The Super Bowl
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The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL), the highest level of professional American football in the United States, culminating a season that begins in the late summer of the previous calendar year. The Super Bowl uses Roman numerals to identify each game, rather than the year in which it is held. For example, Super Bowl I was played on January 15, 1967, following the 1966 regular season, while Super Bowl XLVII, which will determine the champion of the current 2012 season, will be played on February 3, 2013.
The game was created as part of a merger agreement between the NFL and its then-rival league, the American Football League (AFL). It was agreed that the two leagues' champion teams would play in an AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger was to officially begin in 1970. After the merger, each league was redesignated as a "conference", and the game was then played between the conference champions. Currently, the National Football Conference (NFC) leads the series with 25 wins to 21 wins for the American Football Conference (AFC).
The day on which the Super Bowl is played, now considered by some a de facto American national holiday, is called "Super Bowl Sunday". It is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the Super Bowl has frequently been the most watched American television broadcastof the year. Super Bowl XLV, played in 2011, became the most-watched American television program in history, drawing an average audience of 111 million viewers and taking over the spot held by the previous year's Super Bowl, which itself had taken over the #1 spot held for twenty-eight years by the final episode ofM*A*S*H. The Super Bowl is also among the most watched sporting events in the world, mostly due to North American audiences, and is second to association football (soccer)’s UEFA Champions League final as the most watched annual sporting event worldwide.
Because of its high viewership, commercial airtime during the Super Bowl broadcast is the most expensive of the year. Due to the high cost of investing in advertising on the Super Bowl, companies regularly develop their most expensive advertisements for this broadcast. As a result, watching and discussing the broadcast's commercials has become a significant aspect of the event. In addition, many popular singers and musicians have performed during the event's pre-game and halftime ceremonies because of the exposure.
For four decades after its 1920 inception, the NFL successfully fended off several rival leagues. However, in 1960, it encountered its most serious competitor when the American Football League (AFL) was formed. The AFL vied heavily with the NFL for both players and fans, but by the middle of the decade the strain of competition led to serious merger talks between the two leagues. Prior to the 1966 season, the NFL and AFL reached a merger agreement that was to take effect for the 1970 season. As part of the merger, the champions of the two leagues agreed to meet in a "world" championship game for professional American football until the merger was effected.
Lamar Hunt, owner of the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, first used the term "Super Bowl" to refer to this game in the merger meetings. Hunt would later say the name was likely in his head because his children had been playing with a Super Ball toy (a vintage example of the ball is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio). In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." Although the leagues' owners decided on the name "AFL-NFL Championship Game," the media immediately picked up on Hunt's "Super Bowl" name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.
The "Super Bowl" name was derived from the bowl game, a post-season college football game. The original "bowl game" was the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California, which was first played in 1902 as the "Tournament East-West football game" as part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and moved to the new Rose Bowl Stadium in 1923. The stadium got its name from the fact that the game played there was part of the Tournament of Roses and that it was shaped like a bowl, much like the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut; the Tournament of Roses football game itself eventually came to be known as the Rose Bowl Game. Exploiting the Rose Bowl Game's popularity, post-season college football contests were created for Miami (the Orange Bowl) and New Orleans (the Sugar Bowl) in 1935, and forDallas (the Cotton Bowl) in 1937. Thus, by the time the first Super Bowl was played, the term "bowl" for any big-time American football game was well established.
After the NFL's Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, some team owners feared for the future of the merger. At the time, many doubted the competitiveness of AFL teams compared with their NFL counterparts, though that perception changed when the AFL's New York Jets defeated the NFL's Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami. One year later, the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL's Minnesota Vikings 23–7 in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans, which was the final AFL-NFL World Championship Game played before the merger. Beginning with the 1970 season, the NFL realigned into two conferences; the former AFL teams plus three NFL teams (the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns) would constitute the American Football Conference (AFC), while the remaining NFL clubs would form the National Football Conference (NFC). The champions of the two conferences would play each other in the Super Bowl.
