|CEU's Jana Glover defends against CSI's Cheryl Blazzard, who looks for an open teammate during Saturday's game at the BDAC.|
Those that love sports endorse it. Those that hate sports despise it. And even those that have no feelings about it are affected by it.
It, is the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is probably the single most well known sporting event in the world, despite the fact that most of the world doesn't play, understand or even like American football very much.
In plain language, the Super Bowl is a household name. It stands right up there with Coca Cola, Ford, McDonalds, Microsoft and CNN. Everyone knows what it is. Travelers report visiting some of the most remote places on earth and find people who know what it is, even if they don't understand it.
Sports are a universal occurrence in human society. Even the most primal civilizations, ones that had to grovel and crawl for sustenance have had sports. The Super Bowl is in some ways the ultimate sporting event, because it is a culmination of everything that sports these days has become. It has the hype no other single human planned event has each year. It is the ultimate in entertainment, with it's lengthy pre-game shows, huge half time shows and way to long post game shows. It pits large metropolitan areas against one another and in other places neighbors sometimes nearly go to war over their favorite teams.
The Super Bowl as a single event outshines every other sporting event on earth, largely because of the sheer money and effort involved in putting it on. The World Series, and in this past year the American League playoffs, overall is a bigger event; but not one of the games can match what goes into the Super Bowl. The Stanley Cup playoffs and the National Basketball Association finals are also big, but not like the Super Bowl. They are all series.
As for single games it can be debated about what has more hype world-wide, the Super Bowl or the World Cup Soccer final game. But the fact is that no matter how big soccer is world-wide, the United States dominates the media and the products that advertise these events and the Super Bowl with it's $2.5 million price for a 30 second spot during game breaks takes the cake.
For most people under 50 years old the Super Bowl has always existed. But until the 1966-67 season the old National Football League that had been around for over a half century and the upstart American Football League that began in the early 1960's crowned their own champions and there was no playoff between the two. In fact the two leagues hated each other. But time and the cost of running two leagues that were competing with each other, often in the same markets began to catch the millionaires who owned the teams attention and they needed to find a way to eventually merge the leagues and thereby created a championship game that they called the Super Bowl.
The first Super Bowl was played on Jan. 15, 1967, in Los Angeles at the Memorial Coliseum. It was played there because that was the middle of hypeville and the two leagues needed the media clout. How ironic that today, Memorial Coliseum is gone and there hasn't been a professional football team in the Los Angeles area for almost five years. Attendance at the game was 61,946 and the fans watched the old league Green Bay Packers whip the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. Bart Starr was the MVP of the game. For playing in the game the Packers collected $15,000 for each player and the Chiefs $7,500 which at the time was the highest ever paid to anyone for a single game.
|Some football fans even love their professional team even after death. This grave was decorated during the NFL playoffs when the Pittsburgh Steelers were still in the contention.|
The next year's game was held on Jan. 18 and was played at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Attendance went up to 75,546. Once again Green Bay took home the championship with a 33-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was also the last game famed coach Vince Lombardi would coach. In his years with the Packers his team had won five NFL championships and of course all the Super Bowls that had been played up to that time.
But the times, as they say, were a'changin. The country was in the middle of a cultural revolution both over the Vietnam War, civil rights and basic American values. And in the year when San Francisco became the heart of pop culture and Woodstock stole the American entertainment scene, the AFL finally came into their own, downing the old league when the New York Jets with young and brash Joe Namath at quarterback defeated the stodgy Baltimore Colts 16-7. The game was played once again at the Orange Bowl and attendance was down slightly to 75,389.
That game, in essence set the tone for a real merger between the two leagues and not just a playoff between them. That also set up making the Super Bowl one of the biggest entertainment events each year. Broadway Joe, as Namath was called, had brought a true world football championship to New York and the other, older team in town, the New York Giants, had not been able to bring home a league championship since 1956. The New York media machine began to go nuts and the race to see which Super Bowl could be bigger and better began.
So while the actual game hasn't changed that much (other than some team relocations, expansion teams, new equipment and uniforms and a few rule changes) the rest of it has. Large advertisers live to get a spot on the largest single television event of the year. Some fans just live for the Super Bowl, no matter who plays in it. The entertainment at the shows surrounding the game have become almost as important as the game.
But probably the most interesting development surrounding the Super Bowl, particularly in the past 20 years, has been the advent of viewers watching the game to see the commercials as much as the game. The commercials that appear on Super Bowl Sunday recall the days when Detroit covered the cars in their showroom until Sept. 10 each year so that the public couldn't get a view of it. Then all the manufacturers did it in one day and people flocked from dealership to dealership to see the new offerings. Advertising on Super Bowl Sunday is the same; people anticipate it, and rumors fly as to what the new commercials from major companies will look like. People even bet on which commercial will be the funniest or the most cool.
As for the entertainment there have been some highs and lows, particularly at halftime shows. Everyone knows about last years costume "malfunction" by now, but sometimes the show wasn't too stellar either. In the early years, Jazz and big college bands were the norm. In Super Bowl I the Universities of Arizona and Michigan bands played together at halftime. Al Hirt also soloed. The next year it was Grambling University's band. In the third year there was a big salute to the Apollo 8 astronauts for making it to the moon and back alive. Anita Bryant (who later was lambasted for her stance on gay lifestyles) did the pledge of allegiance.
At the 1976 Super Bowl a huge program was developed to honor the country in it's bicentennial. So up until Super Bowl XVI (1982) much of the entertainment was of a traditional nature; bands, singers like Andy Williams, jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Woody Herman). But again times were changing and the by Super Bowl XVI the rock and roll generation were beginning to arrange and run the programs.
In 1982 "A salute to the 60's" took place with Diana Ross. Over the next few years entertainers would include Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and Whitney Houston. In later years country music was also introduced with Garth Brooks and Shania Twain.
The coin toss at the beginning of the game has also been a big deal ever since 1978. In that year Red Grange, the famous football star of the 1930's did the coin toss. Since then such people as Marie Lombardi (Vince's wife), Bart Starr, Peter Rozelle, O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Gale Sayers, Joe Montana and Billy Joel have flipped the coin. The coin flips haven't just been about one person either. As many as 11 people have participated in it some years.
Besides the commercials, the thing that probably affects most Americans most concerning Super Bowl is the party that takes place nationwide on that day each year. Many people who don't even like football go to the parties. It is the biggest day of "tail gating" there is in any sport, although most of the parties take place indoors because of the weather. But the parties also bring out the crazies as well, and those who don't know how to handle such an event; primarily those who have the propensity to drink and drive.
In California the total collisions that occur between vehicles with operators who have been using alchohol have increased every year since 1999. In 1999 there were 191 reported collisions; in 2003 there were 229 collisions. The injury and fatality rates for these accidents has varied because of the types of accidents, but the incident increase is substatial. The California Highway Patrol said they will be looking out for those drivers this year. So does the Utah Highway Patrol.
"We will be increasing the force for Sunday, but we don't anticipate any additional enforcement," said Sgt. John Kelly on Tuesday. "People seem to be catching on to the importance of designated drivers and as long as that is happening incidents on weekends like Super Bowl Sunday stay in line."