This season the National Football League’s Super Bowl will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Surely a number of books about the game’s history game will hit the shelves before the last pass is thrown. If this one seems to have jumped the gun, it also has resisted the temptation to review the whole ground of all 49 previous games to look deeply at just one game, the very first one originally called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. (Only in year No. 3 was the name Super Bowl adopted.) The inaugural game between the victorious Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs was played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before just 61,946 fans. Sports historian and journalist Harvey Frommer weaves much of the story of that game together using the oral history provided in interviews with the players, coaches, fans, and the media.
Here’s an excerpt from When It Was Just a Game:
“Another minor controversy was centered on which league’s football would be used in the game. It was decided that Green Bay would use the NFL Wilson 'Duke' ball, and Kansas City would stay with its AFL-sanctioned Spalding J5-V. Little difference existed aside from the AFL ball being a little more pointed than the NFL one. A quarter of an inch longer and thinner than the Wilson model, some said the AFL ball was a bit easier to throw.
“On offense, the football would be changed by game referee Norm Schachter, the NFL’s top official. Sometimes the wrong ball would wind up in the hands of an irritated center or other player, who complained and insisted on having the ’correct’ football.’ ”