I attended the first-ever Super Bowl, and I got to go for free. As a kid who frequented Pacoima Park in what was then described as a "needy" (rhymes with "seedy") area of Los Angeles, my buddies and I got to pile in a bus and head down to the Coliseum. We were allowed to sit in end-zone seats, along with youths from other such areas in L.A. Not a good idea. However, since the stadium was only about half full (the official attendance was generously listed as 61,946 in a stadium that seats nearly 100,000), we worked our way around to about the 20 yard line, where we watched the Packers demolish their hapless opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Because we had moved from our designated seating area, we almost missed the bus home. And standing in front of the L.A. Coliseum as night descends is not where a skinny white kid should be. My friends were with me, but had there been serious trouble, you would have seen a real-life invocation of the punch line, "What do you mean 'us,' Paleface?"
Like most people at the time, we didn't think a matchup of the National Football League and American Football League champions was a very good idea. We thought of the AFL as a vastly inferior league, populated by dwarves and one-eyed rejects. Ah, the clarity of youth.
It would be a couple of years before Joe Namath and his New York Jets would shock the world by dismantling the highly favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. So, just when we thought that the idea of having the two leagues' champions play each other would work, the NFL swallowed the AFL whole, and the building of the monster was complete.
Both CBS and NBC were allowed to show the Super Bowl I. The leagues didn't even think enough of the game to have the networks bid for it. How times have changed.
· I'm a big football fan (college more than pro), but over the decades, circumstances have conspired to keep me from watching the game all the way through. Many times, the games have simply been stinkers. One time, the college basketball team on which I was playing was stuck in an airport. The only TV in the place was in a bar, and I wasn't 21. A few years back, as my beloved Rams appeared to be heading toward overtime with the New England Patriots, my daughter and I had to leave to go to Sunday evening Mass. There were about eight people in the church, and the deacon still gave a sermon! (The Rams lost in regulation.)
· No team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium. The closest was back when the Rams were in L.A.; they got to play a game in the nearby Rose Bowl. They lost, anyway.
Next year's game will be played in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals, so we know that streak will remain intact for at least one more year.
· According to Forbes, the Super Bowl is the No. 1 sports franchise brand in the world. Indeed, it's more than twice as big as its closest competitor, the summer Olympics. Many people might think that the World Cup soccer thing would be first, but the FIFA spectacle is actually a distant third.
You have to remember that in most of the countries where soccer is popular, you could build a stadium that seats a million people, fill it up completely by charging people half of the money they earned that week, and still only make around $50,000.
· Oh yeah, for those who still cling to the terribly outdated idea that baseball is our national pastime, the World Series came in ninth, behind such things as the Rose Bowl, the Daytona 500 and the Kentucky Derby.
· Speaking of soccer (I'm done with the Super Bowl; it was a boring game, dreadfully played), I went to a high school soccer game the other day. A friend of one of my basketball players is on a team that, at press time, had reached the final four in the state playoffs. I went to support my player and her friend. (I'm stubbornly holding on to the pre-Reformation notion that good works can provide entrée to heaven.)
I sat through 40 minutes of scoreless soccer (if you'll pardon the redundancy). At halftime, the fans were abuzz about how exciting the first half had been. I realize that they were mostly parents, but gee whiz. When my kids were little, I used to like to watch them sleep, but not once did the word "exciting" pop into my head.
According to the next day's newspaper, they scored six goals in the second half after I left. Yeah, right: A team's going to score a season's worth of goals in one half. I'll believe that when I see it.