Origins of the NFL: The American Football League and the First Super Bowl

The NFL is the powerhouse it is today, but believe it or not, it had humble beginnings. As the last hour of this hundredth season approaches, TDActu invites you to discover the origins of the richest sports league in the world.

After the birth of the league and the arrival of the draft last week, the present is located in the decades of 1950 and 1960 with the NFL-AFL merger and the appearance of the first Super Bowl.

National segregation and the expansion of gambling

The Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II left early professional franchises penniless and without players. Some merged for one season (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Boston), while others ceased their activities for a while, such as the Cleveland Rams. This stage was marked above all by the partition that hit the country and infected the world of sports. Although there were no black players from the mid-1930s to the 1940s, segregation in football was not discussed much in baseball. The Rams became the first team to be well promoted by Law. In 1946, Cleveland Rams owner Don Reeves threatened to quit football unless the league allowed him to move to Los Angeles. He eventually won his case and the Rams became the first NFL team to come to the West Coast.

However, according to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, the authority of the Los Angeles Coliseum “Plessy v. Ferguson”, a team with white players cannot rent its stadium, and must offer the same conditions to others. Ethnic groups according to the doctrine of “separate but equal”.

So the Rams signed former UCLA star Kenny Washington in March 1946 and Woody Strode in May. With the exception of the Washington Redskins, other teams gradually followed suit. Owner George Marshall, an outspoken racist, flatly refused to sign or recruit black players. The situation persisted until 1962 when Home Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to cancel the stadium’s lease and evict the team if they did not change their policy. Marshall was forced to give.

The 1950s were a big time for the league. However, professional football cannot offer the public anything comparable to the competition, excitement, and atmosphere of college football. The consolidation, expansion, and impressive consecutive championships of teams such as the Lions (1952, 1953, 1957) or the Browns (1950, 1954, 1955) helped increase their popularity, at a time when baseball fans were tired of New York. The Yankees’ winning streak in the World Series. Norm Van Brocklin, YA Tittle, Johnny Unitas (quarterbacks), Tom Fears (reserve), Jim Brown (running back), Tom Landry (defensive), Ray Nitschke (linebacker), Frank Gifford (middle) impressed the crowd. and contributed to the development of the championship.

Football became the new popular sport. With the advent of television, it was able to transcend the boundaries of franchise cities and become a national discipline. The 1951 championship final was televised from coast to coast for the first time on 23 December by Dumont. Five years later, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) began broadcasting select tournaments across the country. Until then, some games were televised locally and Los Angeles became the first franchise to televise all of its games in 1950. Rams running back Fred Gehrke arrived to facilitate the team’s recognition in an era when images were black and white. Two years ago he had the idea of painting ram horns on his team’s helmets.

During this decade, several organizational or rule changes helped shape the game. Although many have a short shelf life, some are still valid in 2019. On March 3, 1950, the American and National Conferences were formed to replace the East and West Divisions. . The following year, the Pro Bowl, as it is now, revived after a 9-year absence. Since 1955, the end of an action is whistled when the bearer of the ball touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet. In 1956, the Union of Soldiers was formed and the occupation of the safety net was declared illegal.

The American Football League is a thorn in the side
1959 was another pivotal year when two personalities who changed the perspective of the game both on and off the field came to the front of the stage. An intimidating and motivating man like no other, Vince Lombardi has been named president of the Packers. The nomination marked Green Bay’s rise to the all-star team of the 1960s, perhaps the first dynasty to win five titles in nine years. After losing in the finals to the Eagles in 1960, the Cheeseheads won 3 titles (1961, 1962 and 1965) and their first two Super Bowls (1966, 1967). The trophy awarded to the winners was renamed after his death in 1970 as a tribute to him and his team.

Lamar Hunt is probably the main reason for the current success of the National Football League. A prolific businessman and oil heir, the native of El Dorado, Arkansas, tried to buy a group in Dallas, the headquarters of his operations. Unsuccessfully, but confident that professional football could generate profits, he announced his desire to create a second, more open professional league. The first meeting was held in Chicago on August 14, with Hunt for Dallas, Bob Housom (Denver), KS Adams (Houston), Barron Hilton (Los Angeles), Max Winter and Bill Boyer (Minneapolis) and Harry Wismer (New) in attendance. York). His original plan was to start playing next year.

