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1960s Handbook – The Super Bowl

You’ve probably already stocked up on chips and guac in preparation for this Sunday’s Super Bowl. But while Peggy prepped ads for the “big game” in Mad Men‘s Season 6 premiere, the annual tradition has only been around since 1967. The game’s origins lay in the mid-’60s, as the National Football League faced growing competition from the American Football League (which debuted in 1960). Rather than divide the marketplace, the two leagues merged, then created a championship game which pitted each league’s winner against the other’s.

Today, the Super Bowl is big business — the average cost of a 30-second commercial is around $4 million — but the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game didn’t even come close to attracting a sellout crowd. Far from it: On Jan. 15, 1967, only 62,000 fans showed up at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, leaving 35,000 seats empty. The game was close in the first half, but the NFL’s Green Bay Packers ended up beating the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. For the first and only time in Super Bowl history, two networks broadcast the event: CBS representing the NFL, and NBC the AFL.

The second Super Bowl was played Jan. 14, 1968, in Miami’s Orange Bowl. The Packers emerged victorious again: 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders. The “Super Bowl” became the official name for the third game — memorable for quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath’s pre-game guarantee that the New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts. They did: 16-7.

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