The History of the Super Bowl
The History of the Super Bowl

The History of the Super Bowl

Larry Holzwarth - January 25, 2021

The History of the Super Bowl
When the Green Bay Packers visited USS Nimitz in the Arabian Sea in 2011, they brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy with them, allowing sailors to pose for pictures. US Navy

19. The Vince Lombardi Trophy was designed on a cocktail napkin

In 1966, Oscar Riedner, the president of Tiffany and Company, had a lunch meeting with Pete Rozelle. During the meeting, Riedner sketched a trophy on a cocktail napkin, the design of which Rozelle instantly approved. The original trophy, awarded to Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi after his team won the first Super Bowl, was manufactured by Tiffany’s in Newark. The trophy has been manufactured by Tiffany and Company ever since, though at different facilities over the years. The early trophies included the words “World Professional Football Championship”. Lombardi won the first two. After his death in 1970, the NFL named the trophy in his honor. The first team to receive the newly named Lombardi Trophy was the Baltimore Colts, on January 17, 1971.

Since the late 1990s, the trophy has been awarded in a presentation following the game, with it being delivered to the owner of the winning team, usually accompanied by the head coach, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and other luminaries. That didn’t happen in 1971. The MVP for the game, in which the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys, was Chuck Howley. Howley represents the only time a member of the losing team won the MVP award in Super Bowl history. Howley refused to accept the award, though it was not redesignated for another player. It was the first time the Super Bowl MVP went to a defensive player as well.

The History of the Super Bowl
President Reagan did the coin toss for the 1985 Super Bowl via television from the White House. Wikimedia

20. Another network didn’t broadcast the Super Bowl until 1985

On January 20, 1985, ABC broke the long-standing grip of NBC and CBS on Super Bowl television broadcasts. The network had been airing professional football on its Monday Night Football broadcasts for fifteen years before it had the opportunity to do the Super Bowl. Frank Gifford did the play-by-play, supported by Don Meredith and Joe Theismann. During the pregame coverage, hosted by Al Michaels and Jim Lampley, O. J. Simpson provided analysis. Howard Cosell did not take part in the broadcasts, having largely retired. ABC provided closed captioning during the game, its first appearance in the annual event. The game took place in Stanford Stadium, giving a real home team advantage to the San Francisco 49ers.

Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for his second term in office the same day. Reagan took the oath in a private ceremony in the White House, since January 20th occurred on a Sunday. The following day, the traditional ceremonies and celebrations took place. After being inaugurated, Reagan appeared in a telecast from the White House and tossed the coin at the outset of the game. Presidential appearances at the Super Bowl have been a feature of the broadcast ever since, though in varying degrees. A television audience of such size is irresistible to politicians.

The History of the Super Bowl
Dallas won the 1994 Super Bowl, the last broadcasting assignment for NBC”s OJ Simpson. Wikimedia

21. The same network broadcast the Super Bowl two years in a row twice

CBS broadcast Super Bowl I and II in 1967 and 1968. In 1993 and 1994 NBC broadcast back-to-back games, as part of a resolution of a contract dispute. It was, to date, the only time the game has been broadcast by a single network for two consecutive years. It also marked the last appearance during a professional football game by O. J. Simpson, who worked it as a sideline reporter. Within months, Simpson faced charges of murdering his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The game itself, between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys, proved competitive during the first half. Buffalo led at halftime, but failed to score in the second half and lost 30-13.

Fox Sports displaced CBS in the rotation following the 1996 season. NBC lost broadcasting rights for a time, before reclaiming them, displacing ABC from the rotation. Since 2007, the game has alternated between CBS, NBC, and Fox. Regardless of which network the game is scheduled for in any given year, the upcoming Super Bowl is hyped during entertainment broadcasting, sports broadcasting, and by the local affiliates associated with each network. The Super Bowl is a cash cow for the broadcasters, and it is exploited to the maximum possible effect.

The History of the Super Bowl
All Super Bowl footballs are made by Wilson in Ada, Ohio. Associated Press

22. Super Bowl footballs are hand made by Wilson

For each team playing in the Super Bowl, 108 footballs are provided. Half of the footballs are intended for practice sessions, the other 54 for the game. Each are hand-crafted and stitched by workers at Wilson’s factory in Ada, Ohio, though some stitches are assisted by sewing machines. Laces are tied by hand. The attention to detail surrounding the Super Bowl is by no means limited to the balls used. Players are given perks throughout the week leading up to the game, including loaner cars (usually from local car dealers). Fans aren’t so lucky. The average ticket price for the Super Bowl has reached well over $4,000, and they continue to go up.

Family and friends of the players also receive numerous perks, including comped meals and hotel rooms, and access to exclusive events, away from the public. Corporate-sponsored parties allow some access to fans but at a cost of hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Even the coin used for the ceremonial pregame coin toss is specially minted, different for each game, by the Highland Mint. Replicas of the coin can be purchased online. Besides becoming a de facto part of the American holiday season, the Super Bowl over the years has become a clear representation of conspicuous consumption, whether of the bowl of guacamole or expensive champagne in a luxury suite at the stadium. All indications are the game’s popularity will continue to grow, with some speculation of it one day being played in London’s Wembley Stadium.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The History of the Super Bowl”. Robert Fleegler, The American Historian. Online

“Super Bowl Halftime Show Performances: A Timeline”. Elias Leight and Staff, Billboard Magazine. January 31, 2020

“The AFL-NFL Merger and the Birth of the Super Bowl”. Jim Weathersby, The Sports Historian. February 3, 2017. Online

“Jets Shock Colts in Super Bowl, 16-7”. Dave Brady, The Washington Post. January 13, 1969

“Mardi Gras parades will pause for Super Bowl XLVII”. Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune. February 7, 2012

“How ‘I’m going to Disney World!’ Began as post-Super Bowl Slogan”. Avianne Tan, ABC News. February 3, 2016

“A Brief History of Super Bowl Commercials”. Video, The Wall Street Journal. Online

“The History of Super Bowl Betting”. Jim Hall, Best US Casinos. January 1, 2021. Online

“Be careful with the phrase ‘Super Bowl’ in marketing; NFL has the trademark”. Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune. September 23, 2017

“Debunking those Super Bowl Myths”. Keely Brown, Summit Daily (Colorado). January 31, 2008

“Super Bowl Stadiums”. Article, Pro Football Hall of Fame. Online

“The Super Bowl’s Lucky White Uniforms”. Chris Creamer, SportsLogos.net. February 2, 2020

“For the first time ever, Super Bowl I will be re-aired on television”. Announcement, NFL Communications. Online

“A Brief History of NFL Blackouts”. Al Yellon, SBNation. September 14, 2010. Online

“Ranking All 52 Super Bowls”. Elliot Harrison, NFL.com. Online

“Super Bowl Commercials 2020: How much does an ad cost for Super Bowl 54?” James Crabtree-Hannigan, The Sporting News. February 2, 2020

“Tiffany’s Timeless Super Bowl Trophy Design”. Anthony DeMarco, Forbes Magazine. January 29, 2017

“Reagan’s Second Inauguration”. Article, The White House Historical Society. Online

“Everything you need to know about the footballs that will be used in Super Bowl XLVIII”. Tim Newcomb, Sports Illustrated. January 27, 2014

“Should the NFL hold a Super Bowl in London?” Andrew Joseph, USA Today. May 1, 2018

“When the World Series brought America to a Standstill” Larry Holzwarth, History Collection. February 15, 2022

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