Saturday, September 08, 2012

Brand Spanking the Baltic States

Great friend, outstanding writer, and bona fide bad-a$$ Peter von Sass recently packed a BSNY shirt before leaving Calgary, Alberta for Latvia's capital, Riga. Above, visual evidence.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Brand Spanking New York at the Top of the World

Good friend and climber extraordinaire Doug Lonneker scaled to the top of the Grand Teton near Jackson Hole, Wyoming this summer in the greatest of t-shirts.

Want one? I have a limited supply left — so first come, first served. Email me your size at

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Cultural, Linguistic, and Athletic Origins of the Super Bowl

DISCLAIMER: NFL® and Super Bowl® are the registered trademarks of the National Football League, and are used herein for informational purposes only. “Super” and “bowl” used individually are property of ancient languages. Word.

At the crossroads of recreation, capitalism, and culture stands the Super Bowl. A brand behemoth on its own, it is a confluence of branded communication unequalled on an annual basis anywhere on earth, bested only every four years by the World Cup in sheer attention level.
So how did we arrive here, where the words “Super” and “Bowl” total so much more — in orders of magnitude — than the sum of their parts? How did a 60-minute competition, held once a year, grow to assume so much importance for so many?

A tangled series of events, set in motion nearly 2,500 years ago, tells the story:

476 BC – AD 220
The game of cuju, or “kick ball,” is invented in China. Its popularity spreads from the military to the royal courts and upper classes. During the Han Dynasty, games are standardized and rules established.

250 BC – AD 600
Romans originate the use of ‘super’ and ‘supra’ (preposition and v. prefix) to signify above, beyond, in addition, to an especially high degree; akin to the Greek hypér and Sanskrit upari.

450 – 1150
Bowl,’ derivative of Old English ‘bolla,’ gains usage for
cup and pot; hailing from Proto-Germanic bul- as "a round vessel" (Old Norse bolle and Old High German bolla) and from Proto-Indo-European bhl- from “base” and bhel- "to blow, swell."

618 – 907
Cuju is improved during the Tang Dynasty by upgrading the common feather-stuffed ball with an air-filled, double-hulled model. Goals at each end, consisting of two vertical posts with a net between them, become the standard.

The earliest account of medieval football in Europe comes from the Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius. Played between neighboring villages, this code of football involves an unlimited number of players on opposing teams who clash in a heaving mass to drag an inflated pig's bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of town.

The first description of an actual football match in England is written by William FitzStephen, who records while visiting London that "after dinner all the youths of the city goes out into the fields for the very popular game of ball."

Convinced, accurately, that young people are more interested in playing football than practicing archery in London, King Edward II issues a proclamation banning it on April 13:
Forasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls (grosses pelotes de pee) from which many evils may arise which God forbid; we command and forbid, on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.
Over the next 300 years, football is officially banned by more than 30 royal and local laws.

1400 – 1450
‘Super’ enters late Middle English lexicon.

Rugby School is founded 85 miles northwest of London as a provision in the will of business magnate Lawrence Sheriff, who made his fortune as a grocer for Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth I. Rugby will become one of the best-known schools in the country, and regarded as an innovator of education as well as “one of the earliest examples of the delight in athleticism.”

‘Super-’ is employed as a prefix to create new English words emphasizing the object.

Football is played at Eton College. Westminster starts two years later, and by the 1750s Harrow, Shrewsbury, Winchester, and Charterhouse all take up the sport.

Football explodes in popularity among public schools in England.

William Webb Ellis, a student at Rugby School, shows "a fine disregard for the rules of football, as played in his time" by picking up the ball and running to the opposing goal.

‘Super’ is popularized in the United States as a colloquialism for "first-rate, excellent."

Under the supervision of headmaster Thomas Arnold, Rugby School becomes known for “muscular Christianity,” inventing a derivative of football in which players are able to pick up the ball and run with it. This style of play would later be known as “Rugby Football.”

As British soldiers from schools which played Rugby Football are stationed in Canada, so too is the game imported to North America — and subsequently introduced to Canadian colleges.

Three boys at Rugby School are tasked with detailing the school's unique football rules. It is the first time any form of football is codified.

Manufactured inflatable balls are introduced in the United States. Much more regular in shape than handmade balls, kicking and carrying become more skillful.

Born to Leverett L. and Ellen Cornwell Camp on April 17 in New Haven, Connecticut, son Walter.

