By George Stahl
Special to the Sun
There are 60,000 people gathered at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, cheering, jeering, applauding, and booing. It’s a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, January 15. The year is 1967, and they are all there to watch a football game. The game that day is the ‘AFL-NFL Championship Game.’ Each of these fans paid as much as $12 for their ticket. They were also consuming massive amounts of peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs and beer. They’d be lucky to get away with dropping at least $20 maybe even $25 before the game was over.
As the day went on, and announcers were giving a play by play description of the action for fans listening to the radio at home, work or where ever else they could get it, the announcers grew tired of having to say the whole name of the game in their broadcasts. So, one of them, not sure who, started giving it a new name. Reasoning that championship college games have been called, insert the name of a fruit, followed by, ‘Bowl’ games, he started calling it, the Super Bowl. According to some accounts that is. So, Super Bowl I was born, and christened by the sports world as officially the name of the game. Some people thought the name would stick, others, well, they didn’t. There’d be a bet, ya think?
Fans were not disappointed. They got their twenty bucks worth that day. They also were given bragging rights for being the first group to not just witness history, but to be a part of it. Then, as the first half of the game came to a close, they looked at each other. ‘What do we do now?’ was the look on their faces. No sooner than they starred into one another’s eyes, and felt the adrenaline flowing out of their energized bodies, they heard the sound of a marching band coming from the corner of the one of the end zones. Emerging, to cheers and whistles from the fans who saw them first, The Grambling State Marching Band from Grambling, Louisiana was taking the field in an all-out, John Phillips Sousa style. Every instrument echoed through the stadium, reviving the hearts of the crowd.
As the band of the Grambling State Tigers was exiting the field, another roar went out when the front line of the marching band from none other than the state of Arizona took their place on the gridiron. The 250 plus members blasted their sets, riling the crowd even more and living up to their name as ‘The Pride of Arizona’, representing the University of Arizona Wildcats flawlessly. This was the introduction of the first ever, Super Bowl Half-time Show. Following the thunderous ovation from the 60,000 plus fans, a lone trumpeter could be heard emerging from the noise. It was the, now, legendary Al Hirt and his Band of magical jazz makers, best known for a lot of things musical in the 50s and 60s, among them, the theme for ‘The Green Hornet’ T.V. show.
Along with these acts which were there to entertain the fans at the game, not necessarily the fans watching at home, over 300 pigeons were released in the Coliseum. Two guys in real life, James Bond style jet packs flew over the crowd to ooohs and ahhhs. One of them may have even been Sean Connery’s stunt man from the movie, ‘Thunderball’, two years prior.
But it was when the headliners took the field that the real roars and stand on your feet applause filled the air. Three of the hottest guys in show business came on and when they started their act, it was pandemonium. Moe, Larry and Curley Joe wowed the 60,000 in real time. Also, in real time, during one of their routines, another historical moment took place. It was the first Super Bowl Half-time fiasco in the line of all the others. It wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction, a crotch grabbing contest, and it did not involve twerking of any kind. It just had to do with one Stooge, his wife, a guy in the stands, and a finger seen around America.
While the Three Stooges were performing, one of them, Larry Fine, saw his wife, Mable, being harassed by a stranger in the seats just off the field. He shouted out to him to leave her alone, and the crowd, thinking it was part of the act, laughed. Fine, however saw nothing funny about it and he threatened to, as the saying was back then, ‘knock the man’s block off.’ Along with the ‘promise’, Fine threw in a gesture to emphasize his contempt at the man’s advances on Mable, and the finger Fine chose to use for this emphasizing, was captured by a television camera from one of the two networks televising the game. OOPS! According to his own account of the incident, Fine was fined $42.50, and banned from appearing on CBS for like, ever.
So, Super Bowl I was also Super Bowl Half-time faux pas I. So, why then is everyone in such an uproar over this year’s Half-time show? Gestures of questionable taste, have obviously been a part of the game as much as off sides, false starts, rushing, face masking, pass interference (Including the incident in Larry Fine’s case) and holding have been. The only difference is that there are no referees and flags being thrown during the half-time shows.
By the way, the teams in Super Bowl I were the Green Packers, who won the game, 35 to 10, and this year’s Super Bowl 54 Champions, The Kansas City Chief’s. History is a funny thing, isn’t it?