The first Superbowl (don’t think they actually called it the Superbowl then) was in 1967, and it featured the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs against the National Football League’s Greenbay Packers. The Packers won.
Then in 1968, Superbowl II was played pitting once again the NFL’s Greenbay Packers against the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. The Packers won again.
In both Superbowls, the AFL never had a chance.
The Packers dominated both the Chiefs and the Raiders.
To be fair, the Packers dominated the NFL as well, but that did not matter.
What did matter is that the NFL appeared not only to be the better league but so far superior as to suggest that a merger of the NFL with a decidedly inferior AFL might not be worth the effort.
The AFL was causing NFL owners to spend much more money on salaries to keep players from straying to the new league, and that certainly was more than enough reason to quash the new league and put it out of business. Allowing the AFL to compete in the Superbowl only kept it in competition with the NFL, and why would the owners want to do that?
So, in 1969 with the New York Jets winning the AFL championship and the Baltimore Colts winning the NFL championship, many thought another lopsided victory for the NFL would be the death knell for the Superbowl and the American Football League.
Joe Namath’s audacious boast and guarantee of a New York Jet victory would only serve to make the NFL victory sweeter and, perhaps, once and for all eliminate the inferior league.
Well, Namath was right, and professional football was forever changed so that this Sunday will make Superbowl LIV a spectacle for all of us to enjoy.
Without Joe’s Superbowl III, there might not have been a Superbowl IV much less LIV.