I was 1 when Super Bowl I took place. I, of course, have no memory of it. The first Super Bowl I remember was VII. The Dolphins had brought us our first, but by no means last loss in the AFC Championship game, on their way to theirs, and the only perfect season. I had a loose tie to earlier Super Bowls, having watched players that played in them. That is, guys like Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Earl Morrall who played in some of the earliest Super Bowls were still in the league when I tuned in. Now it is 52 years later. Super Bowl I did not sell out. It was broadcast on two networks. Today the Super Bowl, as measured by money spent on food and drink, is the third largest party of the year in America, after Christmas and Halloween.
Many of you missed the in-between. The first Super Bowl I actually watched, was, of course, IX. Our TV was a 19 inch console in the corner of the family room, pulling in a signal from WIIC, channel 11 from an antenna in the attic. Logs crackled in the fireplace that I sat beside, my father in his recliner. That console TV, however, looked like a Steeler shrine. Every bit of Steeler swag in the house rested on it, sending good juju down to New Orleans. My Steeler winter hat, my Steeler mittens, my Steeler helmet, my Steeler pj’s, my Steeler hoodie, my Steeler cap were all there. Every black and gold towel in the house was there. (Unless you’ve been around a while you may not know that Terrible Towels used to be strictly playoff paraphernalia.) One year my father had recently had knee surgery. When we needed a big play he would point his “Terrible Crutch” at the TV. I tell you, the power in that crutch made Renegade seem like a 97 pound weakling.
There was no spread to speak of. We might get to break out a bag of chips. My dad might be served a bowl of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and a braunshweiger sandwich. There was no daylong pregame show, much less 24/7 coverage leading up to the game. Kickoff was, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, in the afternoon, just like a regular season game.
There was no party. Watching was just my dad and me, and occasionally one of my dad’s friends. The halftime show was just like any other game- a college marching band. No one worried about how good the commercials would be. A 30 second slot would cost you $100,000. But of course, back then $100,000 would get you fourteen games from a pretty good football player.
Super Bowl IX also introduced me to an amazing invention that most of my friends never heard of. A friend of the family made training videos for GE aircraft mechanics. That friend cobbled together some equipment, and managed to get the game on what was called “videotape.” I was probably the only kid in the world besides Steve Sabol who could watch Super Bowl IX at will.
Yes, a great deal has changed. It is still, however, football. And the difference between now and then is far less than the difference between a Super Bowl with the Steelers and one without. Here’s hoping a whole new set of kids next year get to see their first Steeler Super Bowl.