A Brief Look at Notable Super Bowls of the Past

The Super Bowl is a football game in which two teams, the respective winners of the AFC and NFC football conferences, vie for the title of overall champion of the NFL.

If you’re already confused as to what differentiates the National Football League from the American Football Conference from the AFL-CIO, then perhaps you need a more fundamental education as to the basics of football. If you’re more interested in the history of the Super Bowl itself as opposed to trying to understand the arcane rules and governing bodies and such that control American professional football, then you’re in the right place.

Long story short, the Super Bowl is a game in which the New England Patriots beat the other football team by scoring more points. Ha! Just kidding. Sometimes the other team scores more points. But usually not.

For Super Bowl LIV, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will face off at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida on Sunday, February 2. Before these two teams vie for the title, we’re going to look at some notable Super Bowls of the past.

Super Bowl I

Super Bowl I Kansas City Chiefs vs Green Bay Packers 1967
Super Bowl I: Kansas City Chiefs vs Green Bay Packers in 1967. James Flores/Getty Images

The first Super Bowl was played on January 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. But no one even knew the first-ever Super Bowl had been played until well after that fateful day on which the Green Bay Packers crushed the Kansas City Chiefs because the name “Super Bowl” was not applied until later. (That’s what we call a neologism, folks.) Whereas these days, broadcast rights to the Super Bowl are fiercely guarded, that game was shown on two networks — CBS and NBC — at the same time. (There were only three major broadcasters at the time anyway. Poor ABC.) An estimated 51 million people watched Super Bowl I, which is impressive, as that means more than a quarter of all Americans tuned in for the first of its kind event.

The Biggest Super Bowl Blowout

Super Bowl XXIV San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos 1990 Joe Montana
Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos in 1990. Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

It’s not easy to be a fan of some NFL teams. The Washington Redskins are notorious for their ability to give up leads in the fourth quarter; the Detroit Lions have never been to a Super Bowl; and, in 1990, the Denver Broncos became the most resoundingly defeated Super Bowl loser of all time. That year saw the Broncos face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. Led by celebrated quarterback Joe Montana, and coming off a Super Bowl victory in the 1988 championship, the 49ers were heavily favored to win. But the wildly lopsided result was a surprise even to analysts of the day. The 49ers beat the Broncos 55 to 10, meaning a spread of 45 points. That still stings nearly three decades later.

The Closest Super Bowl Scores

Super Bowl XXV New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills 1991 Scott Norwood
Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills in 1991. Icon Sportswire /Getty Images

On the far side of the spectrum, we have Super Bowl XXV from 1991. In that storied contest, the New York Giants beat out the Buffalo Bills by one point. And amazingly, the game ended with the Bills losing after their kicker missed a field goal attempt by about two feet. The loss in Super Bowl XXV began an infamous precedent for the Buffalo Bills, who would go on to lose four Super Bowl games in a row. And no, the Bills have never won the Big Game. Sigh.

The Growth of Commercial Costs

It’s common knowledge that many people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, not to see the Patriots win yet again. During Super Bowl I, television commercials cost $37,000 per half-minute of airtime. And that was a lot then, sure. But keep this in mind: adjusted for inflation, $37,000 in 1967 is about equivalent to $265,000 today. In 1974, ads first hit the $100,000-plus per 30-second cost. This was during Super Bowl VIII, for the record. Between 1984 and 1985, the price of a Super Bowl commercial vaulted from around $370,000 per half-minute all the way to $525,000 for the same amount of airtime. By 1994, a 30-second Super Bowl ad cost more than $1 million. In 2020, companies are shelling out over $5 million for that same broadcast real estate.

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