When It Was Just a Game with a Different Name
Next fall my WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME will be taking center stage. As promised, for those of you who are interested in excerpts, sneak previews, samples, here you go.
One of Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s suggestions for the name of the new game was “The Big One.” That name never caught on. “Pro Bowl,” was another Rozelle idea. Had the name been adopted there would have been confusion for that was the name used for the NFL’s All Star game. Another name was floated “World Series of Football.” That died quickly. It was deemed too imitative of baseball’s Fall Classic.
There was no Super Bowl Committee. That some said was part of the problem. There was also a game that had no location, that had no name. That, too, was part of the problem.
It was Rozelle’s idea to call the contest, The AFL-NFL World Championship Game. That name for the game was official; however, it never took off. It was too cumbersome, a mouthful, no good for newspaper headlines.
BOYD DOWLER: We thought it was kind of funny they called it the Super Bowl; that was a feature of the media more than anybody else. But the AFL-NFL Championship Bowl Game, yeah, that’s a lot more words than necessary. Super Bowl is a lot more practical.
SHARON HUNT: The name AFL-NFL championship game was too unwieldy, hard to get straight.
Two days after all the hullabaloo over the merger, New York Times sports columnist Arthur Daley wrote about what the future held in store: the “new super duper football game for what amounts to the championship of the world.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on September 4, 1966 that the game was being “referred to by some as the Super Bowl.”
The New York Times sports section’s lead story that same day headlined: “NFL Set to Open Season That Will End in Super Bowl.”
The Washington Post a week later reported: “The brash upstarts who will tackle Goliath in professional football’s ultimate production, a highly appealing ‘Super Bowl’ that promises extra pizzazz at seasons’ end.”
LAMAR HUNT, JR: My parents got divorced, and my dad would come over and pick us up. And I remember showing him the Super Ball, the “whammy” super ball and saying, “Hey look, this will bounce over the house, this ball.”
You know my dad was not going to be preoccupied with toys that were given to children. You know, he might have bounced the ball. We just remember demonstrating it.
But then what happened going forward is my dad was in an owner’s meeting. They were trying to figure out what to call the last game, the championship game. I don’t know if he had the ball with him as some reports suggest.
My dad said, “Well, we need to come up with a name, something like the “Super Bowl.”
And then he said, “Actually, that’s not a very good name. We can come up with something better.”
But “Super Bowl” stuck in the media and word of mouth.
It kind of came out of my dad’s mouth. What do you want to call it? Power of suggestion or just an idea or whatever, it stuck. And the inspiration was that Super Ball. I feel blessed to be the son of guy who really came up with the name.
“Super Bowl” was probably inspired by his contact with the Super Ball. I don’t know if he had a ball with him at that owner’s meeting as some have said.
BILL MCNUTT, III: I became very close friends with the Hunt children. We would go over to Dallas and I would play with that ball with them. We were just amazed at this ball. It was the most popular toy of its day.
The Wham-O Super Ball was introduced in 1965. Invented by Norm Stingley, a chemical engineer at the Bettis Rubber Company in Whittier, California, the ball was made of Zectron. The “Super Ball” could bounce 6 times higher than any regular rubber ball. Millions of the balls were sold and it remained a craze through the 1960s.
PAUL ZIMMERMAN: The National Football League hierarchy frowned on the term “Super Bowl.” But the fans and the media like it and used it and Super Bowl would become the name to represent professional football’s championship game.
SHARON HUNT: It was something else that a toy a child was playing with could have inspired the name
JERRY IZENBERG: The afternoon of the merger the switchboard rang at the NFL offices, and the guy said, “I want 20 tickets for the title game.”
They said, “We don’t even know where it’s going to be.”
And he said, “I don’t care, I want to buy it right now!”
(To be continued)
IN THE WORKS FOR FALL 2015:
Written by acclaimed sports author and oral historian Harvey Frommer, with an intro 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.