The modest birth of a sporting spectacle

This NFL Films clip of Super Bowl I gives you an indication how far ahead of their times the likes of Pete Rozelle and Lamar Hunt truly were. The celebrity sightings and entertainment pizzazz were there from the start. We’ve gone from birds flying overhead in 1967 to fighter jets, pop culture halftime shows and endless parsing of television commercials.

But ultimately, for purists, the Super Bowl is really all about a game. Green Bay’s dominance over Kansas City was just about as complete as what the Seattle Seahawks accomplished last night over Denver, and Peyton Manning is in good company with the vanquished Len Dawson, who later came back to direct a Super Bowl winner.

Much will continue to be made of the NFL’s continuing existential crisis over concussions and other crippling injuries. It’s important to note that the oft-concussed Percy Harvin busted the Broncos with his kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half on Sunday, maximizing his limited role in stinging fashion.

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In the aftermath of another spectacle, and with eight months before the start of another season, the acerbic and deeply cynical takedowns of the NFL’s cult of violent masculinity will continue. They deserve deeper examination and response for another time, but for now, this is the best rejoinder we have to those who fret about the nature of the game.

But what the scolds and hand-wringers also have not been able to properly counter in nearly 50 years of this spectacle is embodied in the 22-minute compendium of highlights below and narrated by the iconic John Facenda. Unlike the heroic language and music of much of the NFL Films genre spawned by the late Steve Sabol, this is bread-and-butter gridiron strategy, execution, physical endurance and, in the truest sense of the word, beauty.

For there is a grace, a beauty, an aesthetically appealing component to American football that is rarely being acknowledged these days, and needs to be asserted. This is my feeble attempt in a short post to inject that notion back into the debate about a game that few of us have ever, or will ever, play, but that watch in astronomic numbers.

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