Why the Super Bowl is called the Super Bowl
The Super Bowl, an event that transcends mere sports to become a cultural phenomenon, has a surprisingly humble origin. Far from the grandeur that its current status might suggest, the name “Super Bowl” owes its existence to a toy—a Super Ball, beloved by the children of Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League (AFL) and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs.
How The Super Bowl Got Its Name
In the mid-60s, as the AFL and NFL were navigating the waters of their impending merger and the establishment of a championship game, Hunt, in a correspondence with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, offhandedly proposed the term “Super Bowl”. The name, despite its casual inception, stuck, and has since evolved into a moniker for the most-watched American football game of the year. Hunt's whimsical suggestion, rooted in the everyday play of his children, underscores the unpredictable nature of cultural legacy and the enduring impact of off-the-cuff creativity.
Hunt had jokingly called the AFL-NFL Championship Game the Super Bowl, noting at the time that it was a name “which obviously can be improved upon.” He later acknowledged that name likely popped in his head because his children had been playing with a “Super Ball” toy.
“If possible, I believe we should ‘coin a phrase' for the Championship Game,” Hunt reportedly wrote Rozelle, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon.”
Hunt's version of naming the Super Bowl is slightly different. In a 1986 op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Naming the Game,” Hunt suggested the moniker was given almost on accident during a 1966 joint committee meeting as details were finalized for the postseason game.
“Then one day, the words flowed something like this: ‘No, not those games — the one I mean is the final game — you know, the Super Bowl.'
“I do not recall any predetermined thought relative to this rather unhistoric moment,” Hunt wrote for the Times. “My own feeling is that it probably registered in my head because my daughter, Sharron, and my son, Lamar Jr., (ages 8 and 10) had a children's toy called a Super Ball and I probably interchanged the phonetics of ‘bowl' and ‘ball.'”
The Big Picture: The Power of Casual Creativity
The story behind the Super Bowl's name serves as a testament to the power of casual creativity and the unpredictable paths by which cultural icons are born. Lamar Hunt's light-hearted suggestion, rooted in the simplicity of children's toys and family life, not only named the NFL's championship game but also set the stage for one of the most significant events in American sports and entertainment. This origin story highlights the serendipitous nature of language and how a moment of levity can forever change the lexicon of sports.
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- The name “Super Bowl” was inspired by a child's toy, the Super Ball.
- Lamar Hunt, AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner, casually proposed the name.
- Despite its informal beginnings, the name has become synonymous with American football's biggest game.
The Bottom Line – From Playtime to Primetime
In the end, the journey from a Super Ball to the Super Bowl encapsulates more than just the evolution of a name; it represents the transformation of the NFL from a series of organized games to a cornerstone of American culture. Lamar Hunt's anecdote, shared with a mix of humor and nostalgia, reminds us that sometimes, the most enduring traditions spring from the most unassuming moments.
As millions tune in each year to witness the spectacle that is the Super Bowl, few may realize that its title owes as much to the imagination of children as it does to the foresight of its founders. The Super Bowl, in its grandiosity, stands as a monument not just to the game of football, but to the whimsical twist of fate that named it—proof that history, sometimes, prefers the path less taken.