The NFL’s championship game has become more than just a game – it’s an event, and some even view it as an unofficial holiday. Just how did the Super Bowl get to where it is today? Let’s find out.
Super Bowl I took place on Jan. 15, 1967, and crowned the Green Bay Packers the champion of the 1966 NFL season after they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. For decades, the NFL had held a championship game and stood alone as the top professional football league in America. By the 1960s, the American Football League (AFL) was giving the NFL serious competition, so the two leagues agreed to merge in 1970. Until the merger, the champions of each league would meet in one final championship game. Thus, the AFL-NFL Championship Game was born. The Kansas City Chiefs owner, Lamar Hunt, started calling the game the Super Bowl right away, and it was the official title by Super Bowl III.
After the game, the commissioner of the NFL presents the winner with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the highly successful Green Bay Packers head coach. Lombardi coached the Packers to several NFL championship victories and victories in the first two Super Bowls. After he died in 1970, the NFL named the trophy in his honor.
The Super Bowl consistently draws a massive number of viewers, and that isn’t a recent occurrence. Its total viewer numbers tend to go up almost every year, and it has always had high household share ratings. The first Super Bowl had over 50-million viewers, and since 2010 the game has averaged over 100-million viewers, with peak viewer numbers surpassing 160 million.
Because of those big viewer numbers, advertisers premier their best commercials during the Super Bowl. Many people who watch are more interested in the commercials than the game itself, and critics even rate the commercials afterwards. For the 2016 Super Bowl, a 30-second ad cost $5 million, and that number is likely to keep increasing.
There’s a two-week break between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl, which allows anticipation for the game to reach a fever pitch. Fans and analysts break down the game, and bettors log on to sports betting sites to wager on just about everything that could happen during the course of the game, including the result of the coin toss and the length of the National Anthem.
From Dynasties to Parity
For almost 30 years, football dynasties were common – teams would often win multiple Super Bowls in a short time period. The Green Bay Packers were the first with their two Super Bowl wins, and the Miami Dolphins also won two in the early 70s. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys were both strong in the 70s, winning multiple Super Bowls, but it was the Steelers who became the team of the decade with four victories in the big game.
The 49ers, led by quarterback Joe Montana, took the team of the decade title in the 80s with four Super Bowl wins. They would win another after the 1994 season, and remained competitive throughout most of the 90s. The Dallas Cowboys, however, were the 90s most successful team, winning three Super Bowls in four years.
In 1994, the NFL instituted a salary cap that limited how much teams could spend on players. This salary cap, along with free agency, brought a greater competitive balance to the league. Football dynasties that last for five to 10 years have become rare since that time. The New England Patriots have been the only team to have that kind of continued success since the salary cap, winning three Super Bowls in four years from 2001 to 2004 and consistently making the playoffs for over a decade. They added another Super Bowl win after the 2014 season.
The Super Bowl may have started out as a game to determine the top team in the country, but it has become much more than that. It’s a national event. The game has a rich history that continues to grow with each matchup.