The Super Bowl is the National Football League’s annual championship game, which closes the season from the previous calendar year. Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial American holiday! It is the one of the most watched sporting events on the planet. Most viewers are in the North America but people worldwide enjoy the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl LII in 2018 set a record for the most passing yards completted in an NFL game.
Also well know for its commercials and halftime ceremonies, it has hosted performances from famous artists like Beyoncé, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston, Prince, The Who, and Michael Jackson.
We also believe that the Monday following the Super Bowl should be a holiday. We're sure you can agree.
What made the Super Bowl so Super?
The Super Bowl has grown from a backyard skirmish between rival football leagues into the cultural phenomenon it is today. Now it is not only the big game of the year, but the big event, with well over 100 million television viewers and tens of thousands more willing to fork out big money for tickets to the Super Bowl.
But what made the Super Bowl so big? You could say TV ads, halftime shows, Super Bowl parties or just plain clever marketing. But those things all followed the central element: the game itself, its stars, and great moments.
To identify the first and possibly the biggest growth spurt of the Super Bowl, you would have to go all the way back to the third game of the series. That game between the New York Jets of the AFL, and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL, was officially called the Third World Championship Game.
In 1969, the NFL was by far the dominant football league. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers had destroyed the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders in the first two championships, and the odds were similar in this one. The Colts were favored by 18 points.
But the flamboyant young quarterback of the Jets, Joe Namath, declared to a heckler at a banquet three days before the game, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” Miami’s Orange Bowl sold out, and about 60 million TV viewers tuned in to see if Namath could back up his boast.
He did. The Jets built a 16-0 lead and ended up with a 16-7 victory. The game proved that the AFL could compete with the NFL, and it set the stage for the full-scale merger between the two leagues. The following year, the game would be called the Super Bowl.
Blowouts, Big Shows, Big Money … and Parties
Not all Super Bowls have been that interesting. In fact, 20 of the games in the series are considered blowouts, wins by two touchdowns or more.
It got so bad in the 1980s, that we became more interested in atmosphere than in the game. Scores like Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington 9 in 1984, San Francisco 38, Miami 16 in ’85, Chicago 46, New England 16 in ’86, and Washington 42, Denver 10 in ’88, gave the Super Bowl the nickname Blowout Bowl. The biggest blowout came in 1990, when Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers annihilated John Elway and the Denver Broncos, 55-10.
So what did we do? We partied. That’s right, with the game decided by the third quarter, people became more interested in socializing, eating, drinking and playing blackjack or poker. The Super Bowl party was born.
Oh yes, there are the TV ads and halftime shows, too. With the big viewership, marketers pay top dollar for a Super Bowl spot. They paid about $30,000 for 30 seconds in the first Super Bowl. Now about $5 million gets you 30 seconds. So businesses bring their best – the Super Bowl ad has become a cultural phenomenon in itself.
The Super Bowl halftime show has stretched into a 30-minute extravaganza that always runs over, with acts such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Lady Gaga. It’s another reason to buy a ticket to the Super Bowl.
And tickets are at a premium. In the first title game, you could get in for as little as $6, with the average being $12. By the 1980s, you could buy Super Bowl tickets for $50-$75. By 1990, it was hard to find Super Bowl tickets for under $100, and in 2000, $375 was the average going price. The price of Super Bowl tickets reached an average of $1,000 in 2010, and has spiked ever since.
Now, Back to The Game
But the Super Bowl has certainly had its moments. Eighteen of these games have been nail biters, a decision of a touchdown or less.
The closest score of all came in 1991, when the New York Giants came from behind and then held their breath as Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood went wide right in a game-ending field goal attempt. The Giants won, 20-19.
There have been plenty of others, and the New England Patriots have been in many them. New England mounted its drive to prominence in 2002 by stifling the high-strung St. Louis Rams in a 20-17 triumph, then came back the following year to edge out Philadelphia, 20-17. The Pats had to hold off a last minute drive by the Carolina Panthers to prevail, 32-29 in 2004.
Besides the Jets upset of the Colts in the third Super Bowl, there have been other big upsets, including the following year (1970), when Kansas City upended the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, as a 12 point underdog.
New England has been on both sides of the upset. One was that 20-17 win over the Rams, in which the Pats were a two-touchdown dog.
Then in 2008, New England entered the Super Bowl having completed a perfect 18-0 regular season and post season. They were a 12-point favorite over the 13-6 New York Giants. The Pats led 14-10 when the Giants got the ball with 2:39 left in the game and mounted a drive highlighted by David Tyree’s acrobatic “helmet catch.” Eli Manning tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress to complete the drive with 35 seconds left. The Giants won, 17-14.
The best teams in history? It would have to be between four major dynastic powers, starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were decidedly the team of the 1970s. The Steelers, guided by Coach Chuck Noll, quarterback Terry Bradshaw, a slew of talented skill players and the “Steel Curtain” defense, captured four Super Bowl titles in six years of the ‘70s. Pittsburgh has won six, more than any other franchise.
In the 1980s, the San Francisco 49ers under Coach Bill Walsh, ruled the roost, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy four times, between 1982 and 1990. QB Joe Montana and receiver Jerry Rice made their Hall of Fame marks in those years. The 49ers have five championships.
The Dallas Cowboys, with Troy Aikman calling plays and Emmitt Smith grinding out ground yards, won three of four Super Bowls in the 1990s, and also own five titles as a franchise.
Since then, no one has captured the spotlight quite like the New England Patriots. With Coach Bill Belichick at the helm and Tom Brady, an unlikely sixth-round draft choice at quarterback, the Pats have claimed five Super Bowls. They won three of four in the early 2000s, and have added two more since.
Did You Know?
Why Super Bowl? - Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt coined the phrase, remarking that he had noticed his children playing with the Super Ball toy. The media picked it up and never let it go.
Why Roman numerals? - The NFL wanted to clear any confusion between the chronological year of the regular season and that of the championship game. They first affixed the Roman numeral to Super Bowl V in 1971.
”Supper” Sunday - The day of the Super Bowl is the second largest food consumption day of the year in the U.S., behind Thanksgiving Day.
Great teams, tough losses - Two teams have appeared in a record four Super Bowls without a win – the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.
Still to come? - Four teams have never made it to the Super Bowl - the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans. This will be the Los Angeles Rams’ first trip since the franchise was relocated to the West Coast.
Conference rivalry - Teams from the NFC have 27 Super Bowl wins, to 25 wins for the AFC side.