Culture and Society

How did the Super Bowl get started?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. In 1922, the American Professional Football Association became known as the National Football League (NFL). For the next 10 years, the league's champion was decided based on which team had the best regular season record. In 1933, the league finally divided its teams into two divisions and introduced the concept of a post-season schedule. Though it was not called a "Super Bowl" at the time, there was a game in which two teams competed against one another for the league championship -- in 1933, the Chicago Bears beat the New York Giants in the first NFL Championship Game.

    In 1960, a competing league, which was known as the American Football League (AFL), was formed. The NFL and the AFL harbored an unpleasant rivalry for years, based largely on teams from one league "stealing" players from the other league while those players were still under contract. In the mid-1960s, while the two leagues held negotiations in order to find a way to end their hostilities, the idea that the AFL and the NFL might join forces first came into play. The two leagues made plans to merge several years in the future (1970, specifically). They also determined that, for the several years between the negotiations and the merger, the best team from each league would play against the best team from the other league. This would happen each year in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The first three games (played in 1967 through 1969) were known by this title. The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first of these championship games in 1967.

    Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, renamed the game the "Super Bowl," supposedly inspired by the name of a toy (a Wham-O "Super Ball®") with which his children liked to play. Eventually, this nickname came to replace the game's official title, and league officials began to use Roman numerals to indicate which year the game was played -- consequently, the championship game of 1972, for example, is known as Super Bowl VI.

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