Recording of Super Bowl I restored

NewsCore David Roth and Jared Diamond, WSJ
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Football fans know what happened in the first showdown between the NFL and AFL champions in Super Bowl I on Jan. 15, 1967 — the Green Bay Packers stomped the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10.

But unless they were at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that day or watched the game live on NBC or CBS, fans never actually have seen the game because a tape of the historic football match was not preserved by either TV network.

All that survived of the broadcast is sideline footage shot by NFL Films and roughly 30 seconds of footage CBS included in a pre-game show for Super Bowl XXV. Somehow, the game seen by 26.8 million people had, for all intents and purposes, vanished — that is until now, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The long search finally may be over though. The Paley Center for Media in New York, which had searched for the game footage for some time, has restored what it believes to be a genuine copy of the CBS broadcast.

The 94-minute tape, which has never been shown to the public, was donated to the center by its owner in return for having it restored. It was originally recorded on bulky two-inch video and had been stored in an attic in Pennsylvania for nearly 38 years, the Paley Center said.

The two reels of two-inch quadruplex tape were warped and slightly beat up. To restore the recording, the Paley Center worked with a consultant with expertise in crude tape machines used to record them and hired New Jersey-based film preservation house Specs Bros. to do the work.

Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center, said the sequence of plays shown, the announcers and graphics that appear and the general look of the production leave no doubt that the tape is real. "I've seen faked games before, and this is not one," he said.

The tape is not perfect. The halftime show and a large chunk of the third quarter are missing. The person who recorded it skipped over some breaks in the action. The image pixelates on occasion, the sound quality varies and there are occasional eruptions of white static at the side of the screen.

Regardless of the less-than-perfect quality, "this is one of the great finds...(it) is an amazing document," Simon added.

HBO executive Rick Bernstein, who produced a two-part history of sports television in 1991, is one of many who have searched for a tape. He says his team chased numerous leads, from a reported copy in Cuba to rumors that Hugh Hefner might have recorded the game on a videotape machine in the Playboy Mansion. Nothing turned up. "It's the holy grail," Bernstein said.

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