The Super Bowl is, without the doubt, the biggest American sporting event. Though there are plenty of folks who joke that it’s not “real” football, the Super Bowl amasses roughly 100 million viewers from over 170 countries every year. The game has evolved over the years, and certainly has a unique draw — are some people who look forward to it for the halftime show and the commercials just as much, if not more, than the game itself. As we approach Super Bowl 56, let’s take a look back at how it began, and how it came to be what it is today.
The First Super Bowl Game
In 1960, a group of businessmen sought to own football franchises. However, they were denied by the NFL, which was still in its infancy. In response to the denial, these businessmen formed the AFL, or the American Football League. For years, the AFL and the NFL were rivals, and this rivalry went on until 1966, when the owners of both Leagues agreed to merge the leagues by 1970.
The first Super Bowl, originally called the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” was played on January 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) and the Green Bay Packers (NFL). The Packers won 33 to 14. While it was the only game in Super Bowl history not to sell out, it garnered enough excitement to become an annual event. Since that first game in 1967, there has been a Super Bowl every year without missing a single year. Nothing has stopped the Super Bowl, and Super Bowl 55 proved to be a perfect example of that. In the midst of a global pandemic with indoor and outdoor gatherings severely limited, the 2021 game had only a handful of live spectators but was still sold out. The stadium was filled with cardboard cutouts of fans (who paid $100 for the opportunity), and no, we’re not kidding. That’s the kind of devotion to the sport that American football fans have!
Over the years, the all-day affair has grown into a way for sports fans and social butterflies alike to unite over food, drinks, and entertainment.
The Birth of the Halftime Show
While football is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S., perhaps the biggest draw of the Super Bowl is the halftime show. Every year it seems that the show’s organizers strive to outdo themselves, and being asked to perform at the Super Bowl has become an unspoken symbol of “making it.” Some of the world’s most famous entertainers have been halftime performers: Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Prince, The Rolling Stones, and Lady Gaga to name a few.
During the early Super Bowls, the only musical performances were those of local high school and college marching bands. Today, it’s an entire 30-minute production with A-list celebrities, pyrotechnics, and big screen televisions.
Though the football is the main event, this mid-game entertainment has developed into a means of inclusion — attracting more than just sports fans to the annual game.
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