The accidental invention of the 'Super Bowl'
In 1853 a man named George Crum worked as a chef in a Saratoga Springs, N.Y. restaurant when one particular customer would not stop complaining about how his French fries were too soggy and thick.
Attempt after attempt was made to satisfy the customer, but to no avail. Tired and testy, Crum sarcastically shaved his French fries down to a paper-thin width, boiled them to a crisp and loaded them with salt before bringing them out to the disgruntled patron. To the surprise of Crum, revenge was a dish best served delicious.
Crum’s revenge plate received compliments and his “Saratoga Chips” went on to become one of the greatest accidental inventions of all time.
This Sunday millions of Americans will gather around their TV sets eating Crum’s “Saratoga Chips” while watching the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, which thanks to another great accidental invention, we now call the Super Bowl.
In 1966 the AFL-NFL merger was announced but there were still several details that needed to be hashed out. Then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle formed up a seven-person task force which included Kansas City Chiefs’ owner and AFL innovator, Lamar Hunt.
Though the details tend to differ slightly depending on where you read the story, according to the Kansas City Chiefs’ website, at one point during these meetings the committee was discussing the date of the championship game but kept getting confused about whether they were talking about the respective league title games or the meeting between the two league winners.
It was at that point that Hunt said, “You know, the last game, the final game . . . the Super Bowl.”
The name sprung into Hunt’s mind thanks to a children’s toy that was popular in the Hunt household at the time called the “Super Ball,” a small, bouncy ball created by the Wham-O company which could best be compared to a racquet ball.
While the title “Super Bowl” may sound like an instant success, Hunt’s accidental invention was not greeted with the same affinity as Crum’s “Saratoga Chips.” In fact, both Hunt and Rozelle felt that name was inferior.
“Nobody ever said let’s make that the name of the game,” Hunt was quoted as saying on the Chiefs’ site. “Far from it, we all agreed it was far too corny to be the name of the new title game.”
Hunt took it a step further, and on July 25, 1966 he wrote Rozelle a letter suggesting that the “Super Bowl” was merely a working title.
“I have kiddingly called it the Super Bowl,” Hunt wrote. “Which can obviously be improved upon.”
Per the Kansas City Chiefs:
According to longtime NFL executive Don Weiss, Rozelle was a former PR man who had a keen appreciation of grammar. In Rozelle’s book, “super” was the equivalent of “gee whiz” or “neat.” He believed that the term “Super Bowl” had no sophistication whatsoever.
However, the interim title caught wind by the media and stuck. While the committee considered calling the game the “World Series of Football” among other titles, Rozelle eventually settled on the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” which is what it was called when the NFL’s Green Bay Packers took on the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 15, 1967 in what is now known as Super Bowl I.
Finally, after two AFL-NFL Championship Games were in the books Rozelle warmed up to the term Super Bowl and made it the official name of the game when the Baltimore Colts faced the New York Jets in 1969 and retroactively dubbed the prior two championship games Super Bowls I and II.