If you want to blame, credit or both for the immense spectacle the game has become, Namath is your guy.
Before Namath and the old American Football League, pro football was kind of dull. It was a dull game, played by mostly dull guys wearing dull uniforms and making small salaries. Short hair and black shoes were the style of the day.
The AFL was challenging that by trying to be more fun and entertaining. By 1965, the league had received an influx of TV money wanted stars, so the Jets signed Namath out of Alabama to a three-year contract worth $427,000, which was an astronomical sum at the time. Most NFL quarterbacks didn’t make more than $25,000 a year. Even New York’s biggest star athlete at the time, Mickey Mantle, was making $100,000 a season for the New York Yankees.
Namath grew into a major New York personality. He wore white shoes on the field. He had long hair. He was considered arrogant. He was the opposite of what pro football players were known to be at the time.
Before the third AFL-NFL Championship Game – which is what the Super Bowl was called then -- he guaranteed his Jets would beat the heavily favored Colts. He didn’t shut up all week.
The Jets won, showing the upstart AFL could compete with the more-established NFL. That victory didn’t cause the merger of the two leagues in 1970, but it helped smooth the road.
The following year after the Jets’ victory, organizers stopped using marching bands for the halftime show and featured Carol Channing in a tribute to Mardi Gras. The year after that, the name of the game was changed to Super Bowl.
Since then, the game has grown bigger and bigger. Other dominoes fell to create what we have today, but Namath was the first.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at email@example.com. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.