Count me among those who were very interested to watch when the NFL Network announced it would air “Super Bowl I: The Lost Game.’’
The trouble is, it didn’t live up to its billing.
I wanted to see how the game was shown, and listen to Ray Scott, the wonderfully under-stated play-by-play announcer at CBS in the ‘60s. (Scott actually did the first half and Jack Whitaker did the second half of that game.)
What we got was a bunch of guys sitting around, talking over the audio of the broadcast and not really adding much. And a choppy version of the game that had about as many shots of Kirk Douglas in the stands as it did of Vince Lombardi in his short-sleeve dress shirt.
Oh well, I decided. Hard to believe, but there apparently isn’t a surviving tape of that game.
It turns out that there is a tape of the CBS broadcast. But it can’t be shown because the NFL doesn’t want to buy it from the North Carolina man whose father made the tape, a thorough article by Richard Sandomir in the New York Times reports. And the league has warned him not to show the tape without permission.
For those unfamiliar with those good old days, both NBC, which aired AFL games, and CBS, which broadcast the NFL, televised the first Super Bowl, which wasn’t that big of a deal at the time. There were thousands of empty seats in the L.A. Coliseum, and the game, billed as the NFL-AFL championship game, was more of a curious after-thought than a World Series. The halftime show did feature trumpeter Al Hirt, the bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling, and some guys flying around with rocket packs on their backs.
The Packers already had won the NFL title, which was huge. And while I was a big fan of the AFL’s high-scoring fun games, I didn’t think they were up to NFL standards–nor did I want them to be, out of a childish loyalty to the Bears and their league.
And so, I thought it would be very interesting to see how the original broadcast showed this uncertain drama.
Instead, we got guys in the studio not adding much.
Honestly, I only watched the first half of what the NFL Network had pieced together. The NFL Network, which does a lot of strong programming, appears to have been caught in the middle on this one. This was not the showing of the inaugural Super Bowl that I was interested to see.
THE PLOT THICKENS
Here’s where this really gets weird: If you go to Youtube,
there’s a 2-hour and 42-minute version of the NBC telecast. It has a lot of freeze-frame moments—at first I thought it was my internet connection—where still photos are shown while the audio continues. But this version shows the plays just fine, and it gives a good feel for Super Bowl I and the way it was originally broadcast on Jan. 15, 1967.
As one of the Youtube commenters said, “This is actually better than what the NFL Network showed.’’
I had the same thought even before I saw the comment.
The audio features the legendary Jim Simpson, who did the NBC Radio feed that day. Simpson, who was NBC’s No. 2 play-by-play guy on AFL games, does a very clean and clear job. (Simpson died on Jan. 13 at 88.) It’s gavel-to-gavel, right down to the post-game locker room. Even if it is the radio broadcast, it shows the plays being run.
This Youtube reconstruction makes the dispute over the CBS tape, which has been going on for more than a decade, even harder to fathom. The man, Troy Haupt, 47, originally asked for $1 million for the tape, based on a Sports Illustrated estimate of its worth. The NFL, which makes a lot more than that on one Super Bowl commercial, countered with an offer of $30,000—and refused to negotiate, the Times article said.
The Times quoted Haupt as offering to make a deal that would benefit charities.
Still, no deal.
What’s up with that, NFL?
The league screws up far more important things than this, no question. But if you want the tape, make a deal. If you don’t, let it be shown. What really is the point of holding a Super Bowl I tape hostage?