Mind of Sabol: The Super Bowl

Helen Modesett, Looking Back, Mind of Sabol, Sabol, Super Bowl

Editor’s Note: As we celebrate Super Bowl Week, we take an inside look at the history of the game through the eyes of Steve Sabol.  In this installment of “Mind of Sabol,” we pulled from Steve’s “Super Bowl” box and pieced together his thoughts on those moments in NFL history. Let us know what you think about Steve’s famous card catalog by leaving a comment below or tweeting @NFLFilms using #MindofSabol. 

by Helen Modesett


Steve Sabol’s box of notes from every Super Bowl, including news paper clippings, torn magazine pages, famous quotes and his own, personal thoughts.

IMG_4749Steve’s thoughts: “All year they’ve thought about how to get here.. Now they must think about how they want to leave here. It’s where history is made, reputations are forged and dreams are smashed. They are not just king of the mountain – They have mastered the mountain.”

The first Super Bowl took place on January 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Green Bay Packers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Below are Steve’s notes on the event:

IMG_4758Steve’s thoughts: “Super Bowl History: 1) Fans told to move toward center to make stadium look full. 2) 2 Different balls – refs jerseys. 3) Two second half K.O. because NBC missed first – ‘NBC not back’ 4) Wire fence erected to separate networks 5) Why Roman numerals V was first 1969 season but game played in Jan of 1970. Growth of NFL – 1962 NFL Champ MVP on What’s My Line…8 guesses to correctly ID.”

IMG_4760 Steve’s Thoughts: “Small attendance but largest TV audience ever for sporting event. LA. people didn’t attend because they didn’t see it as a ‘big game’… several years earlier a 49ers- Rams game drew 105,000 at Coliseum.”

Few of the 61,946 fans attending the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game — now known as Super Bowl I — on Jan. 15, 1967, could have known they were witnessing the birth of an American institution. With ticket prices topping out at all of $12, Los Angeles Coliseum was only about two-thirds full as the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, led by quarterback Bart Starr, defeated the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. (AP Photo)

Few of the 61,946 fans attending the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game (now known as Super Bowl I)  on Jan. 15, 1967, could have known they were witnessing the birth of an American institution.


It’s hard to imagine a time in which Super Bowl stadiums were empty. The popularity of that championship has grown over the past fifty years.  Steve Sabol pondered why:IMG_4718Steve’s thoughts: “We are a nation devoted to extravaganzas – Academy Awards, parades, specials. First law in entertainment business is that you have to know how to put on a big show… Game -> Event -> Experience… ‘What do we put on the elephants feet so they don’t damage the playing field…”

IMG_4737Underlined Section: experience of simply going to the game.. we come together to share… we are alone in the dark crowd… Internet binds us in a network, it isolates us as individuals…

Steve’s Thoughts: “Nobody watches S.B. alone. The enormous cult and glare of the Super Bowl. Predetermined site, one game not a series.” 

IMG_4738Steve’s thoughts: “Chance for Americans to gather together, stand together in a huge stadium to look around at friends and strangers and draw strength and find resolve. As a nation we have demonstrated the very qualities we can celebrate in football. Resiliency and resolve, teamwork, persistence and planning (RRTPP) – collective purpose”

IMG_4739 - Version 2 Steve’s Thoughts: “Superbowl is one day – 3hrs. All other sports the championship is a series. Best of 7. SB best of one.”

IMG_4750 Steve’s Thoughts: “SB takes on a didactic dimension, what it’s teaching us this year is defense wins champ. You can carve it in stone, shave it into someone’s scalp. Great D wins in any era. It happened last year when Bucs D obliterated the Raiders, 2 yrs before that.. Ravens, Colts, Giants… The steel curtain won, Doomsday, no-name ’85 Bears, Air Coryell exciting, Marino sets passing, ’83 redskins set scoring record got crushed. Pats with NFL’s best defense and Panthers with an excellent defense prove that even in this era of free agency, salary cops, parity defense still dominates.” 

IMG_4752Steve’s Thoughts: “Super Bowls are not decided by big things done well but by little things done poorly. Missed opportunities, penalties, poor punting. Played at the summit of sport… very precarious at that peak… a few pebbles can start an avalanche… one team begins to gather momentum.”

Steve’s Thoughts: “‘Great teams don’t do extraordinary things. They just do the ordinary things extraordinarily well’ -Hank Stram”

Steve’s Thoughts: “There’s one Page left in the book. Write it. Close it. Win it. and let history read all about it.”

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