On Monday night, a sea of credentialed media and some 7,000 paying fans filled the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., for the first prime time Super Bowl media day in NFL history, and from his home outside Kansas City, Fred Arbanas couldn't believe the fanfare.
"At Super Bowl I we probably had about that many people in the stands," the former Kansas City Chiefs tight end told FOX Sports on Wednesday. "There's just no comparison whatsoever."
The official attendance at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Super Bowl I was actually 61,946 -- the lowest in the game's history. However there's no question that the Super Bowl and everything that comes with it has turned into a spectacle no one could have imagined when Arbanas' Chiefs faced the Green Bay Packers in the game that started it all.
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"It was kind of like a World Series game in baseball, but even the World Series doesn't compare to what they're doing with the Super Bowl now," said Tom Brown, a defensive back on the Packers teams that won each of the first two Super Bowls. "(TV) has changed the way that sports reporters interview and do the games. It's just spectacular."
"There's nobody that could have dreamt up the way that it's turned out to be," Arbanas added. "Even (Chiefs owner) Lamar Hunt, who came up with the term Super Bowl, I'm sure had no idea it would develop into what it has."
Back in January 1966, the Super Bowl wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet -- Hunt first offered the name years earlier, but the NFL didn't officially adopt it until Super Bowl III -- and player interviews barely attracted reporters, much less a crowd.
"There was a day where the players would come in and sit down at tables and the writers would come around and talk to the players, but it was just one day and I don't think it was all that successful," Brown said. "The reporters were only interested in a couple players then, as opposed to everybody."
In fact, for Arbanas and the '65 AFL champs, "media day" was even more informal, to the point where it was virtually impromptu.
"They got a hold of several of us guys -- Ed Budde, Jim Tyrer, Dave Hill -- and we met in my room," said Arbanas, who spent his entire nine-year career with the Chiefs (including the franchise's final season as the Dallas Texans). "It was two or three reporters, the whole offensive line and myself. They interviewed us for a little bit, but that was about it. You didn't have all the things going on back then. Even in Super Bowl IV, there was a little bit more but not that much."
At that time, the game carried plenty of weight on its own without the help of the press and the dozens of appearances and events that lead up to kickoff today. That was particularly true for the Packers, who were two-touchdown favorites in the inaugural event.
"(Vince) Lombardi knew that he had to win," Brown said when asked if the lack of grandeur made the game seem less significant than today's Super Bowls. "The AFL was what, maybe 10 years old? And the NFL was 40 years old. So all the owners kept calling Coach Lombardi and saying, 'You've got to win this game. You've got to win this game.' There was a lot of pressure on the Packers to win for the National Football League, I can tell you that."
Green Bay went on to do just that, using 21 unanswered second-half points to pull away in a 35-14 win. Afterward, the scene was subdued -- something that certainly won't be the case after either the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos win Sunday.
"There was no big celebration," Brown said. "It was a (workmanlike) Packers game, and they were so used to it at the time. So it was a big game, but there was no big party after the game was over."
Considering where the Super Bowl started, it's almost hard to believe that the extravaganza we see today is simply the inevitable result 50 years of growth and natural progression. But it's clear that a lot of the differences between Super Bowl I and Super Bowl 50 are strictly generational -- just as other aspects of the game that have changed over the years, as well.
"I'm a little concerned about the way these guys are catching touchdown passes and dancing in the end zone," Brown said, apropos of nothing. "Give the ball back to the referee like you've done it before. Although I do like that Cam Newton gives the ball to a little kid. That's pretty neat, and that'll stay with that kid forever. So that's OK, but not the dancing and doing all these kind of gyrations. Lombardi would go crazy.
"In fact, Lombardi wouldn't have those type of guys," Brown continued. "He'd tell them, 'Act like you've been there before or we're going to get rid of you.' "
Unfortunately for Brown and other old timers, neither the dancing nor the pageantry is likely to go anywhere any time soon, even if they don't make for better football once the players step between the lines.
"It's the place to be now," Arbanas said of the Super Bowl. "It's the place to be seen for all these movie stars and whatever, and the price of tickets -- the average guy, even if he could get one, couldn't afford to pay for it anyway. It's a whole different world the way it is now, and it's been going that way for many, many years with all the publicity and all the hoopla taking place before the game.
"They build it up so high," Arbanas added of the hype. "And usually you find that after the game's over, one of the other playoff games was a hell of a lot better game to watch than the Super Bowl."
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