A U.S. Phenomenon Is Born: The First Super Bowl
It has become an unofficial national holiday in the United States: Super Bowl Sunday. With the exception of Thanksgiving, it is the day the nation consumes the most food, and the Super Bowl is usually the most-watched television show each year. Lavish parties are held nationwide. Its airtime is the most expensive, and the innovative commercials broadcast during the game are eagerly watched—by some, with more interest than the game itself. This whole crazy, distinctly American sports/cultural phenomenon began 46 years ago on this day, Jan. 15, 1967, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 to win Super Bowl I.
Like many newspapers, the Evening Times covered the game extensively, with photos and numerous articles. The following four articles give a variety of perspectives, insights and statistics, including this startling fact: fans were outraged at the high ticket prices for Super Bowl I—which ranged from $6 to $12 for the best seats! The game was not a sellout, with thousands of empty seats. These copyrighted articles were all published by the Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) on Jan. 16, 1967.
Here is the beginning of the article that gave the straightforward reporting of the game:
Green Bay Showed Chiefs That ‘Class’ Always Wins
Los Angeles (UPI)—Coach Vince Lombardi won’t come right out and say so [actually, he did: see next article—ed.], but indications today were that he felt the Kansas City Chiefs got out of their league in more ways than one when they tangled with his mighty Green Bay Packers.
“Kansas City is a good football team with fine speed but I’d have to say that National League football is tougher,” Lombardi said Sunday after the Packers used their conservative attack to knock off the American Football League titlists, 35-10, in the first annual Super Bowl.
A crowd of 63,036 at the Memorial Coliseum, plus an estimated sixty million television viewers, watched the Packers draw away from a 7-7 deadlock to down the Chiefs behind the deft quarterbacking of Bart Starr.
The modest NFL player of the year, who is paid to locate a team’s defensive weakness then wreck it with passes, did just that to the Chiefs and helped earn himself and each Packer teammate $15,000 in winners’ money.
Kansas City had to settle for the losers’ cut of $7,500 which still isn’t bad for an afternoon’s work.
If there had to be a goat in the game, the spotlight would fall on defensive halfback Willie Mitchell of the Chiefs who was burned by two touchdown passes from Starr to Max McGee.
“But I don’t feel that they were working on me too much and they can’t make me believe that Green Bay is that much better than we are,” Mitchell said afterward.
True to his direct nature, Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi was blunt and honest in assessing how the Chiefs, American Football League (AFL) champions that year, compared to competition in the Packers’ own National Football League (NFL):
Lombardi Admits KC Club Doesn’t Rate with NFL Clubs
By Milton Richman, UPI Sports Writer
New York (UPI)—Vince Lombardi isn’t a good loser.
He isn’t a particularly good winner, either, but you have to give him one thing: he sure tells the truth.
As the biggest winner of all in the Super Bowl Sunday, the intense, iron-willed Green Bay coach had the perfect opportunity to be generous and gracious toward the defeated Kansas City Chiefs.
He wasn’t. Only because he refused to lie—to himself or to anyone else.
Holding the game ball his Packer players gave him after they demolished the Chiefs, 35-10, it would have been so easy for Lombardi to say nice things about the losers when the TV people shoved a microphone in front of his face.
He couldn’t do it, though.
“Is Kansas City a better team than Dallas?” one of his questioners asked.
“I think Dallas is a better football team,” he snapped right back.
“How does Kansas City compare with the teams in the NFL?” someone else asked.
“It’s a good team,” he answered. “It doesn’t compare with teams in the NFL.”
Later he amended that, saying he meant the Chiefs didn’t compare “with the top teams in the NFL.”
“Was this your best game of the year?”
“I wouldn’t say so.”
Lombardi was right again. It was far from the Packers’ best performance of the season, but it was more than good enough to take the starch out of the Chiefs and end all argument as to whether they could keep up with the Packers.
They almost did during the first half after which they trailed only 14-10. Small signs of panic, however, became evident in the Chiefs’ playing pattern and they never really walked tall again after the Packers pumped up their lead to 21-10 following Willie Wood’s 51-yard runback with an early third-quarter interception.
Actually, Lombardi saw only one team out there all day. Not Pete Rozelle, though. He saw two.
As NFL commissioner, Rozelle never could see any reason for a title game between his league and the AFL until they merged last summer. Now that he’s nominal head of both circuits, he saw things in a different light in Los Angeles Sunday.
“I think it was a tremendous show,” Rozelle beamed.
He then added, “it takes more than one game” to evaluate the difference between the two leagues.
That’s his opinion.
The crowd of 63,036 for the first Super Bowl contest was a distinct disappointment. So was the ball game after the first half.
One of the K.C. linebackers, E. J. Holub, tried to shrug the whole thing off by saying, “I’m not gonna hang my head.”
He sounded a lot like Maury Wills after the Orioles walloped the Dodgers in the last World Series. Said Wills at the time:
“We’re embarrassed but not disgraced.”
