Willie Wood and the Making of the Modern Game: Michael Lewis on America’s first Super Bowl

The game itself lives only in memory: no filmed record exists of the first Super Bowl. It was broadcast on two networks but both of them lost or erased the program. All that remains are the few highlights culled by the N.F.L. before the tapes vanished. Their feel is archaic, of a game from a lost era. The lockers have metal grates and locks. Daring personal behavior consists of sneaking out of the hotel after bed check to dance with airline stewardesses. The kickers kick with their toe, and a sack is just another tackle, not an expression of personal domination to be followed by bestial gesturing. The biggest player on the field is the Chiefs’ Buck Buchanan, who at 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds is regarded as freakishly big. (Today the average fan would wonder why he hadn’t filled out.) It may not be a better time, but it certainly is a more credulous one. Everyone is readily believed, and so everyone is more easily deceived, or assumed to be. The example of the deceptive football mind at work is the play-action pass, in which the quarterback fakes a handoff to freeze the defense before making his throw.