While every sporting league’s championship is must-watch television, nothing in American sports reigns supreme like the NFL’s Super Bowl. The World Series, March Madness, Stanley Cup, and NBA Finals all draw in casual viewers interested in the game and talent. However, the Super Bowl is a sports and entertainment hybrid event that, for 50 years, has given its fans countless memorable moments that will stick with them forever.
Super Bowl I kicked off the tradition in 1967
The first NFL Super Bowl was played in early 1967. While the NFL had already been around for nearly 50 years, it was a smaller league with a typical championship format. The two best teams face each other with one winner. When the AFL merger occurred, so did the weight of a ring. At the end of the season, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers took on the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
While the game wasn’t anything like the international spectacle it is today, players in the game immediately understood the appeal. Speaking with Vocativ about that first game, former Packers linebacker Dave Robinson recalled Vince Lombardi, whose name now adorns the Super Bowl trophy, taking in the spectacle of it all.
“I remember walking out onto the field with Vince Lombardi, and we saw the way the field was decorated with green, red, gold, and all this stuff. He said, ‘My, my, my, look at that: Football’s come a long way since when I played in cow pastures,'” he said.
The game was far from a classic, with the Packers dominating the Chiefs 35-10. However, the importance of its greater impact cannot go understated. Robinson’s wife knew this right away, but the linebacker was not so confident.
“She said she wanted to go,” Robinson said. “[She said,] ‘Someday, the Super Bowl will be bigger than the World Series.’ I said, ‘No way, nothing’s bigger than the World Series.'”
It was. Now, many of the biggest names like Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are there because they performed in the Big Game.
Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl win helped prove his worth
Rodgers came with lofty expectations. He spent most of his first three years watching Brett Favre finish his tenure with the team. When the Packers finally gave him the keys and let Favre walk in the process, all eyes were on Rodgers. He didn’t take long to prove that he was the real deal. He did just that in 2011 when the Packers took on Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At the time, Roethlisberger was still fresh off two early Super Bowl wins, and with Pro Football Reference noting the Packers 10-6 record, many justifiably questioned how they’d do when the stakes got higher. Rodgers responded, leading his Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Steelers, outperforming Roethlisberger in nearly every facet of the game.
Of course, while Roethlisberger lost this match, his legacy was already secure thanks to his first Super Bowl and the history-making performance behind it.
Who is the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl?
In 2005, Tom Brady was in his early days of dominance, while Rodgers hadn’t yet taken the field in any meaningful way. According to Pro Football Reference, Roethlisberger was the 11th overall pick, but his early dominance surprised even his biggest fans. However, after a solid rookie season, Roethlisberger secured his place in NFL history when at just 23 years old, he led the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers to a 21-10 beatdown of Matt Hasselbeck’s Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl XL.
This also made him the answer to the trivia question: Who is the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl? While Roethlisberger has failed to match his early success, his early years combined with his longevity still make him one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Interestingly, Roethlisberger wasn’t even a rookie that year — and no rookie quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl to this day.
Who won the most Super Bowls?
The USA Inquirer notes how the New England Patriots were a franchise most defined by rampant mediocrity when they took Tom Brady in the final round. However, after fluke injuries combined with Brady’s generational talent, The Patriots’ Super Bowl reputation emerged — not just because the team stretched its success over two decades, but because they appeared in nearly half of the 21st-century’s biggest games. When Brady left the Patriots, he did so with six Super Bowls in New England.
However, when it comes to prolonged success that spans generations, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl performances have set the benchmark. Starting with Bradshaw’s early run and stretching into Ben Roethlisberger’s early years, the Steelers’ six rings might not have the weight that Brady’s Patriots did. Still, it shows the prolonged dominance they’ve sustained through several coaches and quarterbacks.
Coming up behind them are the Dallas Cowboys, whose five Super Bowls and eight appearances may seem low, given their proud reputation as America’s team. At the same time, the 49ers’ iconic run of the ’80s and ’90s gave them five rings and a lifetime of memories to work off of.
Which teams never won a Super Bowl?
According to AS, 12 teams have never won a Super Bowl. With so few teams dominating the Big Game as a whole, it’s no surprise that so many others are left to roost. Nearly one-third of the NFL has never held the trophy, and while teams like the Atlanta Falcons have gotten close, others haven’t even had the luxury of losing on the biggest stage.
The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars have only watched the Super Bowl from home. While newer franchises like Houston and Jacksonville have an understandable disposition, the Browns and Lions are premiere teams who found great success before the Super Bowl. This makes their lack of success in a 50-plus-year-old event more impressive.
When you look at how just three players account for nearly a quarter of the Super Bowl wins, however, this lack of success makes a little bit more sense.
What quarterback has won the most Super Bowls?
