The First Super Bowl- Less Than Super
Officially called the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”, the first Super Bowl was less super and more scrimmage. The inaugural match took place on January 15, 1967 between the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs- Packers were favored by 13.5 points and eventually prevailed 35-10.
However, the spirit of the encounter was closer to a contest for league supremacy than that of two top teams chasing a coveted trophy. Seven months earlier, following years of waging bidding wars for players and competing for TV viewers, the established NFL and the upstart AFL agreed to merge- the deal included an annual championship game between the bitter foes.
Originally dismissed as another doomed league trying to nip at the heels of the entrenched NFL, the AFL took off in 1960 and actually succeeded in advancing its eight teams to the national spot light. Tensions ran high as celebrated coach Vince Lombardi and his dynastic Packers were under pressure by the NFL to outperform Lamar Hunt, founder of the AFL and owner of the Chiefs.
The two teams had never played each other and even took to the field with different balls for their offensive lines- KC used the AFL’s more narrow and ¼ inch longer Spalding football that was said to throw better, while GB played with the NFL’s customary, fatter Wilson ball that was more kickable.
Both leagues were also followed by their respective broadcasters, a media rivalry in its own- CBS covered the NFL and NBC the AFL. On the ground, their TV trucks were even separated by a fence as they simultaneously telecast the event.
Almost as an after-thought, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was hastily picked six weeks earlier for the venue. Tickets ran $6 to $12 but only 2/3 of the stadium’s 93,000 seats were filled; more spectators showed up a month earlier to watch the Packers face off against their hometown LA Rams. A 75-mile radius TV blackout around Los Angeles also angered fans who found the top-tier tickets too expensive and refused to attend.
By the time it was all over, the NFL emerged triumphantly but the world was indifferent- both NBC and CBS lost or simply deleted their tape footages of the match, assigning little value to the game for posterity. It would take 49 years for all the available film fragments to be sourced and stitched to replay the epic match entirely on tape- an unimaginable concept today.
BASEBALL April 2, 2010 Former MLB pitcher Mike Cuellar dies at the age of 72. A 2x World Series champion and 4x All-Star, Cuellar started off with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 and played for 5 teams, spending the most years with the Baltimore Orioles. He won the AL Cy Young award in his first season with the dynastic Orioles and was their starting pitcher at the 1969 World Series against the NY Mets. Cuellar closed his career with an ERA of 3.14 and 1,632 strikeouts.
BASKETBALL April 2, 2000 At the 19th Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship, the Connecticut Huskies defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 71-52. Led by their famed coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies claimed their second national title. They would win another 9 championships and become the nation’s most successful women’s basketball program to date. The Connecticut ladies dispatched Penn State at the Semi-finals before taking on Tennessee for the crown.
GOLF April 8, 1990 Nick Faldo wins the 54th annual Masters Tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. Shooting a 278 (-10) and tying Raymond Floyd in the final round after the latter bogeyed on the 16th hole, Faldo emerged victorious in the playoff showdown. It was his second consecutive win at the Masters and third of what would be six career majors. Born in Herdforshire, England, Faldo turned pro in 1976 and has won more majors than any other modern European golfer.
OLYMPICS April 12, 1980 The U.S. Olympic committee announces their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A total of 66 countries chose not to attend the games due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 80 other nations did agree to send their athletes to the first Olympics that were held in a communist country. Four years later, the Russians and their East European allies would follow-up with a boycott of the Los Angeles games.