Excerpt: When It Was Just a Game:Remembering Super Bowl One by Harvey Frommer, publication November 2014
“The Packers themselves beat us in the first half, then the Packers and the Packer myth beat us in the second.” —Kansas City defensive tackle Jerry Mays.
The scene was finally set for the playing of a football game in search of a name of its own and an identity. After the historic announcement of the merger of the two football leagues, after weeks of bickering, bargaining and ballyhoo, it was finally almost Game Time.
Green Bay had arrived in Los Angeles the Friday before the game. “If we lose it won’t be because of our physical condition or the field. KC will just beat us,” said Vince Lombardi.
“This is Super Morning of Super Sunday,” announced veteran Max McGee. “We are all going out to the Super Bowl and I am a Super End.”
At 11:00 A.M. sharp, the Packers packed and poised and feeling some pressure for the big game, took their seats on the chartered bus taking leave of their Sheraton-West Hotel. All was in order for the trip to the Coliseum. Writers who covered the team hustled about to get seats.
The last one to come aboard the bus was Coach Vince Lombardi. He settled in, front seat, right side. The bus doors were shut. The bus began to slowly move out.
“Just a minute,” the Packer boss told the driver.
Standing up, moving into the aisle, Lombardi called for the attention of his players. And then he broke into a muted soft shoe dance.
“Go coach, go!” some players encouraged him.
Later Lombardi explained that he did what he did to loosen things up. “They were too tight,” he said. (Maranis, 394)
BILL CURRY: it was bright and sunny and that seemed strange at that time of year. Getting on the bus it struck me: everybody is behaving just like they always do. The players were not the least bit taken aback by all the stuff that went on. Nobody behaved any differently than normal. There was normal joshing by the ones who tended to be funny like Hornung.
McGee was hung over. We didn’t know at the time that he had been out all night, but he made that very clear later. There were some chuckles about that. There was some discussion.
A couple of guys on the bus were discussing the selection for the Pro Bowl which was always a big deal to the players. Somebody was chosen, somebody wasn’t. I remember Forrest Greg saying, “Gosh, I never played very well in those things.”
And I wanted to say, “Yeah, but you’ve been in 10 in a row, Forrest!” I’m just sitting there listening to all of this.
CHUCK LANE: Going to the game there were a couple of buses. In those days the local media were invited to travel with us. We had a number of people from our executive committee along. We were a very tight group. It was an awful lot riding on that game, and I think everybody had a great deal of confidence that we could win the ballgame, but there was pressure.
A foggy Sunday morning in Long Beach greeted the Kansas City Chiefs players who stood around the bus, some hugging wives.
The Chiefs were set to go directly from their Long Beach hotel to the Coliseum.
“On the ride to Los Angeles,” Hank Stram said, “the team was quiet and preoccupied. Each player was afraid of the game, of coming into the presence of greatness– the Green Bay Packers.
“We’re playing for every player, coach, official who has ever been in the AFL,” Stram had told his team. “We have a strong purpose.” They had heard this message many times before.
The Los Angeles Times assigned four photographers to the contest, three to work the sidelines with 35 millimeter black and white film in their cameras while a fourth to operate from an overhead perch and shoot with 70 millimeter black and white film.
The game would be broadcast over Armed Forces TV in Vietnam at one in the morning. Beer, snacks and rifles were at the ready as troops settled in to enjoy the game.
Maximum effort had been expended decorating the field of play at the gigantic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Ground for the impressive structure was broken on December 21, 1921. It opened May 1, 1923 on 18 acres in the architectural style of art moderne.
The Coliseum had been the scene of all manner of events. Now it was set for the football game of all football games. At the 50-yard line, a large brown football capped with a crown of gold was the central motif. The NFL insignia in blue and the AFL in red were on each side of the football. “Packers” was spelled out in green on a gold background with the NFL insignia on each side of the west end zone. The east zone bore the word “Chiefs” in red on a gold background, the AFL insignia on each side.
Members of the NFL since 1921, the Green Bay Packers were founded in 1919 by George Whitney Calhoun and Earl Curly Lambeau. The Indian Packing Company provided $500 for uniforms and equipment in return for the team being named for its sponsorship. That was how Green Bay “Packers,” the oldest franchise name used in the NFL, originated.
The Pack on that lovely California day featured players like Robinson and Starr, Taylor and Kramer, Hornung, Gregg, Nitschke and Wood. They were the champions, the front runners in the NFL since the first week of the season, a season in which they lost just two games. Clad in forest green jerseys with piping on the sleeves of gold and white, bright yellow pants, the Packers wore one of the most famous uniforms in all of sports.
BILL MCNUTT, III: The Packers wore the home colors. They were designated the home team. The Kansas City uniform was fabulous, all white with the red helmets and the black shoes.
The Chiefs featured Dawson and Garrett, Holub and Bell, Williamson and Buchanan. The age of their starters was 26 years old with 4.9 years of experience in pro football. There were players on Green Bay had played together for a longer time than the Kansas City franchise had been in professional football. Green Bay starters on average were 28.4 years old with seven years average experience pro football. Number 5 Byran Bartlett Starr was already a four year veteran when the American Football League came to be. The affable but totally business-like southerner was in solidly in charge as starting quarterback for Green Bay. He called the plays, not Vince Lombardi. He was the consummate pro.
MURRAY OLDERMAN: The Chiefs on average were bigger, slightly faster and younger than the Packers. Of the 23 regulars on the offensive and defensive platoons of Green Bay — 11 were 30 years old or more. On offense Green Bay averaged 29.1 years per man, with an average of 7.8 years’ experience. The Chiefs offensively averaged 26.1 years per player.
The Packers in 1966 finished first in their NFL West Division with a 12—2 record. Their defense had allowed a league low 163 points. Their offense had scored 335 points, fourth out of 15 teams in the NFL. They had eked out a tough win over Dallas in the NFL championship game.
The Chiefs had posted an 11-2-1 record, finished first in the AFL West, scored 448 points tops in the nine team AFL, allowed 276 points, second in the league and shredded Buffalo in their championship game.
The Chiefs were the best team in the AFL.
The Packers were the best football team in a generation.
(to be continued, anyone with memories of the game please contact Harvey Frommer)
***Harvey Frommer is at work on an oral history book on Super Bowl I. Anyone with stories about that game and time, please contact him via e-mail.***
Dr. Harvey Frommer is now in his 39th consecutive year of writing sports books. He is the author of 42 sports books, including the classics: “New York City Baseball,” and “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.” Frommer sports books are available direct from the author — discounted and autographed.
The prolific Frommer has a PhD in media and communications from New York University and his thesis focused on culture and sports.
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The prolific Frommer’s work has appeared in such outlets as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, and USA Today. FROMMERSPORTSNET reaches an audience in the millions. Autographed copies of Frommer books are available directly from the author. This article is Copyright 1995-2013 by Harvey Frommer. All rights reserved worldwide.