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.
SOCCER August 29, 2009 Christiano Ronaldo makes his debut with Real Madrid. He stayed with the European powerhouse club until 2018, making 292 league appearances and scoring 311 goals. One of the greatest on the world soccer stage, the Portuguese striker who also captains his national team started his top flight career in 2003 with Manchester United, winning the FA Cup in just his first year.
TENNIS August 30, 1999 The 119th Edition of the US Open kicks off at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City. 18-year old Serena Williams won her first grand slam singles title after defeating #1 ranked Martina Hingis at the final. On the men’s side, Andre Agassi claimed the singles championship after outlasting fellow American Todd Martin in 5 hard-fought sets.
BASKETBALL August 26, 1989 NBA star James Harden is born in Los Angeles, California. The future guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets led his Artesia High School team to a 33-1 record and the state title. Playing at Arizona State for just two seasons, Harden joined the NBA in 2009 and was recipient of multiple awards & recognitions, including 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.
BASEBALL August 25, 1979 The California Angels trounce the Toronto Blue Jays 24-2, scoring 8 runs in just the first inning. David Frost was the winning pitcher, hurling from the mound in all 9 innings. The Angels went on to wrap the season with a win/loss record of 88-74 and finish first in the American League West. But they would lose to the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 at the AL Championship Series.