On the first Sunday in February (February 7), America’s love affair with football springs into full bloom. After 16 hard-fought matches spanning 17 weeks, the two best football teams in the NFL battle their way to a world championship in the grandest TV spectacle in America.
But over the past 51 years, the Super Bowl has evolved into much more than a championship football game. It is a cultural phenomenon that nearly a third of Americans anticipate the whole year round, each for his or her own reasons: the spicy chicken wings, the hearty chili, the ice cold beer, the rowdy friends, the big-budget commercials, the spectacular halftime show, and last but not least, the football. So crack open a cold one, settle down on the couch, and flip on the TV—it’s Super Bowl Sunday!
History of Super Bowl Sunday
The NFL was officially created in 1920, but it wasn’t until more than 45 years later that the first Super Bowl happened. In 1960, the request of several businessmen who wished to own their own football franchises was denied by the NFL. They decided to create their own alternative league called the American Football League (AFL). For many years, there was competition and rivalry between the NFL and AFL – for players, fans, and funding. Finally, the owners reached an agreement in 1966 to merge the two leagues by 1970.
The Super Bowl grew out of this merger but didn’t have this name, to begin with. The game was originally known as the ‘AFL-NFL World Championship Game,’ which sounded quite dull. So even though the merger was not to be in place until 1970, an end of season championship game – the first Super Bowl, was played on January 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. You’d think that the first Super Bowl would have been an instant sell-out, but it was not. The game was broadcast on a couple of television networks and ended with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers defeating the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs by 35-10.
The term ‘Super Bowl’ was coined by Lamar Hunt – the owner of the AFL Kansas City Chiefs, to refer to the championship game and from there it caught on. After the two leagues merged into one big NFL, it was split into two conferences: The National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Winners of each play against each other in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Sunday – the day of the big Super Bowl game, has become a part of American tradition with huge watch parties hosted in taverns, restaurants, and homes throughout the nation. There is extensive media hype, wagers and bets, and exciting build up a week prior to the game. The host city where the game is played has festival vibes and anticipation for the actual game is increased with the elaborate halftime entertainment performances and ceremonies.
Even though the first Super Bowl wasn’t a huge success, every game has been sold out since then and there has hardly ever been a significant decrease in TV ratings. In fact, the 2015 Super Bowl became one of history’s highest-rated sporting events. Commercial slots during the game are the most expensive, with 30-second advertisements costing millions of dollars. With celebrity endorsements and the use of advanced technology, commercials aim to leave a lasting impression on the massive Super Bowl audience. This is probably one of the few times when interest in the commercials is parallel to that of the actual show itself.
Super Bowl Sunday timeline
Super Bowl I was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Pittsburgh Steelers become the first Super Bowl winners to visit the White House.
The Super Bowl halftime show is broadcast in 3D, featuring a magician dressed as Elvis Presley.
Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime performance gets higher ratings than the game itself.
Patriots vs. The Seahawks becomes the most viewed Super Bowl of all time.
Super Bowl Sunday Activities
Host a Super Bowl party
Want to guarantee that you'll have friends for at least the next year? Host a Super Bowl party. It's a good excuse to bring together all your friends, and we mean all—including friends of friends of friends who you've only met once. The bigger the crowd, the more fun you'll have screaming at the TV together.
Have a halftime show marathon
The Super Bowl halftime show is a who's who of the hottest and most influential musicians of the year. Travel back in time to watch some of the most iconic halftime performances of all time, and get a glimpse of what music was capturing America's heart in years past. We recommend performances by Beyonce in 2013, Bruce Springsteen in 2009, Prince in 2007, Janet Jackson in 2004, U2 in 2002, and Michael Jackson in 1993.
Gorge on chicken wings
Get this: America eats approximately 1.25 billion chicken wings during the Super Bowl. As the veritable mascot of the Super Bowl, chicken wings are as important to this holiday as turkey is to Thanksgiving. Don't forget to stock up on napkins!
Why We Love Super Bowl Sunday
It's the great unifier
On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans from all walks of life gather together on their collective couch for four hours of focused concentration... on their TVs. Over 100 million Americans are watching the Super Bowl at any given moment. That's over 31% of the U.S. population!
It's not actually about football at all
Not a football fan? Not to worry. The Super Bowl may center around a football game, but it's not actually about the sport itself—it's about the company, the commercials, and most of all, the food. Plus, the halftime show just might be the pop culture event of the year. You might even get to witness a wardrobe malfunction!
Food, food, food
After Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for food consumption in the U.S. Pizza deliveries account for 60% of all food take-out orders, while other indispensable favorites include chicken wings and potato chips. If that's not a reason to show up to the party, we don't know what is.
Super Bowl Sunday dates