.
Outside linebacker and defensive end Charles Harley has a record five Super Bowl rings to his name, two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Dallas Cowboys. For every one of those rings, he really was worth it, and spare a moment to think he was the first ever player to get five.
His NFL stats are pretty decent: 503 tackles, 100.5 sacks, 26 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown strike.
With a Super Bowl record of receptions (33 in total), 589 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns, 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice stood out.
During Super Bowl XXIII, in which he won the MVP, the wide receiver accrued a single-game record of 215 receiving yards.
Emmitt James Smith
Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and the Dallas Cowboys player remains the only running back ever to win the title, the NFL MValuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl MVP award all in the same season (1993).
Denver’s Chris Davis is particularly remembered for his effort in Super Bowl XXXII, where he ran a record 157 yards and also scored three touchdowns, inspiring the Denver Broncos to their first title. The next year, the running back was back to his old tricks, repeating the feat yet again, this time adding 102 rushing yards and 50 more receiving yards as the team took home a second Super Bowl ring.
Adam Matthew Vinatieri
Vinatieri holds the NFL records for field goals made (599), post-season points (238), and overtime field goals made (12). Renowned for his kicking accuracy, his successful game-winning kick in the dying minutes of Super Bowl XXXVI was enough to hand the New England Patriots their first title. He would go on to win two more with them (XXXVIII and XXXIX) before taking a fourth with the Indianapolis Colts (XLI).