After a humble Beginning, the Super Bowl Struck Gold



A really cool artifact arrived at the Hall of Fame this past Wednesday; the gold plated “50” used as a part of the year-long Super Bowl 50 celebration. The Lombardi Trophy was centered between the gold “5” and the “0” and was the feature element of the official logo and Super Bowl 50 branding. A very nice addition to our collection. And in years to come the gold 50 will, as historic artifacts should, inspire museum visitors to reflect on a special time and place in pro football history.

That time will likely be February 7, 2016 and the place, Santa Clara, California where Super Bowl 50 was played. But for me, those gold-plated beauties caused me to reminisce about Super Bowl I and realize how far this championship game and pro football in general have come in the last five decades.

Imagine this, the first Super Bowl between the American Football League Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League Champion Green Bay Packers didn’t even sell out. Reportedly, a third of the 94,000 available seats at the L.A. Coliseum went unsold. The disappointing turnout caused NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to question whether the $6, $10, and $12 ticket prices may have been too high.  Wow, what a difference 50 years makes. The average resale cost of a Super Bowl 50 ticket was a whopping $4,639 according to online ticket brokers.


Of course we all know what a big part “entertainment” plays in the Super Bowl experience today. The pregame entertainment for Super Bowl I was the University of Arizona and Grambling University Marching Bands. The two bands accompanied legendary trumpeter Al Hirt who helped regale the early birds in the stands awaiting the game’s start.

The National Anthem was performed by the Universities of Arizona and Michigan Bands who also performed at halftime. Pretty tame stuff compared to Super Bowl 50 performers Dierks Bentley, Gavin DeGraw, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliot. But at least at Super Bowl I, the only “wardrobe malfunction” worry was whether or not the coaches’ clip-on ties would fall off during a sideline rant.

Oh yes, things were different in 1967. For instance, women in the post-game locker room following Super Bowl I? No way. Heck, back then women weren’t even allowed in most press boxes. I remember in my hometown of Buffalo, the only woman allowed in War Memorial Stadium’s press box was an elderly lady who ran the hotdog rotisserie.

Ah, but alas, it’s a new day. Today there are not only women reporters in Super Bowl locker rooms, but in every NFL locker room and every press box. There are females working at every level of sport. And in Buffalo, where it was once just a hot dog rotisserie operator, the Bills went on to hire the first female scout in the NFL – Linda Bogdan – and this past year hired Kathryn Smith, the first full-time female assistant coach in the NFL.  

And speaking of Super Bowls and women in the NFL, the only woman to attend all 50 Super Bowls is Norma Hunt, the wife of Hall of Famer and AFL and Kansas City Chiefs founder, Lamar Hunt. Norma, along with the 15 others who have been to every Super Bowl – eight fans, three writers, three photographers, and one groundskeeper – were honored for their milestone at a private ceremony at Super Bowl 50. Photographer Walter Iooss, one of the Super 16, quipped that his only regret was “I’ve never seen the commercials.”

Let’s not forget too, that it was Lamar Hunt who famously came up with the name “Super Bowl.” Now, there is some confusion as to exactly when the moniker became official.  But for the record, he proposed the name prior to the first game. Although it was widely used by the media, for one reason or another NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle resisted using the name. But it was definitely out there. In fact it can be seen in photos spelled out on the Super Bowl I sidelines in big block lettered props. But, for whatever reason, official league publications like the ticket and game program for the first two games referred to it as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. But by Super Bowl III, Pete gave in and finally officially blessed the term “Super Bowl.”

Now 50 golden years later “Super Bowl” is the most recognized term in the entire sports lexicon, and the game the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. And to commemorate that success, the Hall of Fame is pleased to add to its collection these iconic symbols of success.  

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Written by: Joe Horrigan