As you all know, Super Bowl XLIV will take place this weekend. Throughout this week we'll focus on the history of the games, the hype, the halftime and anything else Super Bowl related that we come up with. We start today with the first Super Bowl.
Ticket to the first Super Bowl
The NFL and the AFL had faced off everywhere except on the field. The two leagues battled for fans, television rights, players and finally, in 1967, they would battle for a championship. The merger of the leagues was finalized in December which left approximately four weeks to get ready for the AFL - NFL Championship Game (it was not yet called the Super Bowl.) That certainly wasn't much time and it left some things somewhat unresolved. Like the balls. There was the difference in the balls for each league and since no one could decide which one to use, the NFL squad would use the NFL ball on offense and the AFL squad used the AFL version when they had the ball. Television rights raised another problem. NBC had been carrying the AFL games while CBS had the rights to the NFL. No one was willing to give up the opportunity to air the game so it was shown on both networks with Paul Christman as the color commentator for NBC while CBS had Frank Gifford behind the mic.
The Packers, the best of the NFL, were heavily favored over the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The betting line had the Packers by 14 and there was not much hope for a competitive game. Tickets were priced at $6, $10 and $12, and a third of the 94,000 seats in Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles remained unsold. Even with the odds on his side, Packers coach Vince Lombardi was very nervous about the game and the fact that the Packers were not just representing themselves and their fans, but the whole NFL. In the days leading up to the game Lombardi received telegrams from some of the league's luminaries including George Halas and Wellington Mara. They essentially all said the same thing, "go show them who's boss."
The underdog Chiefs and QB Len Dawson held their own in the first half. Green Bay struck first when Bart Starr hit WR Max McGee for a 37 yard td but the Chiefs didn't back down. They found the end zone in the second quarter on a 7 yard td pass from Dawson to RB Curtis McClinton. The Packers answered back in the second when RB Jim Taylor ran in from 14 yards out. Once again the Chiefs came back, this time with a 31 yard field goal with :54 seconds left in the first half.
Bart Starr in the AFL - NFL Championship Game
Chiefs coach Hank Stram saw that his team was full of confidence going into the locker room. "We were only four points behind at halftime. We were confident that we could get that back and more" said Stram. However, Lombardi unleashed his defense in the second half and it was too much for the Chiefs to handle. Lombardi was not a fan of the blitz so when Lombardi called for it in the beginning of the third quarter it took everyone by surprise, especially Dawson. Dawson was hit as he attempted to throw and the ill fated pass fell into the hands of Packers safety Willie Wood who ran it back 50 yards to the Chiefs 5. Packers RB Elijah Pitts scored from there. Starr hit McGee again for a 13 yard td to finish out the third quarter and the Chiefs were never able to recover. Pitts found the end zone one more time in the fourth quarter and the game ended with a 35 - 10 final score.
Starr completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards and was the game's MVP. Lombardi couldn't resist getting a few digs at the AFL in his post game comments.
"The game ball, the players gave it to me. It's the NFL ball. It catches better and kicks a little better than the AFL ball."
Elijah Pitts runs in for the final td of the game.