The game is played annually on a Sunday as the final game of the NFL Playoffs. Originally, the game took place in early to mid-January, following a fourteen-game regular season and two rounds of playoffs. Over the years, the date of the Super Bowl has progressed from the second Sunday in January, to the third, then the fourth Sunday in January; the game is currently played on the first Sunday in February, given the current seventeen-week (sixteen games and one bye week) regular season and three rounds of playoffs. Also, February is television's "sweeps" month, thus affording the television network carrying the game an immense opportunity to pad its viewership when negotiating for advertising revenue.
The progression of the dates of the Super Bowl was caused by several factors: the expansion of the NFL's regular season in 1978 from fourteen games to sixteen; the expansion of the pre-Super Bowl playoff field from six teams (two AFL and four NFL) prior to the merger, to eight in the 1970-71 season, then to ten in 1978-79, and finally twelve in 1990-91, necessitating the addition of additional rounds of playoffs; the addition of the regular season bye-week in the 1990s; and the decision to start the regular season the week following Labor Day.
The winning team receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowl games and three of the five preceding NFL championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965. Following his death in September 1970, the trophy was named the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and was first awarded as such to the Baltimore Colts following their win in Super Bowl V in Miami.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls, the most of any team; the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have five victories each; and both the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants have four Super Bowls championships. Thirteen other NFL franchises have won at least one Super Bowl. Ten teams have appeared in Super Bowl games without a win. The Minnesota Vikings were the first team to have lost a record four times without a win. The Buffalo Bills played in a record four Super Bowls in a row, and lost every one. Four teams (the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, andHouston Texans) have never appeared in a Super Bowl. The Browns and Lions both won NFL Championships prior to the Super Bowl's creation, while the Jaguars (1995) and Texans (2002) are both recent NFL expansion teams. The Minnesota Vikings won the last NFL Championship before the merger, but lost to the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
1960s: Early history
The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders following the 1966 and 1967 seasons, respectively. The Packers were led by quarterback Bart Starr, who was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for both games. These two championships, coupled with the Packers' NFL championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965, amount to the most successful stretch in NFL History; five championships in seven years. As owners of arguably the only true NFL dynasty, Green Bay, Wisconsin has been named Titletown, USA." 
In Super Bowl III, the AFL's New York Jets defeated the eighteen-point favorite Baltimore Colts of the NFL, 16–7. The Jets were led by quarterback Joe Namath (who had famously guaranteed a Jets win prior to the game) and former Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank, and their victory proved that the AFL was the NFL's competitive equal. This was reinforced the following year, when the AFL's Kansas City Chiefsdefeated the NFL's Minnesota Vikings 23–7 in Super Bowl IV.
1970s: Dominant franchises
After the AFL-NFL merger was completed in 1970, three franchises – the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers – would go on to dominate the 1970s, winning a combined eight Super Bowls in the decade.
The Baltimore Colts, now a member of the AFC, would start the decade by defeating the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, a game which is notable as being the only Super Bowl to date in which a player from the losing team won the MVP award (Cowboys' linebacker Chuck Howley).
The Cowboys, coming back from a loss the previous season, won Super Bowl VI over the Dolphins. However, this would be the Dolphins' final loss in over a year, as the next year, the Dolphins would go 14–0 in the regular season, and cap it off with a victory in Super Bowl VII, becoming the first and only team to finish an entire regular season and post season perfect. The Dolphins would win Super Bowl VIII a year later.
In the late 1970s, the Steelers became the first NFL dynasty of the post-merger era by winning four super bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) in six years. They were led by head coach Chuck Noll, the play of offensive stars Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster, and their dominant "Steel Curtain" defense, led by "Mean" Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Mel Blount,Jack Ham, and Jack Lambert. The coaches and administrators also were part of the dynasty's greatness as evidenced by the team's "final pieces" being part of the famous 1974 draft.