The first documented gridiron football match is played at University College, a college of the University of Toronto, on November 9. One of the participants is (Sir) William Mulock, later Chancellor of the school. A football club is formed at the university soon afterward.

That same year, the "Boston game" — a hybrid of Association football (soccer) and the "running" or "carrying game" (Rugby Union) — is played by an organized group known as Oneida Football Club on Boston Common. Under this code of football, a player can run with the ball, pass it or dribble it (known as “babying”).

The Oneidas play a game against a team of non-members in November, which the Oneidas win easily. The game catches the attention of the press, and the "Boston game" spreads rapidly throughout the 1860s.

At Trinity College, also a college of the University of Toronto, F. Barlow Cumberland and Frederick A. Bethune devise rules based on Rugby Football.

Modern Canadian football begins when British Army officers play local civilians in Montreal. The game soon wins a following.

Montreal Football Club is formed, and is the first recorded non-university football club in Canada.

The first documented game of intercollegiate “football” is played between teams of 25 a-side from Rutgers University and Princeton University (the College of New Jersey at the time) on November 6 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The game is played under soccer-style Association rules, then just six years old. “Association” in this context would later be abbreviated to “Assoc. Football” and ultimately become the American term for English football, “soccer.”

Throwing or running with the ball is not allowed. Each team is comprised of 11 “fielders,” 12 “bulldogs,” and two “peanutters” whose job it was to loiter near the opposing team’s goal and score from unguarded positions. Rutgers wins by a total of 6 “runs” to Princeton’s 4. Despite the contest’s adherence to Association rules, Rutgers will from this point forward refer to itself as The Birthplace of College Football.

Representatives from Yale, Rutgers, Princeton, and Columbia meet on October 20 at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City to agree to a set of regulations of a form of football essentially Association football (soccer) in character.

Harvard University turns down the invitation — and the sport — in favor of the aggressive physical contact and ball-carrying provisions of "the Boston Game."

On May 14 and 15, Harvard hosts Montreal’s McGill University for a pair of rugby matches — the first of which played by Harvard’s interpretation of the rules, and the second by McGill’s.

The Canadians’ regulations allow not only running the ball, but throwing it laterally and backwards. Most notably, McGill’s rules include the “try,” a provision under which a player may run the ball past his opponent’s goal line and “touch it down,” he is given an opportunity to score again by a free kick.

Harvard wins the first match 3-0; the second ends in a scoreless draw. Afterward, both teams agree the Canadian version is preferable to its American counterpart.

The first intercollegiate football game played under rules which modern audiences would recognize as football takes place between Harvard University and Tufts University on June 4. It is also the first time a football team wears a uniform (Harvard’s white shirts and pants, with crimson trimming and hose). Tufts wins 1-0.

Later that season, Harvard and Yale play for the first time. The Crimson wins this initial meeting, held at Hamilton Field in New Haven, 4-0.

Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and Yale meet to adopt England’s Rugby Union rules with one key alteration: no longer would a “touch down” be nullified when the opposing team kicks a field goal.

At Yale, when Captain Eugene V. Baker calls for candidates for the rugby team, freshman standout athlete Walter Camp instantly wins the regular halfback position.

As a junior, Camp attends the game's second "convention,” as the legislative assembly of Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale was known, on October 9. He aggressively stakes a position of leadership by moving to reduce the Rugby institution of fifteen players per side to eleven. The convention rejects the proposition.

Camp renews the motion and again it is rejected. Here Walter sets in motion his second reform — to count safeties as scoring plays, but adversely to the side that makes them. This suggestion is also rejected.

Walter Camp, now coach of his alma mater’s team, begins his campaign of several major adjustments to the game — and almost single-handedly transforms English Rugby into American Football: an eleven-player team, a smaller field, and the “scrimmage” — a player handing the ball backward to begin the play — are all instituted.

For the next three years, Camp would make more adjustments, namely: in the occasion the offensive team fails to gain five yards after three downs, it is forced to surrender the ball; and the structure of a seven-man line, a quarterback, two halfbacks, and a fullback is established.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche states "Ich lehre euch den Übermenschen" ("I will teach you the Superman") in his 1883 work Also sprach Zarathustra. In doing so he coins the term "Übermensch" (“Superman”) to describe the higher state he felt men ought to aspire to achieve.

In association with Caspar Whitney of Harper’s Magazine, Walter Camp picks the nation’s best players at each position and names his list the “All-America Team.” It is recognized as official.

