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SUPER BOWL XLIII -- Can you read XLIII?
What have I been into as I write this column you ask If you are considerably younger than me I know you are asking that question. If you are my generation or more, you may be thinking back to pro football as it existed long ago. I always think that way about this time of year when I realize, once again, that I remember more about the first four Super Bowls than I remember about recent ones. The exceptions being last year’s and any one with the Oakland Raiders (never the Los Angeles Raiders to me) as a participant. That would be II, XI, XV, XVIII and XXXVII.
Actually the really early Super Bowls weren’t even called Super Bowls; they were called the AFL-NFL World Championship. (Oh no, another history lesson) Roman numerals, which most of today’s high school kids, at least the majority of them, have apparently never been taught, were added because the game takes place in a different year than the regular season.
Back then there were two separate leagues called the National Football League and the American Football League and no such thing as interleague play. Back then the Steelers were in the NFL and the Cardinals, also in the NFL, were in St. Louis. They played in the same stadium as the baseball team- also called the Cardinals. But then again the Colts were in Baltimore and the NFL and the Rams were in Los Angeles and the NFL. Oh yeah, the Ravens were the old Browns and were in the NFL.
Only one team of that AFL has moved- Houston’s Oilers moved to Memphis. Boston became New England, but they still play in Massachusetts.
The NFL was on CBS and the AFL was on ABC. I learned as I write this (I don’t remember everything!) that the AFL players had their names on their jerseys and a stadium clock (referees generally kept the game clock with them in the NFL). I learned that Sports Illustrated used color pictures from the NFL and black and whites from the AFL.
What I do remember is that AFL games were exciting to watch. The Big 12 is an offensive conference. The SEC is a defensive conference. The AFL was an offensive league. The NFL was a defensive league. The AFL had John Hadl, Len Dawson and, of course, Daryl Lamonica. He was called the “Mad Bomber.” Probably wouldn’t be able to call him that today. The AFL threw the long bomb: Hadl to Lance Alworth, Dawson to Otis Taylor and Lamonica to Warren Wells. Kids love Al Davis’ vertical game, not defense.
Forty-three years ago an agreement was negotiated for the champions of the two leagues to play in a title game. There was the idea that the NFL was far superior to the AFL. Green Bay proved everyone right in the first two (yes that second one was over the Raiders), but then came Joe Namath and Don Maynard and the Jets to embarrass the Colts (of Baltimore) and Dawson to Taylor for a second shot, this time against the Minnesota Vikings (0-4 in Super Bowls, did this one really count?). Suddenly there was parity and there was a merger.
To even out the number of teams the Steelers, the Colts and the original Browns left the NFL turned NFC to join the AFL turned AFC. Since the Packers dominated the first two Super Bowls, the NFC and AFC have won 20 games each. BUT, when the original NFL teams are counted with the NFC, add eight more to the NFC portfolio. I do count the Ravens as the Browns and not the Browns as the Browns in that scenario. .
Not long after the merger is when the Colts changed towns, but not uniforms. Their team records continue to count. The Rams moved to St. Louis after the Cardinals moved to Phoenix. The Cards still look the same; the Rams changed colors, but still have the same ugly helmet style no longer blue and white. Both still keep the team records as if they never moved.
Cleveland, well Cleveland moved to Baltimore after the Colts left and became the Ravens. However they left the Browns name, and the team records, in Cleveland in case there was another Cleveland Brown team. There is. In contrast, when Houston moved to Memphis they were the Oilers. Then they moved to Nashville and changed their name to Titans but legally prohibited Houston from ever using the Oilers name. The Titans maintain all Oilers’ records. Then came the Texans…..
What does all of this have to do with Pittsburgh and Arizona; not much. Anyway, having overcome my 70’s hatred of the Steelers (remember the "Immaculate Reception" of 1972 and the 74 and 75 AFC championships?), I say, Go Steelers!
Burton Kemp Jr. is a contributing writer for the Sylvania Telephone.