From the Archives: Jerry Green '46 Reflects on 50 Years of Covering the Super Bowl
Jerry Green

Photo of Jerry Green '46 from The Detroit News

The below article originally appeared in the fall 2016 issue of Hotchkiss Magazine. Jerry Green '46, the last reporter to cover every Super Bowl from the game’s inception, died March 23, 2023, at age 94. He covered 56 Super Bowls.

From Joe Namath to Peyton Manning

Sports columnist Jerry Green ’46, veteran reporter for The Detroit News, reflects on 50 years of covering the Super Bowl.

By Jerry Green '46

A colossus or a resounding dud. ... Those words were written in a darkened Los Angeles hotel room on January 14, 1967, to appear in the next day’s editions of The Sunday Detroit News. They described my views about a newly created football game – symbolizing a sports union of financial convenience between two battling, scheming professional leagues.

It was billed as “The First Annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” We would come to know the event as the Super Bowl, and this would be folded into sports history as Super Bowl I.

As I reflect on covering 50 Super Bowls, I wish that I had had a flashback when I started
writing on my portable typewriter that day in LA nearly 50 years ago.

We, as what were then known as Upper Middlers at Hotchkiss in 1944-45, had read John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle, a title taken from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Now, as I muse at my laptop computer, I wish I had thought of the title of Steinbeck’s magnificent novel on the eve of Super Bowl I. For that is what all of us sports journalists believed back in the prelude to that first Super Bowl: that it would be described perfectly as “in dubious battle.”

The football game was to be a shotgun wedding, pitting the champions of the established National Football League against the champions of the upstart American Football League. The two leagues had opted From Joe Namath to Peyton Manning to merge the previous June, after six years of sports intrigue. The six years were highlighted by shenanigans such as kidnapping draft choices and the AFL’s raids to sign some of the NFL’s established quarterbacks.

The 1966 pro football season had been laden with newspaper and television speculation about which league was superior. It would all be determined in one game, on one Sunday, between Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, the dynastic NFL champions, and Hank Stram’s AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. The event would pit competing networks — CBS vs. NBC, each with telecasting rights. Even the footballs would be different: NFL’s “The Duke” vs. the AFL ball. The rivalry flowed over to the supposedly neutral and impartial journalists who covered teams in the two leagues. All of us — some 300 sportswriters — were dubious. We had doubts and set opinions and we talked a lot and bragged some.

On the eve of the game, Pete Rozelle, the NFL commissioner, tossed the first of what would become his famous Super Bowl press parties, complete with ice statuary, in the ballroom of the Statler Hotel.

A gaggle of ink-stained wretches from such NFL towns as Green Bay, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and of course, Detroit, sat on one side of the dance floor. On the other side were Oakland, Kansas City, Denver, Buffalo, New York, and others from AFL towns. And we glowered at each other from across this polished no-man’s land of some 70 feet. None of us stirred. A bunch of spiffed-up, grown men, staring daggers.

Next afternoon, the Packers thrashed the Chiefs, 35-10, in the LA Coliseum, with multiple patches of unoccupied seats. The ballyhooed game had been a resounding dud.

Nonetheless, all of us associated with the NFL could exercise bragging rights with flexed muscles. The NFL, with its corps of high-powered propaganda artists, had not yet come up with the pushing, shoving, noisy, televised postgame press conferences, filled with platitudes.

Perhaps 10 of us gathered around Lombardi in a lobby outside the victors’ locker room. The Great Lombardi was tossing a football toward the ceiling and catching it with sure hands.

One reporter — this wise guy from Detroit — asked: “That an NFL ball?” Lombardi did not respond. He continued to toss the football. The question was asked again. Again silence, with a smile. A third time.

“Yes, this is an NFL ball,” Lombardi said, the league trademark in view. “And it throws better. It catches better. And it runs better. There are six NFL teams that are better than Kansas City. There, dammit, you made me say it.”

The bragging rights would last two years — until Joe Namath’s guarantee of a Jets and
AFL victory. By then, “we the media” — the NFL made that word a vital part of the
English language — would all become friends. Detroit with Denver, Oakland with Buffalo.

And through the years of Namath and Terry Bradshaw and Marcus Allen and John Riggins and Joe Montana and Emmitt Smith and Tom Brady onto Peyton Manning, the Super Bowl would become a colossus. Each year larger, not always better.

And each year, some of the original journalists would bow out. And ultimately, newspapers also started to disappear.

Last February, at Super Bowl 50, there would be two newspaper survivors in the global media contingent of some 3,000. Both grizzled and ancient, both essentially retired— Jerry Izenberg, from The Newark Star Ledger, and Green from The Detroit News.

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