A Brief History of the Super Bowl

As huge football fans, we here at Joseph’s Custom Clothiers excitedly watched yesterday’s Super Bowl XLVII.  It turned out to be another great game, even with the half hour-long power outage!  Congratulations are, of course, due to the Baltimore Ravens on their stunning win!

And their epic confetti angels.

And their epic confetti angels.

This 47th iteration of the Super Bowl marks a special point for the NFL.  There has officially been a Super Bowl at the end of the majority of NFL seasons now.  For 46 years, there was an NFL with no Super Bowl, something that’s almost impossible to think of now!  After 47 years of the “Big Game,” it’s easy to take the over-the-top spectacle of the event for granted.  It feels like there’s always been a Super Bowl, and that they’ve always been these huge meta events.  Of course, that’s far from the truth.  Last year, we posted a blog entry about the history of Super Bowl halftime shows, and how they went from Up With People and college marching bands to Madonna and Black Eyed Peas and massive pyrotechnic displays.  But that’s just scratching the surface of the changes…

Going all the way back, the Super Bowl was created for a very specific reason: competition.  From the NFL’s founding in 1920 up until the 1960s, there simply wasn’t another football league that could compete with the NFL’s total dominance of the sport in North America.  Any league that tried was either shuttered, or absorbed into the NFL.  But then along came the American Football League, or AFL, in 1960, who, instead of just trying to be another football league, tried new and unique rule changes and quirks to make themselves a legitimate companion league to the NFL.  The NFL and the AFL clashed mightily for six years, before finally deciding that the endless battling for players and fans was just hurting both of their bottom lines, and that they would both be better served by merging.  Combining the 16-team NFL with the 10-team AFL would take some time, though, and so a special championship game was created, to be played between the champions of both leagues, in order to get the public familiar with the idea of the two sets of teams competing directly until the actual merger in 1970.

The first Super Bowl was played at the end of the 1966 Season, between the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, and the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs.  It wasn’t known as the Super Bowl at first.  It was officially the “First AFL-NFL World Championship Game.”  That…  Doesn’t really roll off the tongue.


Or lend itself to stunningly attractive logo design…

But in a letter to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, the Chiefs’ owner Lamar Hunt wrote, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.”  The media, for obvious reasons, liked this name a lot better, and by the third game at the end of the 1968 Season, it had become official.  Hilariously, Rozelle’s first choice for an official name was “The Big One.”

Over the years, the growth of the Super Bowl from a relatively minor, even ignored sports event to the multimedia juggernaut of today is truly staggering.

Super Bowls have gone from this…

blogSpanTo this!

020313_sbusa1Super Bowl halftime shows have gone from this…

Pictured: $4,000 worth of entertainment.

To this!


Super Bowl cheerleaders have gone from this…

1971-cheerleaderTo this!

super-bowl-xxvi-cowboys-cheerleaderSuper Bowl rings have gone from this…

Super-Bowl-ITo this!

Super-Bowl-XLVSuper Bowl fans have gone from this…

jets-fans2To this!

130203194447-fans-op6p-26163-mid-single-image-cutAnd Super Bowl winners have gone from this…

09000d5d8184d551_gallery_600To this!

gty_ravens_won_kb_130203_wblogBigger!  Bolder!  Louder!  Everything about the game, from top to bottom, has grown in leaps and bounds over the years.  The first Super Bowl couldn’t even sell out the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with $12 tickets.  Current tickets are usually well into the four-digit range for the nosebleeds, and are sold out far in advance.

In many ways, the Super Bowl’s gradual explosion in popularity can be attributed to two people.  One was Bill Walsh, who popularized the West Coast Offense with the 49ers in the ’80s, and turned what was before a slower, more defensive-minded game into a much more fast-paced and exciting sport, which appealed far more to the masses.  The other person was Joe Namath.


This guy.

His famous “guarantee” that the Jets would defeat the overwhelmingly favored Colts in Super Bowl III brought enormous attention to the game on its own.  The fact that he and the Jets actually pulled it off was so shocking, it completely changed the way people thought about the AFL teams, which became the core of the new AFC, and the way people thought of the Super Bowl.  People started watching because of “Broadway” Joe.

