The Big Game:
Origins Of Football's Biggest Event
The National Football League is one of the biggest entertainment organizations in the United States. Every year, millions of people shuffle into stadiums or huddle around the TV to watch hulking men kick, throw and handoff a laced ball to their teammates. But the NFL wasn't always as big as it is today. Here is a little bit of the origins of football's biggest event.
United States Of Football
The Big Game's birth is the result of the merger of the National Football League and the American Football League. The NFL, the premiere football league since the 1920s, fought off all rival leagues for the top slot until 1960, when a group of sports fans with deep pockets founded the AFL. The upstart league offered big money to woo away some of the NFL's star players. Bitter competition ensued. Finally, the NFL decided that if you can't beat them, join them, and a merger agreement was hammered out, creating a single football league divided into 2 conferences.
How It Got Its Name
According to the terms of the merger, the champions of the two conferences would meet in a winner-take-all game at the end of the regular season. For the first three years, this game was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Kansas City Chiefs' owner, Lamar Hunt, is credited with coming up with the game's current name. He claimed the inspiration came from the super ball, an ultra-bouncy ball wildly popular at that time. The term "Bowl" was already in use in college football. He jokingly applied the name to the championship game, the press picked it up and so it has been called ever since.
What started out as a mere sporting event has transformed over the years into a larger-than-life American cultural extravaganza. The Sunday of the Big Game has become a de facto national holiday. It's the second biggest day for food consumption in the United States, second to Thanksgiving. Drive around any neighborhood and you will see yard signs, garden flags and outdoor wall decor showing support for one team or the other.
Skyrocketing TV Viewership
The game is frequently the most watched TV event of the year, with more than 100 million viewers last year. Fans host parties to watch the game together. NFL apparel, especially men's clothing with a team logo, is the uniform of the day. More pizza, beer and snack foods are sold for that day than any other in the year. A billion chicken wings and 120 million pounds of avocados are expected to be consumed, all just to accompany an evening of football.
Some Big Game moments have become part of the American psyche. Sprinting off the field after his team's upset victory in Game 3, Joe Namath raised his index finger high in the air in a gesture that has meant "We're #1" ever since. In 2004, the scandalous "wardrobe malfunction" added a new phrase to our vocabulary and caused the networks to rewrite their policies about working with artists in live settings.
The cost of advertising has skyrocketed along with the size of the audience. In 2015, the price tag for an ad was $4 million for 30 seconds. While the teams compete on the field, the ad agencies compete on TV, showcasing some of their most creative work. Watching and discussing the commercials has become a significant aspect of the game. It has been estimated that 50% of the audience tunes in just to view the commercials. A few of the ads have made history including Apple's first Mac commercial, which forever labeled the Mac as the cool alternative to Big Brother's PC, and the Coke commercial that showed Mean Joe Greene repaying a kid's kindness.