The Big Game. The Pigskin World Series. Football’s Favorite Sunday. Whatever you want to call it, nobody can deny the significance of the Super Bowl. Between the hundreds of millions tuning in, the billions in wagers placed, and the entire outside world seemingly coming to a standstill, the first Sunday in February is far from just another ordinary football day.
For decades, the Super Bowl has served as America’s biggest annual spectacle, yet even the most die-hard football fans can’t say they know everything about the Big Game. So whether you were there at the very first in 1967 or have never watched a single snap in your life, these Super Bowl facts will make you the life of the party come this NFL season’s final showdown.
1. The Super Bowl was originally known as “The NFL-AFL World Championship Game.” While the name “Super Bowl” was thrown around as the game’s unofficial moniker, it wasn’t recognized by the league until the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
1. Disney paid New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms $75,000 to famously shout “I’m going to Disney World!” after defeating the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. Disney also paid Broncos QB John Elway to say the same thing if they won.
3. The halftime show for Super Bowl I featured two marching bands, trumpeter Al Hirt, two men in jetpacks, and a flock of 300 pigeons. That’s certainly a far cry from Lady Gaga diving from the roof of NRG Stadium during Super Bowl LI.
4. From 1985 to 1997, the NFC went on an unprecedented win streak, snagging 13 straight Super Bowl victories. During this time, the NFC outscored the AFC by a margin of 217, scoring 490 points to the AFC’s 219.
5. Super Bowl XLIV broke the longstanding record set by M*A*S*H for most-watched TV broadcast in history when 106.5 million people tuned in for the Big Game. The record was broken when Super Bowl XLIX nabbed 114.4 million viewers.
NFL / YouTube
6. Six Hall of Fame Quarterbacks that also played in at least one Super Bowl hail from Western Pennslyvania: Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and George Blanda (who served as a placekicker for Super Bowl II).
7. The halftime show of Super Bowl XXIII was an odd one, as the headliner was “Elvis Presto,” a magician and Elvis impersonator. The show was also broadcast in 3-D, a novelty at the time but a choice that fans today would likely find incredibly cheesy.
8. Not only did Joe Montana win all four Super Bowls he started in, but he also did so without recording a single interception. His Super Bowl record for most passes without an interception (122) still stands, as does his record for passer rating (127.8).
9. Following every Super Bowl, the winning team is presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, though no two are ever the same. Each trophy is newly minted out of sterling silver every year by Tiffany & Co.
10. Despite losing to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley was named Super Bowl MVP. Howley remains the only player in NFL history to receive this award as a member of the losing team.
11. The most expensive tickets to Super Bowl I, played on January 15, 1967, cost $12. Adjusted for inflation, that comes out to about $89 today. Even at that price, the event didn’t sell out.
12. Cleveland is the only current NFL city to have never hosted a Super Bowl nor seen its own team, the Browns, appear in one. Given the team’s recent influx of talent, however, an appearance in the Big Game doesn’t seem too far off.
Cleveland Browns on cleveland.com / YouTube
13. In places where sports gambling is legal, billions of dollars in wagers are placed on the Super Bowl annually. Add that to the number of office pools and offhand bets most people make on the Big Game and it’s easy to see why the leadup to Super Bowl Sunday is one of the busiest money-making times of the year.
14. In the 52-year history of the Super Bowl, only one quarterback has won the Big Game for two different teams: Peyton Manning. The Hall of Fame QB led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in 2007 and then did so with the Denver Broncos in 2016.
15. Super Bowl XLVII – also called the “Blackout Bowl” – was delayed a full 34 minutes after a power outage knocked out the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s field lights. Many believed Beyoncé’s halftime performance was the cause of the blackout, though this rumor was never confirmed.
16. Days before Super Bowl XXXIX, the city of Jacksonville, Florida, discovered it didn’t have enough hotel rooms to accommodate many of the NFL’s VIP guests. To remedy this, the city brought in five cruise ships to serve as “floating hotels” for the event.
17. Super Bowl LI was the first to go into overtime. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 after trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, marking the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Full Press Coverage
18. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only NFL team to complete a perfect season. After winning all 14 of their regular-season games, the Dolphins went on to defeat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
19. Despite having 19 appearances between them, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have lost more Super Bowls than any other team: the Pats are 6-5 in the Big Game, and the Broncos are 3-5.
