History Is Confusing, and None More So Than Super Bowl History
The two weeks between the conference championship games and Superbowl LVI are not stressful like the two weeks prior to the federal individual tax filing and payment deadline generally known as Tax Day.
It may feel that way, given there is a similar, slightly sweaty, panicked search for important documents – but in this case they’re recipes we began hoarding last February from which we will select the perfect dish for this year’s Super Bowl Party. Which is great, as recipes are way more fun to look for than W2s, 1099s, and receipts from Subway – our preferred location for hosting tax deductible client lunches.
Indeed, whether finger food, dip, experimental entree, unique chicken wing, or football-shaped snack board, we can’t wait to be the subject of conversation, admiration, and various Instagram feeds once we’re invited to a Super Bowl party. Which, surprisingly, hasn’t happened yet, which is odd because the staff keeps talking about going over to Ruben’s place, the one with the rooftop deck. Ah well, they’ll get around to it, we’re certain they’re just a little intimidated by our authority and generally muscular presence. Regardless, we have a few days left to prepare food and get invited – a few days that, frankly, move so slow we want to scream, but we won’t.
Throughout history, approximately 6,432 humans have experienced a 1-week break between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, as its only happened seven times – the most recent of which transpired in 2003, which culminated in John Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beating the Oakland Raider in Super Bowl San Diego or whatever. Which was long before we realized Gruden possessed this kind of adorable naïveté as evidenced by his assumption the Internet was both private and discreet, and thus the perfect place to be casually misogynistic, homophobic, and generally denigrating toward the idea of people in the league actually changing the way they think by, for example, hiring a woman as a referee.
The concept of the two-week break was born of the desire to promote the game – with the added benefit of giving the players time to rest, rehabilitate, recover from injury, and frequent strip clubs being realized much later. We imagine the team owners – when notified by their subordinates of this fact – went like this:
“Oh? Oh yes OF COURSE, it’s GREAT…the, uh…healing from injuries, protecting the players…uh…etc. etc. They’re PEOPLE too you know…………say, can you pass the brie?
Yet there’s some confusion about semantics here – the NFL historian who runs the bar we go to on Wednesday nights, a.k.a. our standing weekly board meeting as far as our spouses are concerned – claims in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s there was always a two-week break before the big game, but in the late ‘90s the league wanted to mirror the infamous Roman emperor Commodus’ passion for gladiatorial combat and otherwise seem more into violent, so they made a big deal about replacing the two-week “break” with a one-week “break” and a one-week “bye.”
Seriously? That’s what the league does? Hold 26 meetings and spend probably $250,000 in hookers and catering to change the name of one of the weeks from “break” to “bye?” Ahem. Sorry, we get worked up sometimes. Let’s change the subject and discuss what we all know so well and the real reason most people watch the game: Super Bowl advertising.
In the early days of the NFL the promotion part was a big deal because football was basically a fledgling operation, with players resembling cute little yellow puffy ducks if baby ducks wore tiny versions of those ineffective-looking, plastic-like helmets with the single-bar face mask from the ‘60s. Owners had no idea if the bloodlust of the American populace was roiling enough to support the teams, let alone if the advertising revenue would provide enough Maseratis for the dreaded owner-wife. But football caught on, largely due the universal American desire to either avoid going to church on Sunday, or at least get a reward later for doing so.
The Super Bowl replaced The NFL Championship Game in 1967, with the event itself created as part of the 1966 merger agreement between the NFL and the rival, no-good, leather jacket and white-and-red-horizontal-striped crew neck t-shirt wearing gang known as the AFL football league.
Originally dubbed “The AFL-NFL World Championship Game, Brought to You by Ban Roll-On,” an intern told Lamar Hunt – the Kansas City Chiefs owner at the time – it should be called the “Super Bowl” as a fun riff on Hunt’s daughter’s toy Super Ball. Yes, that’s what they did for entertainment in 1967 – bounced rubber balls.
Hahahaha oh my God imagine handing a kid a rubber ball and being like, “Entertain yourself.” Hahahahahaha oh Lord they’d literally start smashing windows and setting fires. Hahahahaha. Oh my God…ahem.
Anyway, apparently Hunt responded, “I have a daughter? Does she work for the Chiefs?” And thus the moniker stuck – with help from the fact that newspaper reporters were using the name as early as 1967 – and the league officially adopted it for Super Bowl III – Revenge of the Sith – featuring The Baltimore Colts vs. The New York Jets, with the Jets triumphing 16-7, the last time they won a game anyone cared about.
Speaking of competing leagues, the NFL has long had to fend off upstart competitors, which they usually handle by misinformation campaigns and kneecapping via their very discreet employment of mafiosi, who typically receive obscure titles like “Key Grip” as cover. All of this is unnecessary of course, as these whippersnapper leagues who think they know so much tend to implode on their own, or do weird things like try and have football take place in the summer. Here’s a brief list of tenures:
- United States Football League (USFL): 1983 – 1986
- XFL: 1999 – 2001
- United Football League: 2009 – 2012
- Arena Football League: 1987 – 2008, 2010 – 2019
- Alliance of American Football: 2019 – 2019
- XFL Reboot: 2020 – 2020
- Legends Football League (women’s tackle football)
o Lingerie Football League (not made up): 2009 – 2012
o X League – b. 2020 – they’re still around, so they shouldn’t be on this list, but technically they’re the latest iteration of the Legends Football League
Okay, that was pretty boring, sorry.
Meanwhile, much to the chagrin of owner/tyrants and the advertisers who sell padlocks, lite beer, and medicated pads, the modern Super Bowl plays second fiddle to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA…it’s soccer) Champions League Final as the most-watched single sporting event. But the it’s still a big deal, as the seven most-watched broadcasts in American television history are Super Bowls, with the next ten slots dominated by Days of Our Lives, then footage of President Biden playing with his dog.
Thus, Super Bowl broadcasts command the largest audiences, and highest commercial airtime during the year. So companies go buck wild with the budgets to justify paying NBC’s ransom of $6.5M for a 30-second spot, incorporating monkeys, nuclear explosions, live murders, and a host of other tricks for us to talk about later and not buy their products.
Oh, back to the food. The Super Bowl is the second-largest day for American food consumptions after Thanksgiving. Thus the year-long recipe hoarding we mentioned early, further proof that we don’t just make stuff up ‘cause we’re bored, a frequently complaint by both readership and our editorial board, who we hate, because they’re all “AP Style or Chicago Style and this isn’t real writing or journalism and you have no respect, etc. etc.” They’re so grumpy, it’s a total downer.
Ultimately, we should count ourselves lucky for having two weeks – well, at this point, maybe it’s .5 weeks, sorry – to prepare for the Big Game. There are recipes to locate, outfits to select, ads to…prepare to watch…we guess, etc. and furthermore. The point is, enjoy the ride. This stuff happens only once a year.