The selections in that class have been considered the best by any pro franchise ever, as Pittsburgh selected four future Hall of Famers, the most for any team in any sport in a single draft. The Steelers were the first team to win three and then four Super Bowls and appeared in six AFC Championship Games during the decade, making the playoffs in eight straight seasons. Nine players and three coaches and administrators on the team have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh still remains the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice and four Super Bowls in a six-year period.
The Steelers' dynasty was interrupted only by the Cowboys winning their second Super Bowl of the decade, and the Oakland Raiders' Super Bowl XI win.
1980s and 1990s: The NFC's winning streak
In the 1980s and 1990s, the tables turned for the AFC, as the NFC dominated the Super Bowls of the new decade and most of those of the 1990s. The NFC won 16 of the 20 Super Bowls during these two decades, including 13 straight from Super Bowl XIX to Super Bowl XXXI.
The most successful franchise of the 1980s was the San Francisco 49ers, which featured the West Coast offense of head coach Bill Walsh. This offense was led by three-time Super Bowl MVP quarterbackJoe Montana, Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Jerry Rice, and tight end Brent Jones. Under their leadership, the 49ers won four Super Bowls in the decade (XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV) and made nine playoff appearances between 1981 and 1990, including eight division championships, becoming the second dynasty of the post-merger NFL.
The 1980s also produced the 1985 Chicago Bears, who posted an 18–1 record under head coach Mike Ditka, colorful quarterback Jim McMahon, and Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and won Super Bowl XX in dominating fashion. The Washington Redskins and New York Giants were also top teams of this period; the Redskins won Super Bowls XVII, XXII and XXVI. The Giants claimed Super Bowls XXI and XXV. As in the 1970s, the Oakland Raiders were the only team to interrupt the Super Bowl dominance of other teams; they won Super Bowls XV and XVIII (the latter as the Los Angeles Raiders).
Following several seasons with poor records in 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys rose back to prominence in the 1990s. During this decade, the Cowboys made post season appearances every year except for the seasons of 1990 and 1997. From 1992 to 1996, the Cowboys won their division championship each year. In this same period, the Buffalo Bills had made their mark reaching the Super Bowl for 4 consecutive years, only to lose in all of them. After Super Bowl championships by division rivals New York (1990) and Washington (1992), the Cowboys won three of the next four Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX) led by quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin. The Cowboy's streak was interrupted by the 49ers, who won their league-leading fifth title overall with Super Bowl XXIX; however, the Cowboys' victory in Super Bowl XXX the next year also gave them five titles overall. The NFC's winning streak was continued by the Green Bay Packers who, under quarterback Brett Favre, wonSuper Bowl XXXI, their first championship since Super Bowl II in the late 1960s.
1997-2008: AFC resurgence
During this period, the Denver Broncos ended the NFC's long Super Bowl streak and started a stretch of its own in which AFC teams won 9 out of 12 Super Bowls. The remainder were won between the Broncos, Steelers, and Colts. In the years between 2001 and 2011, three teams – the Patriots, Steelers, and Colts – accounted for ten of the AFC Super Bowl appearances, with those same teams often meeting each other earlier in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the NFC saw a different representative in the Super Bowl every season from 2001 through 2010.
Super Bowl XXXII saw quarterback John Elway and running back Terrell Davis lead the Denver Broncos to an upset victory over the defending champion Packers, snapping the NFC's winning streak and starting a streak in which AFC teams would win eight of the next ten Super Bowls. This marked Elway's first Super Bowl championship in four attempts. The Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons in the following Super Bowl, which would be Elway's final game. The surprising St. Louis Rams would close out the 1990s by logging an NFC win in Super Bowl XXXIV.
