Super Bowl History

The Super Bowl is the biggest event in North American sports as measured by a variety of metrics. It gets the biggest TV ratings, the greatest demand for tickets and attracts the most NFL football betting action. It's become a part of the fabric of American popular culture to the point that Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto national holiday. The significance of the Super Bowl is even more amazing considering that it had less than an auspicious beginning less than 50 years ago.

The Super Bowl was created as part of the merger agreement between the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). The 'old line' NFL teams were rebranded into one conference (the NFC) as were the teams from the AFL (the AFC). Although the merger itself didn't go into effect until 1970 the Super Bowl began in 1967. The 'official' name at the outset was the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”, though it quickly became known as the 'Super Bowl'. The origin of the term is widely credited to then Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt who claims that he coined the phrase after seeing kids playing with a 'Super Ball'. Hunt even thought the name was something of a joke at first—in a letter to Commissioner Pete Rozelle he noted "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." It wasn't, and the public and media picked up on the name almost immediately. It became the official name of the game by the time Super Bowl III rolled around.

Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowl games and at the time their success led many to think that the merger was doomed due to a lack of 'competitiveness' by the AFL teams. That perception changed in 1969, when Joe Namath's New York Jets defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Currently, the NFC holds a narrow 24-21 edge in Super Bowl victories. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead all other franchises with six Super Bowl wins followed by the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with 5 victories each. Only four NFL teams—the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars—have never appeared in a Super Bowl. The winning team now receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the legendary coach.

As the Super Bowl has grown in popularity and cultural significance, its importance has come to transcend football. The Super Bowl halftime show has grown into a major media spectacle, with the top recording acts in the world vying to perform. It's also become the most important single day in the advertising industry—many people even claim to watch the Super Bowl 'for the commercials' as ad agencies and the companies they represent pull out all the stops to create memorable ads especially for the occasion. It's also the second largest day for American food consumption, right behind Thanksgiving Day, and beer companies, pizza delivery chains and potato chip makers all try to leverage the game to boost sales. Since the Super Bowl attracts one of the largest TV viewership of the year, the network broadcasting the game uses that to great advantage by extensively promoting their other shows and using the 'lead out spot' immediately after the game to showcase a popular program in hopes of attracting a high rating.