Some quirks about the game that have coalesced over the years…

  • Super Bowl Sunday, practically a national holiday in its own right, is the second biggest grilling day of the year after Independence Day.
  • 1.23 billion chicken wings are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • 49.2 million cases of beer are drunk on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Last year’s Super Bowl XLVI was not only the most watched Super Bowl of the 47, it was the most watched broadcast in US history, with approximately 111.3 million viewers.  What’s more, of the top 10 rated broadcasts in US history, nine of them are Super Bowls (the tenth was the last episode of “M*A*S*H”).
  • 30-second Super Bowl ads cost $3.8 million a piece this year.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowl wins, with 6, and are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most appearances in a Super Bowl, with 8 each.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Dallas Cowboys is the most common Super Bowl matchup, having been the focus of three Super Bowls (X, XIII, XXX)
  • The Buffalo Bills have the ignominious honor of having both the most consecutive appearances in a Super Bowl, with 4 (XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII), as well as being tied for the most Super Bowl losses, namely those 4 games.  The Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots have also lost 4 Super Bowls, but not in a row!  The Bills also hold the record for committing the most turnovers in a Super Bowl, with 9 in Super Bowl XXVII.
  • Joe Montana was named Super Bowl MVP more than anyone else, 3 out of his 4 Super Bowl appearances (XVI, XIX, XXIV).
  • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has hosted the Super Bowl more times than any other stadium, 7 times.
  • The oldest person to play in a Super Bowl was Colts kicker Matt Stover in Super Bowl XLIV, who was 42 years, 11 days old at the time.
  • The biggest blowout in super Bowl history was the 49ers’ 55-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
  • The closest game in Super Bowl history was the Giants’ 20-19 victory over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
  • While teams have won back-to-back Super Bowls 8 times, no one has ever won 3-in-a-row.
  • Only 4 of the NFL’s 32 teams have never been in a Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • No team has ever come back from being down by more than 10 points in a Super Bowl and won the game.
  • The most points scored by in one Super Bowl was in Super Bowl XXIX, when the 49ers and Chargers scored 75 points combined.
  • The most attended Super Bowl was the 103,985 attendance of Super Bowl XIV, thanks to the massive capacity of the Rose Bowl.
  • There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl.
  • There has never been a Super Bowl that went into overtime.
  • 14 of the league’s 32 teams have yet to win a Super Bowl.
  • The home team alternates year-to-year between the two Conferences, with the AFC team being the home team in odd-numbered Super Bowls, and vice versa for the NFC team.
  • No team has ever played the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
  • The NFC team won every single Super Bowl from Super Bowl XIX to Super Bowl XXXI.


The Super Bowl.  Such a stupendous and grand event, which started with something as petty as two leagues arguing over who was really #1.  In 1967, this argument gave birth to what is today the most anticipated and viewed sporting event in the U.S.  The rise of its popularity has turned the whole event into a tradition that many wouldn’t miss for the world, while others prepare themselves to monitor it for “offensiveness” at all cost (the Parents Television Council comes to mind).

Anyway, we were wondering how we got from squeaky clean marching bands and musicians to nipple shields and middle fingers in just four decades.

Guess which one people were offended by!

Halftime, the name given to the interval between the two halves of the game, is typically just a brief period used to swap the ends of the fields of play for the teams, and allow competitors to rest briefly in the midst of a decidedly physical sport.  Somewhere along the way, this innocuous event became the love child of mass media and marketing.

The first Super Bowl halftime shows featured marching bands from universities, and then, as they got bigger, performances by Disney and Broadway stars, with themes ranging from tributes to America to tributes to football.  Back then, a commercial segment during the broadcast was just $42,000, and we could be certain that expectations for a grand halftime show weren’t at their highest, either.

Production companies and marketing teams are playing all their cards, nowadays.  With big-ticket spenders (the average price of tickets for Super Bowl XLVI was $4,000) and commercial segments going for $3.5 million for just 30 seconds (plus around $2-3 million for production and celebrity fees), expectation for EVERYTHING in the Super Bowl now reaches stratospheric levels, given that we live in a society that has seen it and heard it all, or so we think.  It’s no surprise that everyone wants more.

Pictured to the left, a Kansas City Chiefette in 1967. On the right, “more.”

It is in wanting more that we might have ended up with more risqué or vulgar scenes during halftime.  It is with wanting more (if you are paying $3.5 million+ for 30 seconds) that commercials are getting, according to some, a bit too hot, offensive and even sexist.  A whole campaign went off during this just passed Super Bowl to tag commercials that viewers might consider sexist under the #imnotbuyingit tag.

But with all the controversy from past mishaps or Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII “wardrobe malfunction,” there is still out there a crowd that is getting harder and harder to please, and production and marketing teams that are overwhelmed with trying to find ways to please without offending.

So, the next time we see a Super Bowl commercial involving whipped cream, a couch made of bikini clad women, Beckham in underwear or Adriana Lima in a state of relative undress (which is always good), we can thank all the people behind multiple marketing teams trying to please us and their bosses.

We also can thank the halftime producers who are on a mission since we evolved beyond marching bands to provide shows that blow us away (or make us double take), with top performances by the best artists: Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Sting, U2, No Doubt, Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Black Eyed Peas, to mention just a few.  And, of course, Madonna, who’s Super Bowl XLVI performance ranked as the all-time most watched halftime show in TV history, with 114 million viewers.

Behold, the most watched gigantic headwear of the night.

We are sure there will be more bumps in the road ahead just as classy as flipping the middle finger to 114 million viewers, as well as more amazing performances as flawless as Diana Ross’ halftime performance in 1996’s Super Bowl XXX, which ended with her departing by helicopter, hanging from a ladder as she was lifted off!

Your move, Super Bowl XLVII.

We are also sure that more regulations and fines are ahead, so secure your bra, hold down your finger and chill a bit, or we are going to end up watching marching bands again!

P.S. – Marching bands are amazing, just not when you’re paying four grand.

Pictured: $4,000 worth of entertainment.