The New England Patriots became the dominant team throughout the early 2000s, winning the championship three out of four years early in the decade. They would become only the second team in the history of the NFL to do so (after the 1990s Dallas Cowboys). In Super Bowl XXXVI, first-year starting quarterback Tom Brady led his team to a 20–17 upset victory over the St. Louis Rams. Brady would go on to win the MVP award for this game The Patriots also won Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX defeating the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles respectively. This four-year stretch of Patriot dominance was only interrupted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl XXXVII title.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts continued the era of AFC dominance by winning Super Bowls XL and XLI. Two years later the Steelers won an NFL record sixth Super Bowl championship inSuper Bowl XLIII.
In the 2007 season, the Patriots came back by becoming the first team in NFL history to have a 16–0 record in the regular season. They easily marched through the AFC playoffs and were heavy favorites inSuper Bowl XLII. However, they lost that game to the New York Giants 17–14, in large part due to a play that would become known as the Helmet Catch, in which Giants receiver David Tyree caught an Eli Manning pass by securing it against the side of his helmet. This pass would set up the eventual game-winning touchdown.
2009-Present: NFC turnaround
NFC teams won four of five Super Bowls in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The Giants won two championships (XLII as described above and XLVI also over the Patriots) in this period. Between these titles, theNew Orleans Saints won their first title and the Green Bay Packers won their fourth Super Bowl and record 13th NFL championship overall.
The Super Bowls of the late 2000s and early 2010s are marked by the performances of the several of the winning quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning twice, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers all added championships and Super Bowl MVP awards to their lists of individual accomplishments.
Television coverage and ratings
For many years, the Super Bowl has possessed a large US and global television viewership, and it is often the most watched television program of the year. The game tends to have high Nielsen television ratings, which is usually around a 40 rating and 60 share. This means that on average, 80 to 90 million people from the United States are tuned into the Super Bowl at any given moment.
In press releases preceding each year's event, the NFL typically claims that that year's Super Bowl will have a potential worldwide audience of around one billion people in over 200 countries. This figure refers to the number of people able to watch the game, not the number of people actually watching. However the statements have been frequently misinterpreted in various media as referring to the latter figure, leading to a common misperception about the game's actual global audience. The New York-based media research firm Initiative measured the global audience for the 2005 Super Bowl at 93 million people, with 98 percent of that figure being viewers in North America, which meant roughly 2 million people outside North America watched the Super Bowl that year.
2012's Super Bowl XLVI holds the record for total number of U.S. viewers, attracting an average U.S. audience of over 111 million and an estimated total audience of nearly 167 million, making the game the most-viewed television broadcast of any kind in American history.
The highest-rated game according to Nielsen was Super Bowl XVI in 1982, which was watched in 49.1 percent of households (73 share), or 40,020,000 households at the time. Ratings for that game, a San Francisco victory over Cincinnati, may have been aided by a large blizzard that had affected much of the northeastern United States on game day, leaving residents to stay at home more than usual. Also, because network television was still the predominant means of viewership and pay television services (cable, and later satellite) were still relatively unavailable, there were not many choices of things to watch on television. Super Bowl XVI still ranks fourth on Nielsen's list of top-rated programs of all time, and three other Super Bowls, XII, XVII, and XX, made the top ten.
Famous commercial campaigns include the Budweiser "Bud Bowl" campaign and the 1999 and 2000 dot-com ads. Prices have increased every year, with advertisers paying as much as $3.5 million for a thirty-second spot during Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. A segment of the audience tunes in to the Super Bowl solely to view commercials. The Super Bowl halftime show has spawned another set of alternative entertainment such as the Lingerie Bowl, the Beer Bottle Bowl, and other facets of American culture.
Early Super Bowls featured a halftime show consisting of marching bands from local colleges or high schools; but as the popularity of the game increased, a trend where popular singers and musicians performed during its pre-game ceremonies and the halftime show, or simply sang the national anthem of the United States, emerged. Unlike regular season or playoff games, thirty minutes are allocated for the Super Bowl halftime.
