What's coming Sunday, CBS reminds us relentlessly, is not merely the Super Bowl; it's Super Bowl 50. So with that in mind, let's look at then and now. This is part of a package I sent to papers. The blog below this one walks through CBS' day on Sunday (Feb. 7); this one looks way back. Still coming is a casual-fan's view of this year's game.
By Mike Hughes
By now, we assume
that this Sunday will be supersized.
Super Bowl 50 will
be surrounded by spectacle – seven-and-a-half hours of pre-game
shows ... a halftime concert by Coldplay ... a postgame special with
Stephen Colbert. “This really is a national holiday,” said Sean
McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. “It really is a celebration.”
But some people
remember when the game didn't have a number ... or the word “super”
... or a sell-out.
On Jan. 15, 1967,
the “World Championship Game” at the Los Angeles Memorial
Coliseum was listed at 61,946 people – which means there were about
31,661 empty seats. CBS' pre-game show was a half-hour; its postgame
show was “Lassie.” Halftime had marching bands.
The Green Bay
Packers, the National Football League champions, faced the Kansas
City Chiefs, champs of the upstart American Footbal League – which
some people called a “Mickey Mouse league.”
Chiefs coach Hank
Stram decided to have equipment guys wear Mickey Mouse ears in the
locker room and play the theme song as the players came and left. “I
thought, 'We'll have a little fun with this and maybe get them
relaxed,'” he said in “Super Bowl Sunday: The Day America Stops”
That worked for a
while; at halftime, the Chiefs trailed only 14-10.
The game was on
both CBS and NBC, the regular networks for the NFL and AFL. McManus –
who was 12 and watching with his dad, master sportscaster Jim McKay
-- grants that he may have chosen NBC back then. “I was kind of a
fan of the AFL.”
CBS had Frank
Gifford as its analyst, with Ray Scott calling the first half and
Jack Whitaker the second. “I'm scared to death,” recalled
Whitaker, 91. “And ... here comes the second-half kickoff and all
of a sudden, everything stops. Whistles are blowing; referees are
confusion, he said, an explanation “came over the headset: 'Relax
guys, NBC blew it. They were in commercial. They are going to kick it
Then the game became
more predictable: The Chiefs were shut out in the second half and
lost 35-10; Packer quarterback Bart Starr was named most valuable
player ... and repeated that a year later, when the Packers beat the
Oakland Raiders, 33-14
In the third year,
the game was officially named the Super Bowl – and became super.
Joe Namath, quarterback of the AFL's New York Jets – guaranteed a
victory. The Jets beat the Baltimore Colts, 16-7.
For seven of the
next nine years, the AFC would beat the NFC (their post-merger
names). One turnaround then saw the NFC win 13 straight, from
1985-97; then Broncos' quarterback John Elway launched a
counter-streak, winning eight out of 10.
Now the NFC has 26
wins, the AFC has 23 and the game has lots of promotional hype.
That first year,
Whitaker recalls, “we couldn't get a promo .... We got no help at
all. And Bill MacPhail (the CBS sports president) was kind of
Today, promos aren't
a concern for McManus. Five days after the 49th Super
Bowl, he said, CBS had a company-wide conference; ever since, it's
been dripping in golden promos.
It has a high mark
to beat: Last week's Patriots-Seahawks game on NBC set the records
for TV rating (47 percent of all TV homes) and total viewers, an
average of 114.4 million. That compared to 112.2 million the previous
year – and a combined 51.2 million the first year. “It's nice to
have the most-watched show in television history .... but if it's
not, life goes on,” McManus said.
There will total
seven hours of primetime specials ... and 75 hours of previews on the
CBS Sports Network ... and more, on radio and in daytime shows and
newscasts and beyond.
After all of that
comes the 6:35 p.m. ET kick-off. The Denver Broncos – with Elway as
general manager and veteran Peyton Manning at quarterback – face
the Carolina Panthers, with young Cam Newton and one of the best
records in the Super Bowl era. “We have to put into context how
magnificent this season has been for the Panthers,” said Jim Nantz,
who will do play-by-play.
Chances are, they'll
be saying “Super” and “50” a lot. And there won't be 31,000
-- “Super Bowl
50,” 6:35 p.m. ET Sunday (Feb. 7), CBS. Specials at 11 a.m.;
preview at 2 p.m.
-- Earlier primetime
specials involve Super Bowl commercials (8-10 p.m. Tuesday, 8-9 p.m.
Saturday) and halftime shows (9-11 p.m. Friday), plus “NFL Honors,”
9-11 p.m. Saturday.