When was the first Super Bowl?
This is a trick question because there are actually two answers to when the first Super Bowl championship was played. Technically, the first NFL championship game that was called the “Super Bowl” wasn’t until Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath led the New York Jets to a 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts on January 14, 1969.
The first two NFL championships were called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game and both were won by the Green Bay Packers. On January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The Packers repeated in the second AFL-NFL World Championship the next year, defeating the Oakland Raiders, 33-14.
For the 1968 season – which culminated in Super Bowl III – the NFL began officially referring to the championship as the Super Bowl instead of the AFL-NFL World Championship. Ever since the 1966 merger of the two leagues, when AFL founder Lamar Hunt suggested the term “Super Bowl” after playing with his sons toy Super Ball, fans, players, and media members used the term “Super Bowl,” but it was unofficial. In fact, media outlets called the NFL championship by many different terms the first couple of years, including “Merger Bowl.”
Super Bowl III was also the first championship game where Roman numerals were used.
In 1969, the NFL altered the playoff format, adding the divisional round of playoffs, and retroactively changed the official names of the first two AFL-NFL World Championship Games to Super Bowls I and II.
So, technically, the first team to win a game promoted as the Super Bowl was the Jets in 1969, not the Packers in 1967, who technically won the AFL-NFL World Championship, which was later renamed the Super Bowl.
R.D. Griffith, To The NFL: You Sure Started Something (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2012) 190-195.
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