How the Super Bowl got its name

The term the 'Super Bowl' has a surprising origin: former Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt's children. 

David Butler II/USA Today Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (right) holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy as he is interviewed after the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

While it is now one of the biggest sports events of the year, the Super Bowl originally got its name from a simple children’s toy.

Coined by Lamar Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs owner, in 1966, the Super Bowl was named after the Super Ball a bouncy ball which was one of the most popular toys in America in the mid-1960s. 

The term “bowl” was already frequently used to refer to the last game in collegiate football seasons and was incorporated into professional football lingo.

Hunt first used the term at a meeting in the summer of 1966, during which he and other football bigwigs were planning the first championship game, which was scheduled to take place the next February between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. “First AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” “final game,” “championship game,” and other names the committee used to refer to the game never caught on.

Finally, Hunt blurted out that it should be called the “Super Bowl.” He later admitted that the inspiration for the term probably came from the Super Ball, the toy his two children were infatuated with at the time.

Although “Super Bowl” was used unofficially by fans and the media alike, the term was not officially adopted until the fourth annual championship in 1970 – the year before the now famous roman numerals were attached. In prior years the championship game was officially called the AFL-NFL Championships or World Football Championships.

Over the years, people challenged the name, and others have questioned the legitimacy of Hunt’s role in coining the term.

In 1969, there was a contest to rebrand the game under a more sophisticated name. “Ultimate Bowl” and “Premier Bowl” were the most well received of the many suggestions, but neither stuck and the championship game has been officially called the Super Bowl ever since.

A 2011 Atlantic Monthly article suggested that the timeline of events is incorrect and that the media started referring to the game as the Super Bowl before Hunt did.

But the football industry chooses to credit Hunt. His achievements have been immortalized in the Professional Football Hall of Fame, which has an exhibit dedicated to Hunt, including replicas of the original “super balls.”

However, Hunt never intended for the name to catch on.

“I guess it is a little corny, but it looked like we’re stuck with it,” Hunt told the AP in January 1970. “Kinda silly, isn’t it? I’m not proud of it. But nobody’s come up with anything better.” 

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