So things happened very quickly. On August 22, the American Football League (AFL) was officially formed. On October 28, Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson received the seventh franchise. Boston and William H. on November 22. Sullivan was eighth. On the same day the first draft of this new system was made with 33 rounds, and the second with 20 rounds on December 2. Meanwhile, Joe Fosse was appointed commissioner on November 30.

In the NFL, Pete Rochelle was elected commissioner after the 23rd round of voting in 1960, and Dallas received a team (the Cowboys), building the AFL Championship. Hunt was named leader of “his” league, which he accepted the opportunity to convert by two points after a touchdown. After all, the AFL signed a broadcast deal with the ABC channel. At the sports level, Minnesota’s representatives retreated to evolve to other leagues; In return, Oakland was offered a vacant position. Thus, the first championship began on September 9 with 8 teams in the starting lineup: Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans, and Oakland Raiders. The Broncos beat the Patriots 13-10 in the season opener in front of 21,597 fans, and the Oilers beat the Chargers 24-16 in the finals to become the first-ever championship.

Aside from two moves (the Chargers to San Diego in 1961 and the Chiefs to Kansas City in 1963) and a change of identity (from the New York Titans to the Jets in 1963), success on the field was relative and never really threatened the NFL. Off the field, the two organizations clashed on a legal level. The AFL accuses its older sister of monopolizing and colluding in expansion, television and player signings. The initial trial lasted two months. Three and a half years into the case, the lower court and appeal rulings dismissed the AFL. On the other hand, the representatives signed a new and more lucrative contract with NBC in 1964. 36 million in 5 years, more than the 4.65 million annualized of its counterpart.

The AFL-NFL merger and the birth of the Super Bowl
The deal brought more money to the league and suddenly teams had the funds to compete with the NFL in signing the best players. Both leagues fought hard for sports, media attention and profits. Joe Namath (who was drafted in both leagues), Lance Alworth and Jack Kemp picked up little news and helped him catch up with the NFL. The American Football League is more popular because the two organizations are embroiled in bidding wars. Each tries to convince college players to join their teams by offering more money or poaching top players. The battle came to a head in 1966 when a total of $7 million was spent on signing draft picks. Much in the eyes of Commissioner Foss, who resigned as AFL chief on April 7 and was replaced the next day by the Raiders’ Al Davies.

To prevent expansion, Cowboys owner Tex Schrumma approached Lamar Hunt about a possible merger of the two organizations. Secret encounters between the two protagonists took place in the spring, culminating in a fusion pronounced by Pete Rozelle on June 8, 1966. Under the agreement, the two leagues will be combined to form a 24-team system. Falcons and dolphins. This number was raised to 26 in 1968 (monks and Bengalis), and then to 28 in 1970. All existing rights will be retained and nothing will be assigned outside your metropolitan area.

Another part of the agreement was that the AFL and NFL would play separate regular-season schedules until 1969. At the end of the season, the winners of each league face off in a game to determine the AFL-NFL champion. World Championship Game. The first edition occurred on January 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of 61,946 people and saw MVP Bart Starr’s Packers defeat the Chiefs 35-10. The meeting and the next three editions were televised by NBC and CBS. He paid $9.5 million for the franchise. In the same year, a single draft was organized for all teams, as well as preseason meetings for the league. A minor innovation in the AFL that established the playoff system in 1969. Thus, after the regular season, the winner of each division faced the team ranked second in the other division. The two winners face off for the final, which the league representative determines during the final meeting.

When it came to choosing a name for the final, Lamar Hunt made history again. Gathered to plan the first edition, Hunt and the other players couldn’t think of a catchy name. Nominations such as The Big One, Pro Bowl, and World Series of Football were postponed. The owner of the Chiefs introduces an alternative solution: the Super Bowl, the favorite sport of his children. A bouncing rubber ball was the country’s most popular sport in the mid-1960s.

Although fans and media quickly accepted the title, it had its detractors. Originally, league president Pete Roselle couldn’t stand the word ‘super’, it was too colloquial. Hunt himself did not believe it at first, judging that the name was too old. But in 1969, neither the competition nor the best advice caught the attention of decision-makers with the Ultimate Bowl or Premier Bowl as proposals. The term Super Bowl was not first used until the fourth edition in 1970.


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