The Only Super Bowl 1 Recording Is Tied Up In A 15-Year Legal Standoff With The NFL

Amazingly, when the first Super Bowl aired on two different television networks back in January of 1967, neither NBC or CBS bothered to hit the ‘record’ button on their broadcast of the game. 

It was thought to be lost forever, until Troy Haupt dug up a box in his father’s attic that contained antiquated quadruplex reels with a full recording of Super Bowl 1. 

Described by many Americans as a national treasure, a 2005 Sports Illustrated article estimated that, if found, a tape could fetch as much as US$1 million. The article was read by Haupt’s friend and the rest is history.

However, when Troy and his family offered to sell it to the NFL they were hit by copyright claims that the National Football Association had legal rights the tapes. To this day, the NFL does not want to buy the tapes and has warned Haupt not to sell them to outside parties or else the league will pursue legal action. Where’s Spencer Strasmore when you need him?

In a bid to force the NFL into action, Jeremy Coon (producer of Napoleon Dynamite) has started a Kickstarter that aims to fund the production of a documentary titled THE TAPE: The Lost Recording of Super Bowl 1. You can watch a trailer of the documentary and support their cause here over on the Kickstarter page itself.

Super Bowl LIV wrapped last week with the Kansas City Chiefs coasting to glory in a 31 – 20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Over the decades, the NFL season climax has grown to be one of the biggest spectacles in sport. With tickets costing anywhere from US$3,000 to US$30,000, commercial slots setting global companies back US$5.6 million for a 30-second slot, and celebrity drawcards like Jennifer Lopez (looking unfathomably good at 50 years old), Pitbull and Shakira entertaining at half-time, the event can only be described as one of the sporting calendar’s most important days.

However, it wasn’t always a national holiday full of rock stars, mega-MILFs and VIP recliners. It may surprise many people to hear that the first ‘Super Bowl’ wasn’t even called the Super Bowl. It was named retrospectively to improve on the longwinded title of AFL – NFL World Championship Game

‘The Big One’ and ‘The Pro One’ were bandied about as other potential monikers but Super Bowl 1 definitely had the superior ring to it. It also eliminates America’s inexplicable need to claim their national sporting championships as ‘world titles’.

Super Bowl 1 took place on January 15, 1967. The Green Bay Packers defeated Kansas City 35 – 10 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Only televised by the two aforementioned networks, the showdown didn’t even come close to selling out. It is estimated that 32,000 seats (almost half) remained empty during the game. 

To this day, it is the only Super Bowl in history that didn’t see a full house of fans. In fact, people reportedly baulked and complained at the exorbitant US$12 ticket fee.

By the time Super Bowl 1 rolled around, the NFL was almost into its 50th season and had resigned itself to the fact that new kids on the block (the American Football League) were not only here to stay but financially and physically competitive. 

After negotiations, the leagues signed a merger agreement in 1966. Both agreed to share the common draft to mitigate bidding wars for the top players and to merge into a single league after the 1969 season. The upshot? An “AFL-NFL World Championship Game” was established so the AFL and NFL champions could play against each other at the end of the season, determining which league got final bragging rights for the year.

Considered too informal for most fans, it wasn’t until four years later that ‘Super Bowl’ was actually printed on tickets for 1971’s fifth outing, ‘Super Bowl V’.

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