Now that my New York Jets have been eliminated it's not for me to predict the winner—or even have much of a rooting interest—in this year's Super Bowl between the Packers and the Steelers. But there is one prediction that I will make. As the big game approaches we will once again be told that, as Wikipedia puts it, the name "Super Bowl" was "coined by [Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar] Hunt, who took it in part from the then popular toy, the Super Ball." Indeed this is all the more likely since this year's game will be played in Dallas, Hunt's long-time home. And my confidence in this prognostication is certainly not diminished by the fact that it has already come to pass: a story crediting Hunt with coming up with the game's name appeared in the Dallas Morning News a few days ago .
There is no question that crediting Hunt (who passed way in December 2006) with coming up with the name "Super Bowl" is one of the event's most cherished, and oft-repeated, traditions—and one that is immortalized in the Professional Football Hall of Fame, complete with a display of replica "super balls" in the Hall's Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery.
But is it true?
One popular story about Hunt's role in naming the game took root from the fact that the "Super Bowl" did not formally become the "Super Bowl" until after it had been played three times. In June 1966, the entrenched National Football League and the upstart American Football League agreed in principle that their respective champions would square off in an annual season ending showdown. As the pictures of game tickets over the years on the National Football League's Super Bowl website show, the official name for the historic inaugural match-up in January 1967 between the champions of the NFL and the AFL was the "AFL-NFL Championship Game." And the "World Championship Game" designation remained in effect for the next two contests, including the New York Jets' upset of the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in January 1969 (what was formally designated the "Third World Championship Game"). The "Super Bowl" name was not officially recognized until the fourth renewal the next year, and the now iconic roman numerals were only added one year later when "Super Bowl V" was played.