The first halftime show to have featured only one star performer was Michael Jackson during Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. The NFL specifically went after him to increase viewership and to continue expanding the Super Bowl's reputation. Another notable performance came during Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, when U2 performed; during their second song, "Where the Streets Have No Name", the band played under a large projection screen which scrolled through names of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 generated controversy when Justin Timberlake removed a piece of Janet Jackson's top, exposing her right breast with a star-shaped pastie around the nipple. Timberlake and Jackson have maintained that the incident was accidental, calling it a "wardrobe malfunction". The game was airing live on CBS, and MTV had produced the halftime show. Immediately after the moment, the footage jump-cut to a wide-angle shot and went to a commercial break; however, video captures of the moment in detail circulated quickly on the internet. The NFL, embarrassed by the incident, permanently banned MTV from conducting future halftime shows.
This also led to the FCC tightening controls on indecency and fining CBS and CBS-owned stations a total of $550,000 for the incident. The fine was later reversed in July 2008. CBS and MTV eventually split into two separate companies in part because of the fiasco, with CBS going under the control of CBS Corporationand MTV falling under the banner of Viacom (although both corporations remain under the ownership of National Amusements).
For six years following the incident, all of the performers in Super Bowl halftime shows were artists associated with the classic rock genre of the 1970s and 1980s (including three acts from the British Invasion of the 1960s), with only one act playing the entire halftime show. Paul McCartney (formerly of The Beatles) played Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, The Rolling Stones played Super Bowl XL in 2006, and The Who played Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. The halftime show returned to a modern act in 2011 with The Black Eyed Peas. But during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, M.I.A. gave the middle finger during a performance of "Give Me All Your Luvin'" with Madonna, which was caught TV cameras. An attempt to censor the gesture by blurring the entire screen came late.
Excluding Super Bowl XXXIX, the famous "I'm going to Disney World!" advertising campaign took place at every Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXI, when quarterback Phil Simms from the New York Giants became the first player to say the tagline. The Walt Disney Company ran the ad several times during the game[which?], showing several players from both teams practicing the catch-phrase.
26 of 46 Super Bowls have been played in three cities; New Orleans (nine times), the Greater Miami area (ten times), or the Greater Los Angeles area (seven times). Stadiums that do not host an NFL franchise are not, by rule, prohibited from hosting the Super Bowl, and non-NFL stadiums have hosted the game nine times, with the Rose Bowl accounting for five of these. To date, however, no market or region without an NFL franchise has ever hosted a Super Bowl; all five Rose Bowl Super Bowls were hosted before the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Raiders left for St. Louis and Oakland respectively in 1995.
No team has ever played the Super Bowl in its home stadium. The closest have been the San Francisco 49ers who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium, rather than Candlestick Park, and the Los Angeles Rams who played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl, rather than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In both cases, the stadium in which the Super Bowl was held was perceived to be a better stadium for a large, high-profile event than the stadiums the Rams and 49ers were playing in at the time; this situation has not arisen since 1993, in part because the league has traditionally awarded the Super Bowl in modern times to the newest stadiums.
Besides those two, the only other Super Bowl venue that was not the home stadium to an NFL team at the time was Rice Stadium in Houston: theHouston Oilers had played there previously, but moved to the Astrodome several years prior to Super Bowl VIII. The Orange Bowl was the only AFL stadium to host a Super Bowl and the only stadium to host consecutive Super Bowls, hosting Super Bowls II and III.
Traditionally, the NFL does not award Super Bowls to stadiums that are located in climates with an expected average daily temperature less than 50°F (10°C) on game day unless the field can be completely covered by a fixed or retractable roof. Four Super Bowls have been played in northern cities: two in the Detroit area—Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac Silverdome inPontiac, Michigan and Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit—, one in Minneapolis—Super Bowl XXVI, and one in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI. These four stadiums all have a roof. However, despite not having a retractable roof, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey was chosen for Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, in an apparent waiver of the warm-climate rule.
