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Why is it called the Super Bowl?

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It would be impossible to guess that a toy made for children would provide the inspiration for the name of the most exciting event in the world of professional sports. Even Lamar Hunt, the guy who is credited with coming up with the name “Super Bowl,” could not have possibly imagined that his idea, much alone the game itself, would become the global phenomenon that it is today, and neither could anybody else, for that matter.

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Why is it called the Super Bowl?
Cooper Kupp - Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Hunt’s start in the world of professional sports was not at all shiny by any stretch of the imagination. After two failed efforts to acquire a team in the National Football League (NFL), he came to the incomprehensible conclusion that he should have found his own football league in order to one day compete with the NFL, which had turned him down twice.

However, Hunt had no intention of carrying out a plan for revenge. The American Football League, which was Hunt’s league, had the goal of making football more appealing while also changing the rules such that they favored the offense.

The AFL swiftly established itself as a more enjoyable alternative to the more conventional NFL after several years of financial difficulty. In addition to having more points scored, AFL games featured colorful uniforms (which attracted younger spectators) and equally flamboyant characters like Jets quarterback Joe Namath and Chiefs coach Hank Stram.

Along with Namath, the league was home to a number of well-known figures, including Chargers receiver Lance Alworth, whose career earned him a position in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Jack Kemp, who led the Bills to two AFL championships and four consecutive AFL championship games.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Hunt, who was also the owner of the Chiefs, wrote an open letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle asking if the NFL champion would be interested in playing his league’s champion after their respective championship game was over. Over time, the league came to believe that it was ready to compete with the powerful NFL.

According to Michael MacCambridge’s book, “America’s Game,” Hunt suggested that they should “create a word” for the Championship Game. He jokingly termed it the “Super Bowl,” but it was a name that needed work.

Don Weiss, a former NFL publicity director, claimed that Rozelle disliked the moniker. According to rumors, if the league’s all-star game didn’t already go by that name, Rozelle would have referred to the contest as the Pro Bowl.

Pete was a very normal person, but he was picky about language and syntax, and he didn’t think the term “super” was appropriate, according to Weiss. Then, when they ran out of options, Rozelle and Hunt decided to call the inaugural matchup between the two leagues the “AFL-NFL Championship Game.

Hunt’s “Super Bowl” moniker wasn’t just disliked by Rozelle. Hunt first brought up the concept during a meeting with the other AFL club owners when trying to decide if there should be one or two weeks between the leagues’ respective championship games and the AFL-NFL Championship Game before pitching the name to Rozelle in his message. Hunt’s suggestion wasn’t directly rejected, but the other owners laughed when they heard the moniker Super Bowl.

Why is it called the Super Bowl?
Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl LVI – Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

There are a few unanswered questions at this point in the tale. Where did Hunt get the concept for the “Super Bowl“? And how did the Super Bowl come to be called after the AFL-NFL Championship Game after Rozelle and the AFL owners derided it?

The first question’s response can be linked to a kid’s toy that Hunt’s kids used to play with in the middle of the 1960s. Hunt once observed his children playing with a Superball, the “biggest ball ever manufactured” and a “mystery ball with 1,000 bounces.”

The 1967 match between the NFL-champion Packers and the AFL-champion Chiefs was officially known as the AFL-NFL Championship Game, although it was frequently referred to as “the World Series of football” in the media.

Although it never caught on with the general public, numerous players and media people had started to refer to the AFL-NFL championship game in public by Hunt’s “Super Bowl” nickname. In fact, NFL Films referred to it as the “Super Bowl” throughout their coverage of Green Bay’s 35-10 triumph.

Over the course of the next year, the term “Super Bowl” caught on like wildfire as it was often used by fans, athletes, media outlets, and national commentators. The leagues chose to utilize Hunt’s moniker as the official name of the AFL-NFL clash after the second AFL vs NFL game, which was another rout victory by Vince Lombardi’s Packers (this time over Al Davis’ Raiders).

In front of a raucous crowd at Miami’s legendary Orange Bowl, Namath helped the Jets to a shocking upset that exponentially increased the popularity of the NFL and the Super Bowl while also providing immediate validation for Hunt and the AFL. This Super Bowl had more hype surrounding it than the previous two combined.

The fourth Super Bowl would be the last matchup between the two leagues ever played since a year later, the AFL and NFL decided to unite after the 1969 campaign. Even though the Super Bowl trophy bears Lombardi’s name, the AFC championship trophy bears Hunt’s name.

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