It didn't start off that way, certainly not with roman numerals, it was just the Championship Game between the leagues, the National and the upstart American. And in the beginning it was no big deal, until, the National lost to a brash American league team that made Joe Namath's boast real, and to some shocking, as the American League's New York Jets, beat the unbeatable National League's Baltimore Colts in what became known as Super Bowl III, changing how the game, the Super Bowl, would be seen by all pro football fans and others, some who had no knowledge or understanding of the play.
In the fifties(the 1950's), the nation's sport was major league baseball, and though not seen by millions on a daily basis, baseball was heard by millions on radio, for many listening, or reading the morning newspaper sport section was a part waking up and having one's coffee, and otherwise a part of life.
Football was another game, well liked, in certain places, and it was followed as a seasonal sport, played on the weekends, followed by alumni and those interested in a particular university or college, that could be also be heard on radio and read about on the sports pages of local newspapers. Most of the interest in college football was driven by pride and enthusiasm as much as was the level of play. As to pro football, a niche sports product, something blue collared, followed just like basketball college or pro; followed by some, but not many, and the pro football game had a reputation, and not a good one, as to what and how things happened on and off the field by the players.
Then things happened, football and television, a match made in advertising heaven, the pace of the game worked to build and maintain interest of the viewer as play was interrupted by commercials, where as it happened, the ad became sometimes as interesting as the game. And yes, it was that game was covered, local play was on every Sunday during the season so the fan saw as well as heard the play, when nothing much less was on TV, and as TV's became household fixtures in most homes.
The interest generated in pro football, as a televised sport, became so popular that investors setup another league, the American Football League and found a network interested in promoting the new league, up against the other network and its established NFL games. Though starting slow, the American teams began to get the interest and fan base, finding that there was enough football talent being produced in colleges and universities, that there was a narrowing of competitive level between the upstart and the established league, that lead to a demand(much of it manufactured by the media) to have a final season game between the leagues to settle the issue as to who was best at football, just like in major league baseball.
Pro football is a business, a business that likes to make money for the league and its owners, and the idea of something that could make more money in the same season was, in the end, irresistible. And so, it was agreed to have a championship game that was commonly thought to be unnecessary as the National was so superior but in the sprite of sportsmanship and a way to make money, the 1967 Championship game was held in Los Angeles between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs, who were originally a franchise put in Dallas and named the Texans, and moved to find a better and more committed fan base. The first championship ended with a resounding victory for the Packers, as was the 1968 championship game between the Green Bay Packers again against the Oakland Raiders, as did the second championship game end with another Packer win.
The third game in the series, the Jets and the Colts became the Super Bowl as the media was stunned and delighted by the results and personalities involved. With the game established, the media enthralled and viewership committed, something happened to event, it became something 'Big', on the calendar and had tradition of hype and viewership that could only grow, and it did, way beyond anything one could imagine at the time.
What we have now is a civil holiday, something that is on calendar as a permanent feature, it is now tradition, and traditional, something looked forward to with common rights and rituals, respected and anticipated by many millions, many millions including millions not living in the United States. In fact, as a people and a country, we are sold on the Super Bowl.
It will be renewed today, in a odd setting for a Super Bowl, in the chill of a major city and not in a warm climate or domed edifice. This Super Bowl will be played in the elements, not always favorable to the player or fan. But no matter, it still will be celebrate with all the rights and rituals and endless coverage; before, during and after the game. And no, it really isn't who wins or loses that will all be analyzed and explained, it is the game, the time of the year and a need to be involved in something big or at least seems big, if not hyped.
And yes, a lonely nation turns its eyes to you, Super Bowl, to amuse and entertain a tired people for a few hours on Sunday every year.