Reflecting on Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

All the hoohah surrounding yesterday’s playing of the 50th Super Bowl game led me to think a bit about the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967.

First, I have no memory of that game. I was six months into service as a US Marine 2nd Lieutenant after graduation in June 1966 from the University of Rochester and on my way across the Pacific to join Marines in the Vietnam War. I had been a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship student at the U of R, en route to an AB  degree in English, fully paid for by Uncle Sam in exchange for four years of service as an officer in either the Navy or the Marine Corps. I choose the latter, as earlier posts on this blog explain.

Today, en route to 50th anniversary reunions of the U of R class of 1966 and the Marine Corps officer Basic School training class I attended with nearly 200 other newly commissioned Marine Corps officers during the second half of 1966–including three from the U of R–Dick Hulslander, Tom King, and Bob Rivers–I have come to think of those days relative to yesterday’s event.

First, and most strikingly different from that day in January 1967, is the place of the military in the opening ceremony. It featured a large mixed service chorus of uniformed military personnel singing “America the Beautiful.” That was followed by Lady Gaga (I held my breath to see what ludicrous thing she wore–not as ludicrous as my worst fears offered), with her rendering of the National Anthem. She has a magnificent voice, and any objection to her performance would be quibbling, in my view.  Striking, I’d say in contrast to 1967, was the tribute she offered to the military people surrounding the stage and the flag behind her–gesturing toward the chorus and other uniformed people and the flag around her stage as she closed with “home of the Brave.” No viewable video exists of the opening of Super Bowl I. Does any one remember who sang the National Anthem and who carried the flag and so forth?

So I turned to the New York TimesMachine (which reproduces issues of the paper from the past– ( to get a sense of the nation’s and the world’s doings the day after the game.  Prescient some items were, in retrospect of course. The front page carried only a photo of Vince Lombardi accepting the winner’s trophy.

Then, I turned to a characterization of the event in the sports section by Bernard Weintraub:

“Husbands Stare—and Wives Glare (City’s Males Spend Day at TV Sets at Home, in Bars)”

“New York was gripped by a giddy fever yesterday that began rising at 4 pm, reached a peak at dusk and began dropping at nightfall.

“Before the fever finally broke, a vague madness swept the city: little boys refused to go to the movies, big boys refused to speak, girls—little and big—stormed into kitchens, slammed the door and waited. And waited.

“It’s impossible,” cried Mrs. Lucrecia Amari of Brooklyn, while her husband, Dr. S. N. Amari, stared at the Super Bowl football game on television. “He’s obsessed with watching all those big lugs on the idiot box, and I’m obsessed in the exact opposite way. Blah.”

“If the women of the city shrieked “Blah,” the men simply sat hypnotically and watched the Green Bay Packers tangle with the Kansas City Chiefs. …”

Guess that was a pretty good portent of the game’s future.

The day’s news was more telling of the times:

-“Hanoi says it doesn’t want to annex the south.”

“Marines kill 61 VC after defector tip.” The article begins with a comparison of the cost of the war relative to the gains that were being touted at the time (body counts): It pointed out that it was costing $250 thousand dollars to kill one Viet Cong [based on budget figures for the conduct of the war], though the 61 killed in the action referred to in the article were made possible by a “turncoat” who had been paid $44 a month.

–462 on Yale faculty urge halt to bombing of North Vietnam.

–Perhaps most telling, in the Books of the Times: Arthur Schlesinger on Vietnam By Eliot Fremont-Smith, “The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy, 1941-1966.” By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. 128 pages. Houghton Miflin, $3.95.  According to the reviewer, Schlesinger challenged the use of history to justify action in Vietnam. In particular, in Fremont-Smith’s words:

Mr. Schlesinger clearly believes that the historical analogies—principally that of Munich—invoked on behalf of our Vietnam policy are faulty and fraudulent rationalizations that have acquired a life of their own, grossly distorting our perception of the realities of our past and present involvement in Vietnam, and estranging us from our allies, from each other and, perhaps worst of all, from the future—the young, “who watch our course in Vietnam with perplexity, loathing and despair.” [emphasis added, AV]

  Signs of the last sentence existed in some abundance on our campus during 1966, and we all know how that played out in years to come. I know for many who served in Vietnam, there is bitterness. For me, on reflection, there is none, only the wish that anger had not been directed at people who were doing their duty as honorably as they could.

P.S. I did not see Super Bowl II either. Along with a few hundred thousand others, I was in-country at the time, with no access to television. And the Tet Offensive of 1968 was only two weeks away–the event that completely turned attitudes about the war.

One thought on “Reflecting on Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967”

  1. Andy –

    On January 15, 1967, Judy and I were in Pensacola while I was still waiting to start flight school – along with a number of our Basic School Classmates, including 2ndLt. Rivers from U of R. I am sure I watched that first game, though I have no memory of that game or the 1968 game which I am sure I also watched, still in flight school. Back then it was known as AFL-NFL Championship Game and became Super in 1969, when on January 12, Broadway Joe and those upstart Jets beat Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts.

    Now that game I do remember. I had finally finished flight school and completed the tactical training in the A-4 at Beaufort, SC., and was now finally on my way to Vietnam. Judy and I were headed to Long Beach where she and our daughter would live with her family while I was in Vietnam.

    1stLt. Rivers was saving me a bunk in his hootch at Chu Lai.

    I don’t subscribe to the NY Times so could not view the Time Machine for January 12, 1969, but in the Chicago Tribune that day there were several Vietnam War articles, on page 21.

    And of course, President Nixon was sworn in on January 20, 1969 and launched the “Peace With Honor” campaign as the wrangling over the shape of the Paris Table wore on.

    By then you were a seasoned combat veteran while we B Company fixed wing flyboys were just being tested under fire.

    The Tet Offensive 1968 was a year before I arrived in-country and so the only way I will ever have a ground level view of Hue or Khe San is as a tourist, which is not likely.

    And so it goes.

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