Members of Pasadena, California’s distinguished Valley Hunt Club meet to brainstorm ways to promote their area as a mid-winter destination for former neighbors from the East Coast and Midwest. They agreed that chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo, and tug-of-war under would be held under the Californian sun. The abundance of fresh flowers, even in winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm — a parade would precede the competitions, where entrants decorate carriages with hundreds of blooms. They call it “The Tournament of Roses.”

On November 12, William “Pudge” Walter Heffelinger, a Yale All-American guard, is paid $500 by the Allegheny Athletic Association to play in a game against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, making him the first professional football player.

‘Super’ — slang for ‘superior’ — proliferates American slang.
The first all-professional football game is played in Pennsylvania between the Latrobe YMCA and the Jeannette Athletic Club.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association is founded as a non-profit organization to manage their annual festival, which has grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.

The first known reference to "The Game" occurs in a letter from former Harvard captain A. Holden to Harvard coach Cam Forbes about permanently moving the annual Yale matchup to the end of the season.

The Tournament of Roses Association decides to enhance the following year’s festivities by adding a football game, the first post-season college football game ever held.

The "Tournament East-West football game" is played in Pasadena on January 1 between the University of Michigan team, representing the East, and Stanford University, representing the West.

With the scoreboard at 49–0 in Michigan’s favor during the third quarter, Stanford quits. The game is so lopsided that, for the next 15 years, Tournament of Roses officials take football off the schedule and return to a full complement of chariot races.

Scotland’s oldest football club, Queen’s Park F.C., christen their new home, Hampden Park, in Glasgow’s Mount Florida neighborhood. It is the first modern bowl-shaped stadium, and would be the world’s largest football arena until 1950.

Nietzsche’s term "Übermensch" is brought into English by Irish playwright and London School of Economics co-founder George Bernard Shaw, in the title to his Don Juan-themed play, Man and Superman.

Eighteen players are killed this year due to lack of protective gear and the use of interlocking defensive formations, as well as the practice of dragging ball-carrying players forward to gain extra yards. To reduce injuries, a neutral zone between scrimmage lines is introduced, and it is mandatory that six players from each team be positioned at this neutral zone. The forward pass, a distinct break from Rugby Football, is also legalized. The sport’s popularity soars.

Vincent Thomas Lombardi born to Enrico and Matilda on June 11 in Brooklyn, New York.

The Yale Bowl, the nation’s first bowl-shaped stadium, is completed on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut for a total of $750,000. With a capacity of 61,446, it is the largest stadium built since the Roman Coliseum.

Football returns to The Tournament of Roses schedule, and the crowd of 40,000 in attendance to witness Washington State University beat Brown University 14-0 dwarfs the capacity of the Tournament Park stands.

The Green Bay Packers are founded on August 11 by former high-school football rivals Earl "Curly" Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. Lambeau solicits funds for uniforms from his employer, the Indian Packing Company, and receives $500 for uniforms and equipment on the condition that the team be named for its sponsor.

Although Lambeau plays halfback, he is both the primary runner and passer, common practice in the single wing offense. He throws the Packers' first official pass, first official touchdown pass, and kicks the team’s first official field goal.

On August 20, representatives of four Ohio football teams — the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles — meet in a Canton, Ohio auto showroom to form a new professional football league.

On September 17, American-Indian Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe — player-coach of the Canton Bulldogs — successfully leads the effort to found the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in Canton. It includes eleven teams from four states.
In Southern California, Tournament of Roses Association president William L. Leishman envisions a stadium similar to the Yale Bowl, the first great modern football stadium, to be built on the dry riverbed of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco area.

On land purchased by the city of Pasadena, construction begins on a new horseshoe-shaped bowl stadium designed by Myron Hunt to host the Tournament East-West football game. The name of the stadium alternates between "Tournament of Roses Stadium" and "Tournament of Roses Bowl."

On August 27, the Packers are granted a franchise in the new APFA. Financial troubles plague the team and the franchise is forfeited.

On June 24, the APFA is reorganized and renamed The National Football League.
Lambeau finds new financial backers and regains the Packers franchise. These backers, known as the "Hungry Five," form the Green Bay Football Corporation.

Just before the grand new stadium in Pasadena hosts its first New Year’s football game, it is officially named “The Rose Bowl” after its predecessor at Yale.

