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Where Did The Super Bowl Get Its Name? | The Story Behind The First Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in America. In 2023, it had around 113 million people watching according to Neilsen. But why is the Super Bowl such a big deal? Who created the Super Bowl? And why is it called the Super Bowl?

This is the story of how a football league rivalry created one of America's most iconic and biggest yearly events...

The NFL-AFL Rivalry

young lamar hunt holds footballs

There had been multiple rivals to the NFL before, but the biggest came during the 1960s. Most of the other rivals had only lasted for a few years. However, the American Football League would go on to last ten years and give the NFL a run for its money.

Lamar Hunt was a rich oil tycoon who tried to buy his own football team in the 1950s. He did manage to own the Kansas City Chiefs. He was only 26 at the time and had plans to form his own football league. So he approached other people with his idea, and the first AFL draft happened as the 1950s came to a close.

Eight professional football teams joined the AFL in 1960…

  • Boston Patriots

  • Buffalo Bills

  • Dallas Texans

  • Denver Broncos

  • Houston Oilers

  • Los Angeles Chargers

  • New York Titans

  • Oakland Raiders

early AFL football game

The AFL Kicks Off

The AFL wasn’t a hit right away. And, for the first few years, the AFL posed little threat to the larger NFL. That all changed in 1964, when the AFL signed a TV contract with NBC and got a huge inflow of money. And the prestige of the AFL grew too. A prominent football player was drafted by both an NFL and AFL team. He chose the AFL team.

AFL football team

And it was common for players to choose the AFL over the NFL. The AFL was now able to offer more money for players than the NFL. The AFL-NFL feud reached its height during the 1966–67 football season. During the draft, both leagues spent millions of dollars to try to acquire players from the opposing league.

Because of the tension between the two that year, the NFL and AFL began to talk about merging the two leagues. Secret negotiations began, and soon enough, a merger was announced. Lamar Hunt played a massive role in not only the takeoff of the AFL but also its merger. However, the two leagues wouldn’t merge until 1970.

The Super Bowl Begins (1970s-Present)

One thing the NFL and AFL agreed on in the meantime was for each league’s best team to play each other in a championship game at the end of the season.

Teams had been playing each other at the end of the season ever since the NFL was founded; however, when the AFL-NFL merger happened, the teams were split into the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference, and the winners of the two conferences would play each other in a final game.

first super bowl, a packer stands above other football players trying to take the ball from him

Why is It Called The Super Bowl?

In 1967, the AFL-NFL rivalry finally reached its peak as the AFL and NFL faced off in the final football match of the season. Lamar Hunt suggested calling it the "Super Bowl," even though he thought there could be a better name.

However, the name stuck, and that’s how the Super Bowl was started. The rivalry between the NFL and AFL ended up working out for the good of all. The rivalry had increased football’s popularity among Americans, and it surpassed basketball as the most popular sport. Although the first Super Bowl didn’t even sell out, it pulled in 65 million views on TV, cementing football as one of the most popular sports in America.

Like Football? This story was pulled from this post on the origins of football...



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