The first Super Bowl was actually called "The AFL-NFL World Championship Game" (what a mouthful!) and was part of a big merger package between the American Football League and the National Football League. It was decided that the game would be played annually. The merger of the two leagues was announced June 8, 1966, and the 24 teams were to become 26 in 1968 and 28 in 1970. The leagues also agreed to a combined draft. In January of 1967 the Green Bay Packers of the NFL whacked the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL 35-10 in the first interleague game/Super Bowl/AFC-NFC Championship. By any name, an American tradition was born.
There was a lot of confusion in the early days about who owned the rights to what. Both NBC and CBS broadcast the first Super Bowl in order to settle one dispute. In the second Super Bowl the NFC prevailed again as Green Bay stomped Oakland, 33-14. It was the first $3 million gate in pro football history.
In 1968 the controversial Heidi game was played and switchboards lit up around the country. NBC cut off the final minute of the Jets-Raiders game in order to bring the children's movie Heidi to the nation on schedule. Oops! Oakland scored twice in the last 42 seconds for a 43-32 win and the fans went bonkers with outrage. The Super Bowl -- actually played in 1969, of course -- went to the New York Jets as brash quarterback "Broadway Joe" Namath guaranteed victory and delivered on his promise.
Dempsey makes one from the parking lot.
The Kansas City Chiefs were given no chance to win Super Bowl IV. The 16-point underdogs were brilliant, though, as they embarrassed Minnesota, 23-7. The 1970 season saw the Monday Night Football phenomenon take root. Vince Lombardi died of cancer and Tom Dempsey shocked the nation with a game-winning 63-yard field goal.
Super Bowl V [January 1971] wasn't decided until the last second as Baltimore defeated Dallas on a 32-yard field goal, 16-13. The following season saw the Boston Patriots become the New England Patriots and the longest game in NFL history took place in the playoffs as Miami defeated Kansas City in six quarters, 27-24.
Miami is perfect and Franco is immaculate.
Dallas topped Miami 24-3 in Super Bowl VI. The next season is remembered for two historic happenings. One was the "immaculate reception," a last-second miracle catch by Franco Harris that propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to their first post-season win in history. The second was the Miami Dolphins' perfect 17-0 record. Miami defeated Washington, 14-7, in Super Bowl VII.
The first man to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season was O.J. Simpson, who turned the trick in 1973. Once again it was Miami in the Super Bowl, this time with a 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
The year 1974 was a time of transition. Every rule in the book was scrutinized and many of them were changed. The goal posts were moved from the goal line to the end line. A missed field goal left the ball spotted at the point of the kick rather than at the 20-yard line. Kickoffs were moved back to the 35-yard line. Sudden death overtime was introduced.
Pittsburgh won Super Bowl IX, 16-6, over Minnesota. It was the Steelers' first championship but far from their last. They also won Super Bowl X, 21-17, over Dallas. Oakland took Super Bowl XI, 32-14, with Minnesota once more suffering the loss. The largest audience in television history for a sports event viewed the game.
Let's play in the house!
The first indoors Super Bowl took place in New Orleans at the -- what else? -- Superdome as the Dallas Cowboys put the lasso on the Denver Broncos, 27-10. The following year Dallas almost repeated, but lost an exciting decision to the Steelers, 35-31. Super Bowl XIV saw the Steelers in action once again, winning 31-19 over the Los Angeles Rams.
Oakland walloped Philadelphia 27-10 to win Super Bowl XV as the game moved back to the Superdome in New Orleans. San Francisco jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI and then hung on for a 26-21 win. Once again the game was played indoors, this time at the Pontiac Silverdome.
The 1982 season was marred by a 57-day players' strike that reduced the schedule from 16 games down to nine. There was a 16-team "Super Bowl Tournament" to decide the champion, with Washington prevailing over Miami. 27-17. The following season the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII.
Next time: Part V of Turning Pro brings you up to the present in the exciting history of professional football.
If you missed Part III of this article, click here.