Harold Edward "Red" Grange, a junior at the University of Illinois, earns national prominence with his October 18 performance against the University of Michigan. The first game ever held in Memorial Stadium — built to honor University of Illinois students and alumni who served in World War I — Grange returns the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown and scores three more touchdowns in the first 12 minutes. After sitting out the second quarter, Grange returns in the second half to run 11 yards for a fifth touchdown and pass for a sixth as Illinois ends Michigan's 20-game unbeaten streak, 39-14.

Red Grange signs with the NFL's Chicago Bears the day after his final college game. Player/manager George Halas agrees to a contract for a 19-game barnstorming tour which earns Grange $100,000 — this, when the typical league salary was $100 per game.

The 67-day tour of Red Grange and the Chicago Bears across the country is credited with legitimizing professional football and the NFL in the United States.

Colonel James M. Thomson, publisher of the New Orleans Item, presents the idea of a New Year's Day football game to sports editor Fred Digby, who comes up with the title "Sugar Bowl” for the proposed exhibition.

Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster meet at Cleveland Glenville High School as members of the school’s newspaper staff.

Texas oil tycoon H. L. Hunt and wife Lyda give birth to son Lamar on August 2 in El Dorado, Arkansas.

Miami suffers from the Great Depression and the Florida land bust. In response, George E. Hussey, official greeter of Miami, seeks to boost the local economy by organizing a game similar to Pasadena's Rose Bowl, named the Palm Festival Game. It would pit a local team against an invited opponent.

With two years remaining in his secondary program to enter the Catholic clergy, Vince Lombardi decides not to pursue the priesthood, leaves Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, and enrolls at Brooklyn’s St. Francis Preparatory high school.

On January 2, the first Palm Festival Game takes place at Moore Park in Miami between the University of Miami and Manhattan College. Miami wins 7-0.

Siegel and Shuster create “The Superman,” a bald, telepathic villain bent on dominating the entire world. The character appears in the short story "The Reign of the Super-Man" from Science Fiction #3, a science fiction fanzine published by Jerry Siegel. Later in the school year, the pair re-envision the character as a hero in the mythic tradition to fight for social justice. They dress him in primary colors with shorts over his tights (a typical circus strong-man outfit), an “S” on his chest, and — in unprecedented fashion for fictional heroes of the day — a cape.

For the first time, the Rose Bowl Game is not the only college bowl game to take place on New Year’s Day:
  • Rose Bowl: University of Alabama 29, Stanford University 13
  • Sugar Bowl (New Orleans): Tulane University 20, Temple University 14
  • Orange Bowl (Miami): Bucknell University 26, University of Miami 0
This remarkable day firmly cements the term “bowl game” in the American lexicon.

Fair Park Stadium, located on the grounds of the Texas State Fair in South Dallas, Texas, is officially renamed the “Cotton Bowl.”

Texas Christian University beats Marquette University in the inaugural Cotton Bowl Classic, 16-6. Despite a crowd of more than 17,000, the game loses money.

In June, Superman first appears on newsstands as the lead feature in Action Comics #1.

The first NFL All-Star Game is played at Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field between the 1938 NFL champion New York Giants and an assembly of all-stars from other NFL teams as well as two independent teams, the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the Hollywood Stars.

The self-titled Superman comic book is launched to widespread success.

‘Super,’ rhyming reduplication form super-duperis first attested.

Superboy debuts in More Fun Comics #101.

After WWII, the NFL-AFL All-Star Game is revived and re-named the Pro Bowl, in the adherence to post-season college game concept which has steadily gained in popularity.

The Adventures of Superman TV series begins filming in California.

After being rejected once by the NFL for an expansion franchise, and again in an attempt to buy the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals, Lamar Hunt establishes the eight-team American Football League (AFL) as owner of the Dallas Texans.

On February 2, the Green Bay Packers hire New York Giants assistant Vince Lombardi as head coach and general manager.

There are now 12 college bowl games: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Sun, Gator, Tangerine, Liberty, Bluebonnet, Aviation, Gotham, and Mercy.

Losing the audience battle to crosstown NFL franchise the Dallas Cowboys, Lamar Hunt moves the Texans to Kansas City and renames them the Chiefs.

On September 7, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opens in Canton, Ohio with 17 charter inductees.

Chemist Norman Stingley creates a new toy by compressing a synthetic rubber material under 80 atmospheres of pressure. With the help of Wham-O Manufacturing Company he names it "Super Ball." With its amazingly high coefficient of restitution, it can be made to "leap" three-story buildings and instantly becomes a hit nationwide.

