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All Points West: How the Big Game became bigger
February 05, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Half a century has gone by.

The NFL has cultivated fans for that long. America was built on choice, and Americans had the best of it with a smorgasbord of games offered up by both the National Football League and the American Football League, organizations which eventually morphed into the NFC and the AFC. The game was billed a monumental tilt between the old AFL and the old NFL after a merger of the two professional football leagues was announced on June 8, 1966.

In that fateful game, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers defeated the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, on Jan. 15, 1967, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the first Super Bowl. Prognosticators said the superior teams hailed from the NFL, and they were proven right, at least for one day.

And so it began.

This year, taking center stage at Levi Stadium in San Francisco for Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, a franchise founded in 1995, will battle for bragging rights on Sunday. The favored Panthers (no surprise there) led by QB Cam Newton pummeled Arizona, 49-15, while the Broncos defeated the New England Patriots, 20-18, leaving the No. 1 seeds of both conferences alive and their seasons intact.

There are so many sidebars to the big event, it’s hard to keep up. After this game, Denver QB Peyton Manning may call it quits after 17 seasons. You’ll also notice the NFL thankfully ditched the Roman Numeral “L,” and went with the a big Five-Oh, which flanks the Lombardi Trophy on the game’s official logo this year. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Rolling Stone the main reason for the change was to avoid its association with the word “loser.”
Also, I’m not sure if this is breaking any records, but L.A. Times business writer David Lazarus says bettors, ranging from the seasoned sports book guys who regularly make the rounds in Vegas to the friendly handshake wager crowd, will spend at least $4.2 billion this year, according to the American Game Assn. If last year’s game between the Pats and Seattle Seahawks is any kind of gauge, about 114 million viewers will tune in. This year’s game is likely to be televised in about 180 countries in at least 25 languages. Compared with the first Super Bowl of about 50 million viewers, the growth of the NFL can’t be understated. That translates into big advertising dollars. Fortune says 30-second spots for the Super Bowl will sell for as much as $5 million, according to CBS president and chief executive Leslie Moonves.

How do Nebraskans see the game, and through what lens? To me, a lifelong Bronco fan, a similar feeling is inspired by a sea of red, a winning tradition, a revered and legendary coach in Tom Osborne, a recruiting machine looking to return Big Red to prominence and dominance, with many of the players maybe making it into the NFL, and a chance to one day, star in a Super Bowl down the road.

What must the game look like to someone who has never seen it, nor experienced the excitement in cheering by watching it in a friend’s living room, crowding around a kitchen, packing into a sports bar, or having the thousands of dollars it now takes to buy tickets to attend the game in person.

The game is a war. It’s guttural, brute force on brute force with nuances of grace, ballet catches by receivers, running backs hurdling over linebackers. Manning yells “Omaha” on almost every play, while making adjustments behind or under center.

Newton launches a 60-yarder downfield, while nimble Broncos Linebacker Von Miller, leveraging his way past behemoth lineman, brings him down – much like a lion leaps on a gazelle. We get to live our lives vicariously through these super men, if you will, for four hours of the spectacular.

Lest I wax poetic too much about the game, infected by this disease we call sports fanaticism, let’s remember, too, that it is only a game.

The late Andy Griffith, in his entertaining and unique prose, “They Call It Football,” probably described the game the best, while putting into perspective what we have made so great in our minds.

In this excerpt, Griffith wrote:

“Well, we commenced to go through all kinds of doors and gates and I don’t know what all, and I looked up over one of ’em and it says North Gate, and we kept on a-goin’ through there, and pretty soon we come up on a young boy. And he says ticket, please. And, I says friend, I don’t have a ticket. I don’t even know where it is that I’m a-goin’. I did! Well he says, come out as quick as you can.
And I says, I’ll do ’er. I’ll turn around the first chance I get.

Well, we kept on a-movin’ through there and pretty soon everyone got where it was that they was agoin’ because they parted and I could see pretty good. I could! And, what I seen was this whole raft a people a-settin’ on these two banks and a-lookin’ at one another across’t this purty little green cow pasture! Well, they was! And somebody had took and drawed white lines all over it and drove posts in it and I don’t know what all! And I looked down there and I seen five or six convicts a-runnin up and down and a-blowin whistles! They was!

And then I looked down there and I seen these pretty girls a-wearin’ these little bitty short dresses and a-dancin’ around, and so I set down and thought I’d see what it was that was a-gonna happen. I did! And about the time I got set down good, I looked down there and I seen thirty or forty men come a-runnin’ out of one end of a great big outhouse down there! They did! And everybody where I was a-settin’ got up and hollered! And about that time thirty or forty come a-runnin’ out of the other end of that outhouse and the other bank full THEY got up and hollered!
And I asked this feller that was a-settin beside me: I says friend, what is it that they’re a-hollerin’ for? Well he whopped me on the back and he says, buddy, have a drink!”

All over 11 inches of a brown leather casing filled with air, weighing 14 to 15 ounces – an object with an oblong shape which has caused grown men to joyously yelp and to heave uncontrollable sobs, all at the same time.

Enjoy the big game folks!
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