Super Bowl 45 Will Break Records

A half-empty stadium, tickets on the 50-yard line for $12, and no cool name.  That was your big game 44 years ago.  January 15, 1967: the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 1.

That first Super Bowl wasn't even called the "Super Bowl" -- the name didn't exist yet.  It was called the AFL/NFL "World Championship" game.  It wasn't until Super Bowl III and the New York Jets' shocking upset of the then-Baltimore Colts that the name "Super Bowl" was used.

The NFL had a bright young commissioner at the time named Pete Rozelle who knew opportunity when it pounded the door off its hinges.  The Jets win in '69 was one of the two or three biggest upsets in modern sports history -- so big that I won a nickel from my dad, who didn't believe that a team from the fledgling AFL could knock off a powerhouse from the mighty NFL.

The nation saw a kid from Pennsylvania who played college in Alabama suddenly become Broadway.  Joe Willie Namath had given pro football everything it needed -- the shot to make its premier event the premier event.  Rozelle would launch pro football into a prime-time television product that would rocket the game past Major League Baseball as America's true passion.  The phenomenon happened so fast that baseball has never caught up -- and frankly, it never will.

Last year, the 44th Super Bowl (XLIV for you Roman numeral freaks) was the most-watched television program in our country's history.  Nielsen said 106.5 million Americans watched the Saints upset the Colts (yeah, there's a trend about that blue horseshoe, I guess).  In reality, many more than that watched the game.  Nielsen and all ratings systems have a difficult time counting how many millions of people watch in sports bars coast to coast, which is why major athletic events are always undercounted on TV ratings.

Now come the Packers again, after four decades plus being removed from winning the first-ever "big game."  Super Bowl 45 (XLV) will surely break all TV records again.  Think of it: two of the three most-popular teams of all time, the Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Dallas Cowboys are the other, and this game is at the Cowboys' home stadium).  It's such a big deal that a couple of thousand fans are paying $200 each to watch that game at the stadium, but to watch it on big-screen TVs.  They won't be allowed to look down onto the field itself.  The NFL can charge almost whatever it wants for tickets.  This year, the cheapest seat was $600, but of course you can buy those face-value tickets only if you win the right to.  The current after-market prices are soaring.  A quick check of one of the major ticket vendor sites shows that the cheapest tickets run just under $3,000 per seat.  They go all the way up to one private suite with 35 tickets up for sale.  Asking price?  $217,635.00.

A new attendance record will be set: well over 103,000 fans at the palatial Cowboys Dome in Arlington, Texas.  A new record for the cost of advertising on the game has been reached.  Advertising on Fox for the Super Bowl is at a cool $100,000...per second.  Yes, 100K per tick, $3 million for thirty whole seconds.  Better be a good ad!  And for all the work the NFL did in building its sport as must-see TV through the 1970s and branding the NFL as the premier sports league in the world (which it is), it was Madison Avenue, and not Broadway, in New York that took it over the top.  Once it was established that the Super Bowl television audience was so large that it warranted special advertising for that event, the ads themselves became an equal partner in the show.  You could rightly wonder if the television audience wouldn't be cut nearly in half if not for the commercials.  This game is the Super Bowl of world advertising on top of a title football game.

This game is the single most prominent thing America does to sell itself to the entire world.  Its audience across the planet will top one billion people.  And while many people across the globe are annually perplexed by this odd game played in armor on a field lined with numbers, they understand how uniquely American the entire event is.  It is the showcase of this great nation.  Basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer...all the other major sports have many major leagues throughout the world.  Football exists only in the United States and Canada...and the Canadian game is barely on the radar of Canadians, let alone anyone else.

Everything is in line for a showcase this Sunday like the NFL has never had before...except for one thing: the Packers and Steelers cheerleaders.  They don't exist.  There are three NFL teams that, for some odd reason, do not have hot women in short pants and tight shirts waving pom-poms above their... um...pom-poms.  Green Bay and Pittsburgh are two of them.  It's a good thing though.  Since the game is in Dallas...well, there are some cheerleaders hanging around that city who don't have much of anything to do this week.  If the NFL is smart, then they will make a call to ask if the Cowboys wouldn't mind.  It is the Cowboys' stadium, and any chance to steal the spotlight in the smallest way is the Cowboy way.  Black, green, lots of yellow gold, and a few lone stars thrown in.  Yep the NFL is sitting on the biggest television audience ever.

We've come a long way from a game with no name and little buzz.  The countdown to the 50th anniversary is on.  The NFL has one issue with that game: that Roman numeral thingy.  Super Bowl L doesn't work.  Because if there is one letter that does not apply by itself to this event, it is L.  Yes, on Sunday, again, one team will not win, but in the Super Bowl, there really are no losers.

John Fricke is a national radio and TV host and conservative opinion commentator.  His website is