On January 1, for the first time, more people polled in a national survey choose pro football over baseball as their favorite sport.

In December, total sales of Super Balls tops six million. U.S. Presidential adviser McGeorge Bundy has five dozen shipped to the White House for the amusement of the staff.

On June 8, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle announces that the NFL and AFL have reached an agreement to merge into a single league by 1970. In the meantime, the two leagues' champions will meet each January in a new AFL-NFL World Championship Game.

In a July 25 letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Lamar Hunt writes, "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." He would later say the idea came to him when he saw his children playing with a Super Ball. Though not official, the media gets a hold of and adopts the name instantly.

The first AFL-NFL Championship Game is played on January 15 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers (14-2) and AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs (12-3-1). The Packers, led by Coach Lombardi, win 35-10. Members of the Packers receive a bonus of $15,000; the Chiefs each receive half that sum.

Broadcast on both NBC and CBS, the game draws the largest television audience ever for a sporting event. Advertising air time averages $40,000 per 30-second spot.

The second AFL-NFL Championship Game is held at Miami’s Orange Bowl on January 14. Again, Lombardi’s Packers emerge victorious — this time, against the Oakland Raiders. A sellout crowd of 75,546 is on hand to witness the 33-14 drubbing, while an estimated 39 million watch at home.

The third and final AFL-NFL Championship Game kicks off in the Orange Bowl, held there for the second consecutive year. In the week leading up to the game, The New York Jets’ QB Joe Namath brashly guarantees a victory against the Baltimore Colts, who are 18-point favorites. The Jets back him up and win 16-7. Fears that the AFL can’t compete with the more established NFL teams are alleviated.

On March 7, the NFL files trademark application for “Super Bowl” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

December 31 marks the formal end of the AFL.

On New Year’s Day, the AFL-NFL merger takes full effect; the AFL is officially scuttled and the NFL assumes a two-conference structure: the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.

Despite being the first time “Super Bowl” is officially used as the name of the NFL’s championship game, Super Bowl IV kicks off at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans before an NFL-record crowd of 80,562. (The three previous championship games are retroactively named Super Bowls.) Kansas City wins their first championship with a score of 13-7 over the Minnesota Vikings.

On September 3, Vince Lombardi passes away of colon cancer at age 57.

Vince Lombardi is posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Super Bowl Trophy is renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy by the NFL.

On January 15, The Miami Dolphins defeat the Washington Redskins 14-7 to win Super Bowl VII and cap a perfect 17-0 season.

On January 24, Motown’s own Diana Ross ushers in a new era of elaborately produced halftime entertainment at Super Bowl XVI in Detroit. The San Francisco Forty-Niners beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

On January 31, Dallas defeats Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII for the second straight year to become just the third team in NFL history to win four Super Bowls. The Bills lose their fourth Super Bowl in four years, a record.

On February 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers become the first team to win six Super Bowls. With the tradition of giving Super Bowl rings to the winning team, Steelers fans nickname it "One for the Thumb."

With their 31-25 victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, the Packers hold the most NFL titles with 13 (4 Super Bowls, 9 NFL championships).

It is the most-watched television program in US history, and the most recent of many Super Bowl broadcasts to set an audience record. Eclipsing Super Bowl XLIV by 4.5 million viewers, it ascends to the top where it joins seven other Super Bowls in the top ten largest viewerships of all time (and 20 of the top 45):
  1. Super Bowl XLV -- 111 million viewers (2011)
  2. Super Bowl XLIV -- 106.5 million viewers (2010)
  3. M*A*S*H* series finale -- 106 million viewers (1983)
  4. Super Bowl XLII -- 97.5 million (2008)
  5. Super Bowl XLIII -- 95.4 million (2009)
  6. Super Bowl XXX -- 94.1 million (1996)
  7. Super Bowl XLI -- 93.2 million (2007)
  8. Super Bowl XLII -- 93.2 million (2008)
  9. Cheers 100-minute finale special -- 93.1 million (1993)
  10. Super Bowl XXVII -- 91 million (1993)
Super Bowl XLVI will take place Sunday, February 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. It will be the sixth time a Super Bowl will feature two teams who have played each other in a previous Super Bowl. The event will pit the New York Giants against the New England Patriots, a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, widely considered among, if not the, most exciting in history.

The air time for the average 30-second TV spot during the broadcast cost $3.5 millionup 13% from 2011 — with the highest-priced slot going for $4 million, a 10,000% increase over 1967.