Super Bowl History

The Super Bowl is the championship football game played annually between the AFC and NFC division champions of the NFL. The Super Bowl is played on a Sunday at a different stadium each year, and is the most watched professional sports events in the United States. The Super Bowl is so popular, that Super Bowl Sunday has become likened to a de facto U.S. national holiday. Each year, many popular musicians and singers perform at halftime during the event. It is also the second-largest food consumption day in the U.S., trailing only Thanksgiving.

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The Super Bowl was created as a result of the merger between the National Football League (NFL) and the American Football League (AFL). The NFL fought for dominance in the professional sport, fending off several professional leagues, including the AFL. When the AFL began play in 1960, both the NFL and AFL competed for players, leading to merger talks around 1966. On June 8, 1996, the AFL-NFL merger was announced, and the winner of each leagues championship game would meet in a final game to determine the world football champion. AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the proposed game as the Super Bowl, after watching a group of kids play with a toy called a “Super Ball.” The name was consistent with college “bowl” games, and became the permanent football championship moniker.

The first two Super Bowls were dominated by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, which led to doubts as to the competitiveness of AFL teams. The perception that the AFL was an inferior league changed the next year, as the AFL’s New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The following year, the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings to put the AFL on par with its NFL rival. Super Bowl IV was the last championship played between the two leagues.

The first Super Bowl to be called by number is Super Bowl III – the first two championships were not distinguished by a number until after the third championship. The trophy awarded to the winning football team is known as the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the coach of the Green bay Packers who won the first two Super Bowls. The Tiffany & Co.-created trophy is made entirely of sterling silver, and features a regulation-size football in kicking position. The Vince Lombardi Trophy was first awarded to the Baltimore Colts at Super Bowl V.