~ by Bob Volpe ~
The year was 1960.
The National Football League with the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburg Steelers were undisputed kings of the midway.
Then an upstart group of teams came on the scene. They called their group, the American Football League. The league consisted of 10 teams; the Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Boston Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and San Diego Chargers.
The battle lines were drawn for the attention of hungry football fans.
So began a rivalry that would help propel pro football ahead of baseball as the most popular spectator sport in the country by the end
of the decade.
Fast forward to 1966.
NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt negotiated an agreement to merge the two leagues by 1970. The new league would still be call the National Football League, but would be split into two Conferences; the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference.
In the meantime, the two leagues would meet at the end of the season for a face off. NFL vs. AFL. Hunt suggested the match up be called the Super Bowl, but both he and Rozelle thought there had to be a better name. It was too late.
The media hyped up the inaugural game in 1967 and ran with the name Super Bowl. The first Super Bowl was between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The game was held in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and did not even sell out.
The Packer creamed the Chiefs 35-10 and solidified the NFL as THE professional football league. Undaunted, the AFL persevered and in Super Bowl 3 the New York Jets led by “Hollywood” Joe Namath, upset Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts 16-7. That game gave the AFL credibility and respect.
By 1970 the merger was complete and the now familiar NFL was born.
And so it was, and is today, that once a year, football fans around the world try and figure out what year it is by staring, bewildered at roman numerals, consume mass quantities of beer, eat untold tons of BBQ chicken wings, and cheer on their favorite team.