When I was 16, my oldest brother gave me a trip to Super Bowl I for Christmas. Jack was nine years older than me, still is, and his girlfriend at the time lived in Los Angeles and had a brother my age.
It was my first trip on a plane, and it was delayed that Friday night out of San Francisco with heavy fog … but once I arrived in LA it was a storybook weekend. Turns out Sue’s brother was a very cool guy who was friends with this up-and-coming band on the LA scene. They were playing a song in their garage that was popular at the time, For What It’s Worth, by Buffalo Springfield, and the football game on Sunday was played in perfect weather without a full stadium.
Well that band, the Backgrounds, never made it big. I could have known that with a basic knowledge of the music business given they were playing someone else’s music. But the football game played that weekend did catch on big time. It wasn’t called the Super Bowl when played on January 15, 1967, simply the AFL-NFL Championship Game, and tickets for the game that year averaged $12.
Now, I did have a basic knowledge of football in 1967, and when asked by the principal at my high school who I thought was going to win, I had been called into his office for booking bets on campus, I told him to lay the double-digit spread and take the Green Bay Packers.
In those days, the American Football League was considered a stepchild to the more established National Football League. The fact that the two league’s were meeting at all was due to an agreement ignited by Al Davis and consummated by league founder Lamar Hunt with NFL officials including Pete Rozelle and Tex Schramm. Davis had raided the NFL by signing top quarterbacks to exorbitant salaries that forced the established league to the bargaining table. The negotiations resulted in an agreement to merge the American and National football leagues into one league with two conferences, the American and National.
The two leagues didn’t begin play in that format until 1970, but had agreed in their bargaining that the contracts between the AFL and top quarterbacks would be nullified and the competing leagues would meet in a title game beginning in 1967.