Monday, February 05, 2007

The Road to the Super Bowl


THE first Super Bowl. Jan. 15, 1967. I remember it well.

Not that I was in attendance. Nope, the tickets were going for the unheard of price of $12 a head, way too rich for this young man, fresh out of the Army and newly employed.

Worse, the first Super Bowl was blacked out on television locally, even though it was broadcast on two networks, NBC and CBS.

That's because it was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum and a blackout seemed like a good way to boost ticket sales.

So what is a football fan without the price of a ticket to do?

Road trip, that's what.

A buddy and I hopped in my car and took off for San Diego, where a friend lived and the game was on TV.

Other people I knew were headed for San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield to take in the game. That's what you do when you're young and stupid.

The contest featured the legendary Green Bay Packers coached by Vince Lombardi against the upstart Kansas City Chiefs of the relatively new American Football League.

We rooted for Kansas City. It was the '60s, after all, an era when people embraced underdogs and sneered at the establishment.

Sentiment doesn't win football games, however. The Packers were a machine and crushed the Chiefs, 35-10.

Strangely, what I remember most about the game didn't take place on the field. It took place outside the house where we had gathered to watch it.

It turns out my friend lived on a hill directly under the flight path to San Diego International Airport.

Like clockwork, jets would rumble over his house at 15-minute intervals, so close you could count the rivets in the wings.

This, naturally, skewed the television reception, calling for frequent horizontal/vertical/focus adjustments. At times, it looked like it was snowing in Los Angeles.

But at least I can say I saw it. Intermittently.

Now, it's 40 years later. This year's contestants are the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, and the game will be played in Miami.

Face value for tickets are $600 to $700, but brokers are charging - and getting - as high as $3,000 per seat.

A 30-second commercial that cost $42,000 in 1967 will go for $2.6 million this year.
Prince will be the featured entertainment. In 1967, it was trumpeter Al Hirt backed up by bands from the universities of Arizona and Michigan.

There will be only one network broadcast, CBS. But networks from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Denmark, South Korea, Brazil, Germany, Russia, China and Sweden will televise the game.

I'll be traveling again, but this time on foot. Older and wiser, I'll be in my own den, watching in high definition and eating too much junk food.

Life is good, even when you mark the passing years in football games.

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