Boston Sports Journal / The Denver Post
20. Super Bowl XLV was the first to not feature cheerleaders for either team, as neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the Green Bay Packers have their own cheerleading squads. And no — player celebrations don’t count!
Boston Sports Extra
21. A common myth about Super Bowl halftimes is that the sewage systems in major cities tend to fail due to the large volume of people all using the bathroom at the same time. Thankfully, there’s no evidence that supports this claim.
22. Each Super Bowl features a ceremonial coin flip to begin the game, though the coin used for Super Bowl XLIV was unlike any used before: it had spent the previous 11 days orbiting Earth on a NASA space mission before arriving at Sun Life Stadium.
23. Tom Brady has the most wins of any player in Super Bowl history, boasting six rings for victories in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI, and LIII. Quarterbacks Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are tied for the second-most with four rings each.
24. Since the game’s inception, there has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl. The record for fewest points scored in the Big Game belongs to both the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Rams, each team scoring just 3 points in their respective Super Bowls.
25. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest food consumption day in America. Only Thanksgiving – which one could argue is also a football holiday – has the Big Game beat.
26. The 1980 Pittsburgh Steelers were the first Super Bowl-winning team to be invited to the White House. They joined the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates team – who were fresh off a World Series win – in a joint visit with Jimmy Carter.
US National Archives / Twitter
27. During Super Bowl I, NBC overran their halftime commercials and wound up missing the second-half kickoff. Realizing their blunder, the network cut back and game officials made the Green Bay Packers kick again.
28. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are currently tied for the most Super Bowl wins all-time with six apiece. Behind them are the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, each with five Lombardi trophies.
29. Before each Super Bowl played on natural grass, a massive amount of fresh sod is installed on the field. In fact, a staggering 75,000 square feet of sod was used for just Super Bowl 50 alone.
The Sacramento Bee
30. Players receive hefty bonuses for winning the Super Bowl. In 2017, every New England Patriot received a $107,000 bonus while every Atlanta Falcons player was given $53,000 as a consolation prize.
31. Seven teams boast back-to-back Super Bowl victories: the Green Bay Packers, the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (who did it twice)!
32. Michael Jackson’s halftime show during Super Bowl XXVII actually garnered higher ratings than the game itself. On the heels of the performance, the NFL began making a conscious effort to attract big-name talent for future Super Bowl halftimes.
For the Win
33. While visiting the White House to celebrate the New York Giants’ win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, Giants linebacker Harry Carson actually dumped a Gatorade cooler filled with popcorn on President Ronald Reagan’s head!
34. For odd-numbered Super Bowls, the NFC team is considered the home team in league record; for even-numbered Super Bowls, the AFC representative is designated as the home team.
35. Moments before the second-half kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVIII, a fan disguised as a referee stripped down to a G-string and streaked across the field. Thankfully, New England Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham stopped him.
36. The first Super Bowl touchdown was scored by Packers wide receiver Max McGee in the first quarter of Super Bowl 1. According to McGee, a reserve receiver, he hadn’t expected to play in the game and was nursing a hangover when he was told to suit up.
37. Tom Brady is the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, having defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at the ripe old age of 41. Peyton Manning previously held the record at 39 after winning Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers.
38. No sitting president has ever made an appearance at the Big Game, though four vice presidents have. Al Gore, Spiro Agnew, Mike Pence, and George H.W. Bush (under Reagan) have all attended the Super Bowl.
Evan H Williams / Twitter
39. Following the New England Patriots’ loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, then-Boston mayor Thomas Menino donated 42 pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and 12 dozen Boston cream pies to NYC charities to fulfill a bet he’d made with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The New York Times
40. If LSU is known as “DBU” for its penchant for producing defensive backs, then the University of Alabama and Purdue University should be called “QBU.” Both colleges have produced three Super Bowl-winning QBs apiece: Joe Namath, Bart Starr, and Ken Stabler from Alabama and Drew Brees, Len Dawson, and Bob Griese from Purdue.
For the Win / Crimson Quarry