Remembering the First Super Bowl
By Harvey Frommer
With Super Bowl Gold (Number 50) poised to soon take center stage, we flash back again to the first one whose name officially was the AFL-NFL Championship Game. My book has many oral history memories. What follows is how just a few of those who were there at the game remember the time:
TOMMY BROOKER: I was back in Tuscaloosa with my wife and a bunch of Alabama friends and that was where I watched the game. It was a Super Bowl party, probably one of the original parties. We watched the game on a 25 inch television, it was in color. The set was in our dining room-den combination, one big room. It wasn't any fun watching at home, but I didn't have any choice because I was on injured reserve for the Kansas City Chiefs. That ‘66 season I was kicking in Boston, and somebody forgot to block. And they came into me, into my leg that was raised up.
Watching the first Super Bowl I always thought Kansas City had a chance to win that game, but that McGee was something else. When a guy catches one behind the back and fumbles it around and finally holds on, when a guy catches the football in the neck area, damn!
You can't expect the ball to tumble in the right direction every time.
I was not believing it as I watched and neither were all the people in my house. There was a lot of shouting, a lot of “damns!”
PETER GOLENBOCK: I was the sports editor of The Dartmouth. I had predicted that the Packers would blow the Chiefs out. I was a serious New York Giants fan and was rooting for the NFL.
A married couple by the name of Ray and Velda owned the Midget Diner, a stone's throw from the Dartmouth Green. I would go there every morning to eat steak and eggs for a dollar. Ray and Velda had become part of my Dartmouth family, so when it was announced that the Green Bay Packers would play the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, they invited me and my Fayerweather Hall roommate to their house for dinner and to watch the game on their Dumont TV.
I somehow knew that the biggest screen around then was a 25 inch console that featured one speaker. I also knew that there were color sets available but adjusting the set while the game was in progress was part of the drill. My hosts did not have color nor did they have a very big screen.
Everyone knew the game was important. The NFL was risking its reputation playing the game. My hosts didn't much care who won.
Ray and Velda served an interesting, unidentified meat dish, which I ate.
"Delicious," I said. "What is it?"
"It's venison," Ray said. "I shot the deer myself."
It was all I could do to keep it down. The idea of eating Bambi really revolted me.
The game itself was rather anti-climactic. The Packer offense was as good as advertised. They only ran a few plays, but they ran them often and very well. Starr wasn't spectacular, but he was very efficient. His touchdown passes were elegantly thrown.
I thanked Ray and Velda profusely after the game was over. I never ate venison again.
JOE BROWNE: I have often told my two sons that I played a very significant role in the AFL-NFL merger announcement in 1966. Jim Kensil, who was Pete Rozelle’s right hand man, called (Peter) Hadhazy and me into his office the afternoon of June 8. He told us there was a very important press release that he wanted us to deliver by hand from our Rockefeller
Plaza league office to AP and UPI. Hadhazy selected the AP assignment because it was closer. I had to walk all the way down to East 42nd street to the UPI offices. Hadhazy would remind me for years that he got the more important assignment to deliver to AP, which served more papers than UPI in those days.
Kensil told us to call him when we reached our respective offices so he could synchronize and the big news would be given to both wire services at the exact same time. We did that, dropped the press releases on the sports desks and the rest is history.
There had been no news leaks about the merger announcement so it received wide newspaper coverage the next day. I was a college sophomore at the time and only a part-time NFL worker. I did not take the news that seriously. I remember upsetting Kensil because I stopped for a Nedicks hot dog on the way back to the office from 42nd street. He wanted to know how the news was received at UPI. I was more concerned that my lunch that day had been delayed due to the historical assignment.
The press release contained these main points:
* Pete Rozelle will be the commissioner.
* A world championship game this season.
* All existing franchises retained.
* No franchises transferred from present locations.
* Two new franchises no later than 1968.
* Two more teams as soon thereafter as practical.
* Inter-league pre-season games in 1967.
* Single league schedule in 1970.
* A common draft next January.
* Continued two-network TV coverage.
(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.