Super Bowl history and origins: Why do they call it that? Super Bowl wasn't always "Super"

7:20 AM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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When they played the first Super Bowl, pro football was still growing.

The game was not a sellout. The halftime show was a trumpeter and two college marching bands. And the winners got the biggest payout in sports history at the time: $15,000 per player.

Things sure have changed since the 60's, and so has the "Super" name of this big game.

Why do they call it the Super Bowl?

It's a name that'll hit you harder than Refrigerator Perry.

It's worth more than the Manning Brothers.

And if you use it without the NFL's permission, their lawyers will come after you with more fury than Mean Joe Greene.

In the 1960's, the National Football League was losing fans to its upstart rival the American Football League.

So the leagues agreed to merge and play a title game so big -- there's only one word for it.

Actually, at first, there were a whole bunch of words for it.

In 1967 -- back when the goal posts were at the front of the end zones and the coaches wore ties -- the Green Bay Packers took on the Kansas City Chiefs in the first ever... say it with me... Super -- wait, no.

It was the "First AFL-NFL World Championship Game."

The name Super Bowl wasn't officially used until the third championship game.

Where did it come from?

Big college football matchups were already called "bowl" games.

The popular myth says Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt saw his kids playing with a bouncy red rubber ball called a Super Ball. He made the connection -- called it the Super "Bowl" -- and everybody caught on.

It's a good story. It's not true. 

This is an article from the St. Pete Times that refers to the Super Bowl months before Lamar Hunt supposedly dreamed up the title.

The real story seems to be the name just came naturally from the public.

Reporters heard it, they liked it better than the official "World Championship Game" mouthful, so they used it.

Hey Caesar -- what's with the Roman numerals?

Using the year would have been tough. The game in '67 decided the champion of the '66 season. So it's better to number them.

Roman numerals were already common for things that came in small groups like World War II and Rocky III (I know, Rocky II was better, but I'm making a point here).

So as the Super Bowl just kept going, the numbers kept going, too.

Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls in two stadiums. The Buccaneers have one victory. It came in the only title game they've played in: Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego.

If you talk about the Super Bowl, be cautious.

The NFL sends out 80 to 100 cease-and-desist letters each year. They go to businesses big and small that use the Super Bowl name without paying the super dollars it takes to become an official sponsor.

In reality, under the law, experts say most places are absolutely allowed to say Super Bowl. But the threat of a lawyer's letter can be scarier than a blitzing linebacker.

So furniture stores and sports bars all celebrate the "Big Game" without saying which "Big Game" they're talking about.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Remember, you can watch the Super Bowl this Sunday starting at 6 p.m. on 10 News.

"Why do they call it that?" has moved to Thursdays on 10 News!

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News starting at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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