Sunday, January 22, 2017


What I Learned Writing


By Harvey Frommer

With the 2017 Super Bowl almost upon us, how it all began is recounted in

chapter and verse in my WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME: REMEMBERING THE

FIRST SUPER BOWL, an oral history. Below follows just some of the fascinating

things I learned.

Other rivals to the NFL through the decades had sprung up:

American Football League (1926), American Football League (1936–1937),

American Football League (1940–1941), All-America Football Conference

(1946–1949). None of them had the financial muscle and the organizational

skills behind them that Lamar Hunt’s American Football League had.

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,” did not

work. “World Series of Football.” That died quickly. It was deemed too

imitative of baseball’s Fall Classic.

Quarterback Bart Starr of the Packers on Vince Lombardi: “It was a

fabulous experience all of us had playing for him, being coached by him. I

could hardly wait for the next morning to get into the meeting to start that

day off. He made everything so exciting, so challenging. He was a brilliant

teacher and because of it he was a fabulous coach.”

KC player Ed Lothamer said of Kansas City Coach Hank Stram: “There

were times when he had practices and a band playing. If an entertainer or

celebrity was in Kansas City, often they would call Hank, and Hank would

invite them to come over and watch practice. People like Muhammad Ali,

Jim Nabors, Al Hirt, Edie Gorme and Steve Lawrence, all watched us

practice. You never knew who was going to pop up.”

Prior to that first Super Bowl Game on January 15, 1967 the Packers and the

Chiefs had never played against each other. Actually, no NFL team had ever

played against an AFL team—not even an exhibition game.  

The Saturday night before the game even chubby Jackie Gleason, one of the

famed comedians of that era, got into the act by ending his CBS television

urging his huge audience to make sure to tune in the next day to CBS and

watch the world championship football game.

  “It’s gonna be murder!” Gleason bellowed

          There were those who thought “The Great One” went a bit too far, that he

was too much of a shill for his CBS network that carried the NFL broadcasts.

Some celebrities of the time at the game included: famed movie and TV

stars Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Chuck

Connors, Danny Thomas, CBS TV anchor Walter Cronkite, comedian and

serious sports fan Bob Hope, late night TV host Johnny Carson.

Two different footballs were used in the game. When the NFL Packers were

on offense, they used the NFL ball and when the AFL Chiefs were on

offense, the AFL ball was used.

Two kick-offs incredibly took place to start the game’s second half because

NBC-TV was in commercial for the first one and a “do over” was allowed.

Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s wish was that the game would one day surpass

baseball’s World Series. It would do much more than that.

With that first game history – The Super Bowl has evolved into the grandest,

grossest, gaudiest annual one-day spectacle in the annals of American sports and

culture. All of this incredibly spun off the game that was played that January day in

1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a game that for a time lacked a name, a venue,

an identity, a game that didn’t even sell out.

Now available: was-just- a-game.html

Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 4ist year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is 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,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.

A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at:

1 comment:

  1. Harvey~ This is just wonderful! As we approach this year's Super Bowl, having followed our favorite players and teams; all of the behind the game debacle, athlete's enduring short and long term injuries; enormous amounts of money invested and exchanged; and the wheeling and dealing of players being traded, makes one wonder why so many love the game. So looking forward to reading your take!! Cheers to another success. All the best always, Kay Morton