A Fourth Excerpt From the Book: “When It Was Just a Game”
With Super Bowl Gold (Number 50) ready soon to take center stage, we flash back to the first one whose name officially was the AFL-NFL Championship Game. My book has many oral history memories. Herewith, just a few of those who were there at the game remember the time:
ANN BUSSEL: At that time I was living with my husband in New Jersey, and he was in the scrap iron and metal business. We were attending in Los Angeles a convention, a meeting between dealers in that industry. A gentleman had extra tickets that he could not sell to the Super Bowl. That was hard to believe. So he offered them for free to men attending the convention. My husband was a big football fan, a fan of the New York Giants. He was thrilled to go.
This gentleman rented a bus and offered free transportation to and from the game. That is how I was had the privilege to attend the first Super Bowl. We got on the bus that he chartered. It was loaded up with about 30 or 40 people, all in a happy and party mood.
Lo and behold, we arrived at the Coliseum and wow, the tickets were on the 50 yard line. I really did not know anything about the Kansas City Chiefs and not much about Green Bay aside from Bart Starr. Out of gratitude for the man who gave us the tickets, we rooted for Kansas City. Their fans there were pretty happy the first half of the game.
It was a pleasant day. It was a plus plus day. And when I tell my children and especially my grandchildren that their grandmother attended the first Super Bowl, they say “What?”
I did not think to save my program or my ticket.
FRED WALLIN: We were among a minority that watched the game on television in the Los Angeles area. We had a directional antenna on the roof to get reception from San Diego. We had thirty friends over to the house. Everyone had a good time. In the second half, the picture became fuzzy. Dad asked me to go up onto the roof to move the antenna. It was quite a day. The next week we attached a rotor so that could adjust the antenna electronically.
DOUG KELLY: I was a senior in high school. We were living in Menlo Park, California. The television set was in the living room, and it was in color which had recently come into vogue. We had to get up from time to time and adjust the color. We watched on CBS. My Dad loved Ray Scott. Looking at that first game and all the stuff that surrounded it, you would never guess in a million years that it would become what it is today.
Little did I realize that I would join the Kansas City Chiefs organization in 1974, working in public relations. There was still a pretty good core of players who had played in that first Super Bowl, but the problem was they were all 7 years older.
LU VAUGHN: I’d never been on a junket before but through the Meadowbrook Country Club in Kansas City, a group of guys got together, and we chartered a jet to go out to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl. The trip cost me about $200. I think the ticket was around $10 for the game. I was about 34-35 years old at that time.
We went to Las Vegas first where we were comped food, beverages, and lodging. We were at the Sands Hotel, one of the earliest of the great places out there. We even were comped to see a show at the Flamingo. Bill Cosby was the celebrity.
Our flight from Vegas to LA did not happen—Los Angeles was souped in. So they woke us up at 5 o’clock in the morning at the hotel to bus us from Las Vegas to the LA Coliseum. We had 3 buses for about 100 of us, all Kansas City Chief fans.
After about a 5-hour journey, we arrived. We missed the first quarter. Our seats were not really good, more to the end zone than anyplace else. We wore jackets and shirts and other things that let people know that we were Kansas City Chiefs fans. And we were harassed. People teased us and said Kansas City was going to be badly beaten. But of course we thought otherwise. We felt that we stood a good chance of being competitive in the ball game, and maybe winning.
STEVE FOLVEN: I was about 19 years old and living at home in Lowell, Mass and in my first year of college. The biggest game of the year at the Boston Garden was at twelve o’clock – the Celtics versus Philadelphia. Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain.
My two buddies Billy Brooks and Charlie Gallagher and I were going to the game. In those days you could go the day of the game and actually get a ticket. Billy Brooks had the car. He said we would all have to leave the Celtic game a bit early to get home in time to see the big football game between Kansas City and Green bay. That was at 4 o’clock.
We got to the Garden about eleven o’clock or so. I had attended early Mass. We tried to sneak in and pay the ushers some money, but there weren’t any ushers around. We got in for six bucks or something like that. We had pretty good seats, and it was a great game. It was too bad we had to leave early in the fourth quarter.
I was a Boston Patriots fan in the AFL. But to me the AFL was a minor league compared to the NFL. I thought it was nice that finally the two leagues were meeting in a championship game. I felt the Chiefs were going to get creamed.
The first half I was surprised. The Chiefs looked okay. But I wanted the Packers to win. They had Lombardi and Starr and Hornung and Taylor and all that great talent. They were always winning, always on television.
Our only TV set was black and white, a small one, in the living room. I watched the entire game on NBC—Gowdy and Christman. The next day I read about the game in the newspapers—it didn’t get that much play.
BILL GUTMAN: I followed the birth of the American Football League. In the New York City area and its surroundings there was interest in the game not only among fans but also the media. I was living in Stamford, Connecticut and was two years away from beginning my writing career.
The talk in the media and popular conversation was about the need of the NFL to win that game. A defeat in that game would have been crushing to the old league. There was also talk: “Thank God, it’s Lombardi” and the Packers who are there representing the National Football League.
My feeling was it was an unknown thing—two teams, two leagues that have never met before. You just did not know what to expect. At the first snap, however, when the two lines collided then you realized it was just another football game and all the talk meant nothing.
I watched the game on both CBS Channel 2 and NBC 4 in my room alone at home. The set had a 13 inch black and white screen. The antenna was rabbit ears, but the reception was pretty good. I was a sports fan, not a fan of either league. I enjoyed the game.
SUSAN LOMBARDI: I was in Marymount College in Boca Raton. It was a finishing school and there were a lot of politicians’ daughters there. It was warm but I wanted to go to the game in California but I knew my father being the teacher that he was would never pull me out. He wanted me to be in school.
I watched the game on a 19 inch nothing TV in the middle of the community area in our dorm with my college girlfriends. The nuns, our teachers, wandered in and out. They let us have snacks. I was just another student. This was the first time I ever watched my father on TV. I had a difficult time watching it because I had always been at the game watching him live. At Lambeau, in Green Bay we had A1 seats on the 50 yard line. When we went to away games, the seats were good but nothing like Lambeau. For me being in Boca in a community room watching my father and the Packers on TV—it was a strange experience.
(Autographed, mint, discounted copies of WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME are available direct from the author)
Written by acclaimed sports author and oral historian Harvey Frommer, with an introduction by pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, When It Was Just a Game tells the fascinating story of the ground-breaking AFL–NFL World Championship Football game played on January 15, 1967: Packers vs. Chiefs. Filled with new insights, containing commentary from the unpublished memoir of Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram, featuring oral history from many who were at the game—media, players, coaches, fans—the book is mainly in the words of those who lived it and saw it go on to become the Super Bowl, the greatest sports attraction the world has ever known. Archival photographs and drawings help bring the event to life.
Dr. Harvey Frommer is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 43 sports books including the classics: best-selling New York City Baseball, 1947-1957 and best-selling “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball. He also authored the acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. The prolific Frommer is working on “the Ultimate Yankee book” to be published in 2017.