There have been a few instances where the league has yanked the Super Bowl from cities. Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 was originally awarded to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, but after Arizona voted to not recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1990, the NFL moved the game to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in protest. After Arizona opted to create the holiday by ballot in 1992, Super Bowl XXX in 1996 was awarded to Tempe. Super Bowl XLIV, slated for February 7, 2010, was withdrawn from New York City's proposed West Side Stadium, because the city, state, and proposed tenants New York Jetscould not agree on funding. Super Bowl XLIV was then eventually awarded to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. And Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was originally given to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, but after two sales taxes failed to pass at the ballot box, and opposition by local business leaders and politicians increased, Kansas City eventually withdrew its request to host the game.Super Bowl XLIX was then eventually awarded to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The location of the Super Bowl is chosen by the NFL well in advance, usually three to five years before the game. Cities place bids to host a Super Bowl and are evaluated in terms of stadium renovation and their ability to host. The NFL owners then meet to make a selection on the site. In 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested that a Super Bowl might be played in London, England, perhaps atWembley Stadium. The game has never been played in a region that lacks an NFL franchise; seven Super Bowls have been played in Los Angeles, but none since the Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams relocated to Oakland and St. Louis respectively in 1995.
Home team designation
The designated "home team" alternates between the AFC team in even-numbered games and the NFC team in odd-numbered games. This alternation was initiated with the first Super Bowl, when theGreen Bay Packers were the designated home team. Regardless of being the home or away team of record, each team has their team wordmark painted in one of the end zones along with their conference designation. Designated away teams have won 26 of 46 Super Bowls to date (.565).
Since Super Bowl XIII in January 1979, the home team is given the choice of wearing their colored or white jerseys. Formerly, the designated home team was specified to wear their colored jerseys, which resulted in Dallas donning their less familiar dark blue jerseys for Super Bowl V. While most of the home teams in the Super Bowl have chosen to wear their colored jerseys, there have been four exceptions; the Cowboys during Super Bowl XIII and XXVII, the Washington Redskins during Super Bowl XVII, and the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XL. The Cowboys, since 1965, and Redskins, since the arrival of coach Joe Gibbs in 1981, have traditionally worn white jerseys at home. Meanwhile, the Steelers, who have always worn their black jerseys at home since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, opted for the white jerseys after winning three consecutive playoff games on the road, wearing white.
The Steelers' decision was compared with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX; the Patriots had worn white jerseys at home during the 1985 season, but after winning road playoff games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins wearing red jerseys, New England opted to switch to red for the Super Bowl as the designated home team. White-shirted teams have won 28 of 46 Super Bowls to date (.609).
Super Bowl trademark
The NFL is vigilant on stopping what it says is unauthorized commercial use of its trademarked terms "NFL," "Super Bowl," and "Super Sunday." As a result, many events and promotions tied to the game, but not sanctioned by the NFL, are forced to refer to it with colloquialisms such as "The Big Game," or other generic descriptions. (A radio spot for Planters nuts parodied this, by saying "it would besuper...to have a bowl...of Planters nuts while watching the big game!") The NFL claims that the use of the phrase "Super Bowl" implies an NFL affiliation, and on this basis the league asserts broad rights to restrict how the game may be shown publicly; for example, the league says Super Bowl showings are prohibited in churches or at other events that "promote a message," while venues that do not regularly show sporting events cannot show the Super Bowl on any television screen larger than 55 inches.
Some critics say the NFL is exaggerating its ownership rights by stating that "any use is prohibited," as this contradicts the broad doctrine of fair use in the United States. Legislation was proposed by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in 2008 "to provide an exemption from exclusive rights in copyright for certain nonprofit organizations to display live football games," and "for other purposes."
In 2006, the NFL made an attempt to trademark "The Big Game" as well; however, it withdrew the application in 2007 due to growing commercial and public-relations opposition to the move, mostly fromStanford University and the University of California, Berkeley and their fans, as the Stanford Cardinal football and California Golden Bears football teams compete in the Big Game, which has been played since 1892 (28 years before the formation of the NFL and 75 years before Super Bowl I). Additionally, the Mega Millions lottery game was known as The Big Game from 1996–2002.
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