Here's How Bob Hope Caused Two Second-Half Kickoffs In The First Super Bowl

The first Super Bowl, held on January 15, 1967, wasn't actually called the Super Bowl, but would eventually acquire the handle that, oddly, was inspired by the Super Ball, the super bouncy toy that had recently become a huge hit, per History. And that's not even the strangest aspect of the annual football game that would eventually become an American institution right up there with apple pie. No, perhaps the weirdest part of Super Bowl I was the role actor and comedian Bob Hope played with a direct impact on the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers.

The National Football League, which had been around since 1920, ruled professional American football until the upstart American Football League launched in 1960. The AFL began giving the older league a run for its money, especially after the AFL inked a contract with NBC, per Britannica. The competition from the AFL was stiff enough that by 1966, the NFL agreed to a merger, per History, that would set the scene for the first Super Bowl that was not a Super Bowl.

Television takes over

Before the NFL-AFL merger was to be completed at the end of the 1969 season, the two leagues began holding a championship game involving their two top season-winning teams, per History. But they couldn't even agree on a name for the contest. Lamar Hunt, the Texas oilman who dreamed up the AFL and owned the Kansas City Chiefs, wanted to call it the Super Bowl after the bouncy Wham-O toy. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted something less gimmicky and nixed Hunt's suggestion, per The Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in the end, television broadcasters preferred the catchier name over Rozelle's choice, "AFL-NFL World Championship Game." (Admittedly, that one was a bit of a mouthful.)

Besides the event's name, television was transforming football in other ways, including a direct impact on that first championship game with the help of Bob Hope. For the first and last time, two networks, CBS and NBC, simultaneously broadcast the game, per History. And while the first Super Bowl had lax attendance — there were 32,000 empty seats that day at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles — the television audience was huge, with 40% of the nation's televisions — 60 million fans — tuned in to the game, per History.

Bob Hope and NBC foul things up 

By the time of the first Super Bowl, Bob Hope was an American institution, even more so than the NFL at the time, and neck-and-neck with apple pie. Hope, who was born in 1903, would became the king of comedy by the 1940s thanks in part to his partnership with fellow star Bing Crosby in a slew of comedic road movies, and his affiliation with the USO, performing for troops beginning in World War II. Hope was known for his quick-talking delivery, but was also prone to being long-winded. During the first Super Bowl's halftime, NBC's sideline reporter Charlie Jones began interviewing Hope, who just kept on talking and talking, according to Golden Football Magazine.

Hope talked so much that NBC was late getting to its commercial break, which meant by the time the broadcaster got back to the big game, the Packers had already kicked off to the Chiefs, a play more than half of the nation's viewers missed, per History. In order to satisfy the viewing public, not to mention NBC, the referees forced the Packers to replay the kickoff. At the half, the Packers were only ahead 14 to 10, but the second half was a very different story. And while it's very unlikely the Chiefs could have pulled off a win (the final score was Packers 25, Chiefs 10) having to replay the kickoff could have thrown off the Chiefs' rhythm, but Packers fans would likely take great exception with the mere idea.