The child’s toy that changed NFL history

The child’s toy that changed NFL history

By Paul Johnson

The American Football League and National Football League merged in 1966. The championship game for the new NFL was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game officially, but casually some people had already begun referring to the game as the Super Bowl.

Superball by Wham-O

Lamar Hunt had suggested the term “Super Bowl” during merger meetings after playing with his daughter’s Christmas gift, a Superball by Wham-O.

“My daughter Sharon was six years old then, and she had a ball called a Super Ball which had incredible bounce,” Hunt explained later. “I don’t remember consciously thinking, ‘Gee this is going to be a good name for the game.’”

The seven-member merger committee was comprised of NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and three owners from each league: the AFL’s Hunt (Chiefs), Billy Sullivan (Patriots), Ralph Wilson (Bills); and the NFL’s Dan Reeves (Rams), Carroll Rosenbloom (Colts), and Tex Schramm (Cowboys). During their discussions about scheduling, Hunt recalled bringing up the championship game, saying: “You know, the last game. The final game. The Super Bowl.”

Hunt’s suggestion remained merely a suggestion. Instead, the official name of the title game would be the AFL-NFL World Championship. However, from the very beginning, the name of the championship was inexact. Only the league insisted on calling it the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Fans and media members called it everything else, like “Merger Bowl” or the more popular Super Bowl.

The third title game was the first one that the NFL officially began referring to as a Super Bowl.


Michael MacCambridge, Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012)161-163.