Super Sunday: 53 years of photographic memory
In the beginning, there was the American Football League and the National Football League.
The teams performed on separate networks — a sports Cold War. By the mid-1960s, the rebellious AFL leaders convinced NFL and TV suits that a game between champions of the leagues would bring eyeballs.
The first made-for-TV episode in 1967 between the Green Bay Packers of the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL was called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. Episodes in 1968 and 1969 were dubbed the World Championship Game. Boring.
Lamar Hunt, owner of the Chiefs and a founding father of the AFL, advanced a brand with staying power. His 4-year-old daughter was pestering him for a Super Ball — a 1960s toy — for Christmas. In honor of her, he dubbed the fourth title game between his Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings the Super Bowl.
How do I remember this? Well, the beauty of being a sports addict is that you remember not just details about games and teams, but everything surrounding them.
In those days, the Chiefs were my AFL team. They seemed to be on TV every Sunday at 4 p.m. The Baltimore Colts were my NFL team.
When the Chiefs played the Packers in the first title game, everyone in our living room except me pulled for the Packers. I sat next to the television dial so no one could change from the NBC broadcast, the Chiefs network.
The Packers won that title game and the next one.
The third title game would be my redemption, or so I thought, with my Colts a 17-point favorite against the AFL’s New York Jets, led by playboy quarterback Joe Namath, a Beaver Falls native. Yes, children, the same Joe Namath appearing in those Medicare ads these days.
What I remember most about that game is the ice storm here that day. I was assigned to clear sidewalks of our corner property. Before effective de-icing agents, by the time my icepick shovel had done the inch-by-inch job, it was 16-0 Jets in the third quarter. When the 16-7 upset was complete, I was more upset my Colts karma had missed most of the game than the actual result.
Memo to my parents in heaven: Your assignment of those duties to me changed the course of my fandom and the NFL.
Distraught, when it was announced the Colts would be moving to the American Football Conference as part of the merged NFL, I divorced them.
I had to pick a National Football Conference team in the merged league and focused on Pennsylvania’s two teams. The Philadelphia Eagles stunk. The Pittsburgh Steelers stunk more.
I chose the Eagles. Naturally, the Steelers emerged from decades of incompetence to win four Super Bowls over the next several years.
About that memory bank: Did you know the Steelers won their first title in New Orleans, outdoors, in Tulane Stadium, before there was a Superdome, on a cold day with freezing rain and the score 2-0 at halftime on the strength of a safety?
The divorce from the Colts was amicable and they remain one of my “backup” teams to root for. As an Eagles fan, you need backup teams. There were lots of years over the next 45 when my attention turned to the Chiefs and Colts by mid-October.
The Eagles made appearances in the 1982 and 2005 Super Bowls, underperforming and losing.
When the Eagles are your team, you host Super Sunday parties because you assume you will not have any rooting to do.
You remember the menu and which house you were in the year the Giants kept the hated Patriots from completing a perfect season.
You remember a million moments with friends that only happen because this thing called sports brings us together like few other things.
You remember your lifelong friend’s family that seems to win the quarter-by-quarter points poll we have every year — for all four quarters.
You remember another friend calling to apologize for his behavior the day after the Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl a few years back. (No problem, friend, as an Eagles fan, I embarrass myself regularly.)
And you remember February 2018. The Eagles finally did it, beating the hated Patriots. Years from now, when I can’t navigate the grocery store without a reminder list, I will remember every friend that was there to hear me say, with wonderment in my eyes as the clock struck zero, “bucket list.”
Mr. Hunt’s Chiefs won the title game he dubbed the Super Bowl 50 years ago. They are back there today for the first time since.
You need to know the defining play that won for them in 1970 was called “67 toss power trap.”
Now, if I could just remember what we are having for dinner tonight.
David F. Troisi is retired as the editor of the Sun-Gazette.