Carnett: A Super Bowl game for the history books

January 27, 2014|By Jim Carnett

It was the first football game with the words "Super Bowl" emblazoned on the cover of its printed program.

That game today is known as Super Bowl III.

The game took place Jan. 12, 1969, in Miami's Orange Bowl. The previous two years the game's official nomenclature was AFL-NFL World Championship Game.

Founded in 1960, the upstart American Football League became a serious competitor to the time-honored National Football League, and proved so by signing 75% of the older league's first-round draft choices in its first year. Despite that feat, many sportswriters routinely derided the quality of its players.


In 1966, the two pro football leagues agreed to a merger. The 10 AFL teams were absorbed into the NFL in 1970.

The more established NFL easily won the two World Championship contests. Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers swamped Kansas City's Chiefs in 1967, 35-10. The Packers crushed Oakland's Raiders, 33-15, in 1968.

That set the stage for the 1969 game, officially designated "Super Bowl." "Broadway" Joe Namath and his New York Jets represented the AFL that day and changed football forever.

I was a big AFL fan. I loved the league's wide-open style of play.

Super Bowl III matched the Jets against the NFL's Baltimore Colts. Heavy favorites, the Colts were considered one of the great teams in NFL history.

Baltimore went 13-1 during the 1968 season and walloped Cleveland in the NFL championship game, 34-0. The Jets were 11-3 and nipped Oakland in the AFL championship, 27-23.

Three days before kickoff, brash Jets quarterback Namath publicly guaranteed a win for his team. The world laughed!

At the time, I was preparing to graduate from Orange Coast College and transfer to Cal State Fullerton. I worked weeknights and weekends at a paint store on South Main in Santa Ana.

On Jan. 12, 1969, I worked a regular Sunday shift, from noon to 6 p.m. Kickoff was set for 12:05 p.m. Pacific Time.

We had no means for following the game at the store: no TV, no radio and no social media. I might as well have been marooned in East Java.

I arrived at work at 11:30 a.m. and volunteered to make our regular Sunday morning doughnut run. I timed my departure for noon, and drove to a shop several blocks from the paint store.

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