February 04, 2011
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It seems too much like an urban legend to be true that the Super Bowl was named after a children's novelty toy that was popular in the mid-1960s.
But strange as it sounds, it is. The name of America's biggest sport event got its name from a Wham-O toy called "Super Ball." The story was recounted in Michael MacCambridge's book, "America's Game."
Once the NFL-AFL merger was announced, discussions began about the inaugural championship game between the winners of the two leagues. A group of seven men were tasked with the specifics. During the course of the meetings, it became confusing when the men referred to "the championship game" because the others didn't know whether he was referring to the league championship games or the finale, which still didn't have a name. To end the mix-ups, Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the final championship game as the "Super Bowl." He had come up with the name while watching his children play with the toy pictured above.
"Super Bowl" is how the game was referred to for months, even though Hunt himself said it was "far too corny" to ever be used on the big stage. In the middle of 1966, he wrote commissioner Pete Rozelle and said the group needed to come up with an official name for the game. "If possible," he wrote, "I believe we should 'coin a phrase' for the Championship Game. [...] I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon."
Rozelle agreed. The league's publicity director recalled that the commissioner despised the word "super," because it didn't have any sophistication. Rozelle was evidently a "stickler on words and grammar." The game would be known as the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game."
That bulky title didn't last. People caught wind of Hunt's name and soon everyone, from media members to players, were calling the title game "the Super Bowl." The NFL was slow to adapt, though. It wasn't until the third game that the words "Super Bowl" appeared on the official game program and the fourth game when the phrase appeared on tickets.
As mentioned above, Michael MacCambridge's excellent "America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation" was the main reference for this blog post.
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