Joe Montana and Bradshaw represent a solid two-decade run of absolute dominance. NBC notes how Bradshaw led the Steelers of the 1970s and 1980s to four Super Bowl victories and changed the quarterback position forever. On the other hand, Montana helped spearhead the 49ers iconic run that started with his first three Super Bowls, shifted guards when he watched the fourth from the sidelines and continued through Steve Young after getting usurped. However, the winningest quarterback is obvious.
It should come as no shock that Brady leads the pack when it comes to NFL Super Bowl winners. In fact, he holds records for both Super Bowl games played and won. Bleacher Report recalls how he entered the NFL as a longshot draft pick, and within two years, he was a Super Bowl champion and the talk of the town. While legends are born with his type of early success, Brady never took his foot off the gas.
The next Super Bowl will mark 20 years since Brady’s Cinderella run during the 2001 season, and with Brady hoisting his seventh Super Bowl trophy in 2021, he very well could cap it off with yet another win. Brady is in a league of his own when it comes to winning on the biggest stage, and while many can argue his standing in terms of talent, no one can deny his ability to win. After all, with seven rings, he’s had more individual Super Bowl success than any other franchise, let alone a player.
From classic quarterbacks like Montana and Bradshaw to the modern generation of Lamar Jacksons and Patrick Mahomes, nobody has a career like Brady. Until he shows that Father Time still cares about him, he may get a few more appearances despite already being in his mid-40s.
Super Bowl MVPs are quarterbacks, more often than not
It should be no surprise that Brady’s Super Bowl rings also mean he has several MVP awards as well. According to ESPN, he won his fifth Super Bowl MVP award in 2021 — his third in the last seven years. However, part of the beauty of the Super Bowl MVP award is the fact that anyone can win it. Patrick Mahomes showed that he was no one-season wonder after his comeback victory in Super Bowl LIV.
Brady’s former teammate, Julian Edelman, was one of just two people to win the award while Brady was on his team in Super Bowl LIII. Nick Foles went from backup quarterback to Super Bowl MVP after the Philadelphia Eagles’ surprising run in 2018, while Von Miller won the award with defense and helped send Peyton Manning off into the sunset with a win.
Football is a quarterback’s game, but that doesn’t mean the love can’t go around. It’s often the quarterback’s to lose, but this makes runs like Miller’s or Edelman’s all the sweeter. However, for the fans in the crowd, these Cinderella stories may help justify the massive price they paid to watch the game.
Super Bowl ticket prices have skyrocketed
To show how things have changed since the 1960s, Sporting News looked at the price of Super Bowl I compared to the exorbitant fees that deep-pocketed fans pay today. The first game’s tickets sold for a mind-boggling $12. While those prices remained for several years, they quickly skyrocketed as more and more people got into the act.
Some of these low prices can be explained away by inflation, but the game’s scope also plays a part. By 1988, the tickets cost $100. The steady climb continued for several years. Now, most people cannot afford to buy a Super Bowl ticket, as Sporting News notes the $3,500 price tag that the most recent game demanded.
However, now the Super Bowl is not just about football. It’s a concert and a spectacle, as well.
The Super Bowl halftime show is the show within the show
The Super Bowl is not just about football. Some people watch for the onslaught of commercials featuring A-list stars and funny outcomes with Hollywood budgets and interesting products. Sometimes, the teams get into the action, with SongFacts noting how the 1986 Chicago Bears performed a musical hip hop number, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” to celebrate their Super Bowl run.
However, Vulture notes how the biggest sell away from the game itself is often halftime. Michael Jackson helped kick off the festivities in 1993 with an iconic halftime show that’s still talked about today, despite his ever-complicated view when it comes to modern audiences. Many of the biggest names in music appeared on the screen in some regard. Since then, anyone with massive success seems to find themselves upon the stage.
Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and several other massive pop stars collaborated in a strange, iconic performance, while Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan brought the house down in 1999. However, the halftime show’s most memorable moment came in 2003, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake created the wardrobe malfunction seen around the world.
The infamous event, in which Timberlake exposed Jackson’s breast to an international audience, made the NFL call on classic entertainers for several years. From Paul McCartney to The Rolling Stones and The Who, the results were mixed. When it comes to the greatest performance ever, Prince’s 2007 show brought the roof down, with the late singer shredding on guitar and playing both his own hits and the hits of others.
Recent shows returned to more contemporary acts. Timberlake returned in 2017, while Beyoncé reunited Destiny’s Child on stage years earlier. The Weeknd’s performance in 2021 took advantage of the smaller crowd to combine the show with experimental filmmaking.
The Super Bowl will always be a draw for people around the world. From iconic performances by players and music artists alike — to famous upsets, choke jobs, and Cinderella stories — it’s hard to find an event with such a wide variety of interests from around the world.