Namath Won The Big Game But NFL Owners Were Not So Convinced About The AFL’s Quality

Namath set the stage for today’s Super Bowl.

On January 12th, 1969, Joe Namath and his American Football League’s New York Jets teammates stunned the football world by defeating the National Football League’s Baltimore Colts in Miami’s Orange Bowl in the first named Super Bowl. It has been said that Namath, who guaranteed a victory during a poolside interview, launched the Super Bowl into the orbit it presently enjoys. The most important sports event in America annually and it is more than likely Namath is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of one game. Super Bowl III. There were still tickets available at the Orange Bowl until kickoff on January 12th, 1969. The pre-game stadium activities were forgettable, a trumpet player performed the national anthem, a college band played the halftime show and Jets players and personnel forgot to take the championship trophy back to New York. It was left in the stadium.

Even National Football League owners were unsure about how to execute the planned merger between the AFL and NFL despite Namath and the Jets win. After all, the Jets victory was probably a fluke and if any NFL franchise moved over to the AFL beginning with the 1970 season, that could be viewed as a demotion. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle could not find three teams to make the jump. But as is the case in the NFL money talks. There was an incentive of $3 million if an owner would move his or her team from the NFL to the AFL. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell took the bait with some conditions including that Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney went with him. Baltimore’s Carroll Rosenbloom also said yes. Namath, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, may have inadvertently created the Pittsburgh dynasty. Steelers ownership finally had the money to invest in making the team better.

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