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Flash back to Jan. 15, 1967. It was a monumental day in American sports history and in the social heartbeat of the U.S. While at that time we may not have imagined the significance of the day or the event, nonetheless many of us watched it on our TV sets in black and white. It was the first world championship, contested between the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers. The Packers defeated the Chiefs 36-10 to claim the title of world champion.
Now the Super Bowl is as much a family and friends gathering event as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Independence Day. It’s not just a game. It is the game. How many times have you been asked this week, “Where are you going to watch the game on Sunday?”
The NFL is a private business comprised of franchise owners that collectively generate more than $6 billion every year and growing. What was once “the game” has, in a short period of time, become “the business.”
To put it in perspective, the cost of a ticket to Super Bowl I at Los Angeles Olympic Coloseum was the exorbitant price of $10. That may seem like a lot of money in 1967, but compare that to this year’s average price of $2,634 per seat and it makes you long for the good ol’ days.
After Super Bowl I the Packers players took home $15,000 for winning and the Chiefs received $7,500 as the losers. Oh, how times have changed, as the winners in last year’s big game took home $83,000 each and the losers had to suffer with the dismal payout of $42,000 each. That $15,000 payday per player in 1967 was enormous considering that the average NFL salary was $19,000 at that time. In 2010 the average NFL salary was just $770,000, so it is easy to see how winning the Super Bowl may not mean as much today as it did in 1967.
Today’s game between Green Bay and Pittsburgh is monumental because it is a battle between two of the NFL’s oldest franchises and smallest markets. In fact, the Packers are in the smallest of all with a population of just more than 100,000. Green Bay has won three Super Bowls (1967, 1968 and 1996) while Pittsburgh will be chasing its seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The Super Bowl is a de facto national holiday in the U.S. and has its own day: Super Bowl Sunday. It’s the second largest day in the U.S. for food consumption after Thanksgiving Day. In most years it is the most watched American television broadcast. Last year the Super Bowl featured the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts and drew an average audience of 106.5 million viewers, making it the most watched American broadcast in history. Previously that spot was held by the last episode of “M*A*S*H.”
Enjoy your nachos, meatballs and friends. Regardless of your favorite team, celebrate our American tradition.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.