And that was about the size of it Sunday, too.
Despite being thoroughly beaten, the Chiefs remained defiant after the game and seemed hungry for a rematch:
Disgusted Chief Players Are Still Not Convinced
Los Angeles (UPI)—The Green Bay Packers may have temporarily ended the battle of words between National and American Football League enthusiasts, but the vanquished Kansas City Chiefs are ready to play the Super Bowl again—today, if necessary.
Coach Vince Lombardi and the Packers refused to say “anything detrimental” about the Chiefs after they won 35-10 Sunday.
But in the next dressing room over at the Memorial Coliseum, Chief mentor Hank Stram and his players all agreed that one game is not sufficient evidence of the superiority of the NFL.
While Lombardi was opinionating that the “Chiefs don’t rate with the top teams in the National Football League,” Stram was praised for running and passing well against the veteran Packers, who have been under the strain of championship competition many times before.
“We played well in the first half and at the start of the second half,” Stram explained. “But that interception by (Willie) Wood changed the complexion of the game.”
Besides Wood’s key theft in the third quarter with the score only 14-10, Stram pointed to the clutch third down calls made by Packer quarterback Bart Starr.
“It is imperative not to give them anything easy,” Stram said. “We did and it cost us. But like I said before, one game is not a true test of the abilities of both leagues.”
Defensive tackle Buck Buchanan chimed in, “Today they were a better team, but I’d like to play them again next year or next week or even tomorrow.”
And linebacker Bobby Bell stated that the AFL-NFL championship proved only that “the Packers put on their football uniforms just the same as we do.”
Stay on Course
While Kansas City had to scrap its game plan when it got far behind in the second half, Lombardi said the Packers “made no adjustments in the second half” but just played more effectively.
Starr seconded his coach’s opinion.
“We followed the same game plan exactly in the second half as in the first,” the 11-year veteran said. “We made no changes at halftime. We just didn’t execute properly in the first half.”
The Chiefs were not cowering in their dressing quarters after the disappointing setback.
“The Packers aren’t superhuman,” rookie running back Mike Garrett said. “We made mistakes, but we’ll be back.”
Garrett foresees the Chiefs winning the AFL title “for the next two or three seasons. Then we’ll be happy to take on the Packers again.”
Here are some statistics on the game’s broadcast, and descriptions of the pageantry in the stadium and on the field:
Let’s See Batman ‘Pow’ This Rating
Los Angeles (UPI)—There were empty seats in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for yesterday’s AFL-NFL Super Bowl football game but the contest did not lack one of the greatest audiences in sports history.
An estimated 60 million persons followed the game on television and radio throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. But relatively few of the TV watchers were in the Los Angeles area.
The game was blacked out for a radius of 75 miles although some TV viewers inside the area were able to pick up stations beyond that limit. And there were plenty of them. CBS fed the game to 365 TV stations and NBC had 225 stations carrying it.
The Los Angeles area blackout and the squabble over the pro football championship not being shown locally was blamed to a degree for the attendance in Memorial Coliseum not coming up to expectations.
Originally, pro football commissioner Pete Rozelle had predicted a 93,000-seat sellout. But later that figure was modified to 70,000 and even an hour before the game a spokesman insisted the attendance would be at least that large.
The official attendance was announced as 63,036, about 7,000 below the prediction. With a crowd of 70,000 Rozelle’s staff had anticipated a live gate of around $800,000.
A spokesman for the commissioner said it might be weeks before the exact financial return from the live gate was computed, but he said an estimate of $730,000 was not out of line. But the estimated gate still was a Los Angeles record for a one-day team sports event.
The live gate receipts were below those of the NFL championship at Dallas Jan. 1. Final figures for that game have not been released but they approximated $740,000 paid by a capacity crowd of 75,000 to view the Green Bay-Dallas game. Top ticket price for the NFL championship was $10 while for the Super Bowl it was $12.
Hundreds of Los Angeles fans boycotted the Super Bowl and instead traveled outside the blackout area to watch the game on television. Motels and restaurants in Bakersfield, San Diego, Palm Springs, Laguna Beach and other towns reported large crowds.
Those who attended the game, as well as the TV audience, were entertained before the game and at halftime by marching bands from Grambling College in Louisiana and the University of Arizona, a drill team, dancing girls in Indian costumes and rocket men sailing around through the air powered by compressed air packs on their backs.
The pageantry was titled “Super Sights and Sounds” and was climaxed at halftime by the release of 10,000 helium-filled balloons and 4,000 pigeons.
The playing field itself was elaborately decorated. At the 50-yard line, a large brown football was the central motif. It was capped with a gold crown with the NFL insignia in blue and the AFL in red on each side.
The two end zones also were decorated. The west zone had the word “Packers” spelled out in green on a gold background with the NFL insignia on each side. The east zone bore the word “Chiefs” in red on a gold background with the AFL insignia on each side.
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