55 facts about the Super Bowl: From the name to the coin they flip

Jonathan Tully
Palm Beach Post

You'd think that since we're about to witness the 55th Super Bowl, it's all been seen before -- but considering that Super Bowl LV is the first time we've had a home game for one of the teams, the big game never ceases to amaze.

Here's a look at some of the history and trivia of what is not just America's biggest sporting event, but likely America's biggest event, period.

When was the Super Bowl not the Super Bowl?

I: The first Super Bowl, played on Jan. 15, 1967, was not actually called the Super Bowl. At this point, it was simply referred to with the much clunkier "AFL-NFL Championship Game." The established National Football League (which started in 1921) and the upstart American Football League (which opened in 1960) came to an agreement in 1966 to merge in 1970 and have the champions of the two leagues meet. In that first game, the Green Bay Packers, led by coaching great Vince Lombardi, beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

II: The first Super Bowl to be officially called the Super Bowl on its tickets was the fourth one in 1970 -- when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings. But the idea was bounced around long before that -- it was said Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt suggested the name "Super Bowl" jokingly, which other owners and the media picked up on and ran with. And though the official Super Bowl title wasn't used on tickets until '70, many had started using "Super Bowl" to refer to the game.

For the Win:13 fun facts about the Super Bowl

Jets quarterback Joe Namath throws a pass against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami on Jan. 12, 1969.

III: "Super Bowl" actually began appearing on official items in 1969 -- when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts, in the game where Joe Namath "guaranteed" victory. In that game, the name "Super Bowl" appeared on the programs.

IV: Hunt told the St. Petersburg Times in 1970 that he got the idea for the name from his kids playing with a "Super Ball" (you know, the little red ball that bounces as high as your roof?) and the name stuck. USA Today wrote that the timeline on that story may be a little off -- people were already using "Super Bowl" to refer to the game in 1966 before Hunt supposedly got the idea -- and the "super ball" story has a "print the legend" feel about it.

V: More about the name — or more specifically, the Roman numerals after it. The first time a Roman numeral was used to signify the game was 1971, the first time the fully merged NFL ended the season with it, Super Bowl V. (And Hunt came up with that, too.) Unfortunately, it was also one of the worst-played Super Bowls in history — the Colts and Dallas Cowboys combined for 11 turnovers, but Colts fans will take it, as they won on a last-second field goal.

VI: The one-time Roman numerals didn't happen? Super Bowl 50. The NFL said it was to highlight the game's 50th anniversary, but it's been suggested that trying to market "Super Bowl L" (L as in "loser") would have been quite an uphill battle.

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 1973, file photo, Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula is carried off the field after his team won  the NFL football Super Bowl game 14-7 against the Washington Redskins in Los Angeles. Shula, who won the most games of any NFL coach and led the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history, died Monday, May 4, 2020, at his home in Indian Creek, Fla., the team said. He was 90.  (AP Photo/File)

VII: Since we're at that point -- a reminder that one and only one team has entered and left the Super Bowl with an undefeated record: the 1972 Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII. The New England Patriots entered Super Bowl XLII at 16-0, but one David Tyree helmet catch later, they were 16-1.

VIII: Let's talk about Super Bowl V again for a moment, because it's the only time the Most Valuable Player award went to the losing team. Linebacker Chuck Howley, who made two interceptions for the Cowboys, was honored even though Dallas lost.

IX: Each team gets 108 footballs to use for the Super Bowl. According to Readers Digest, they get 54 for practice and 54 for the game. In total, there will be about 120 balls used in the game -- the extra ones are for kicking plays.

Super Bowl goes to the movies

X: Early on in Super Bowl history, it served as the backdrop for disaster movies a couple of times -- the more famous of the two was filmed at Miami's Orange Bowl in January 1976. "Black Sunday," which was directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Thomas Harris (better known as the writer of "The Silence of the Lambs"), was given access to Super Bowl X by the NFL, getting game footage between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. They even filmed a climactic scene where a blimp crashes into the stands. That scene was filmed a week later, though.

More:Why did thousands of Palm Beach County residents appear in a Super Bowl movie?

XI: The other movie that used the Super Bowl — kind of — actually came before Black Sunday. "Two Minute Warning" was filmed the year before, but unlike Black Sunday, this movie (which starred Charlton Heston), didn't have the same support from the NFL. The plot was "There's a sniper at the Super Bowl", but they couldn't use the term "Super Bowl" or any of the teams, according to Den of Geek.

Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Colts' 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Feb. 4, 2007. After selecting him with the top overall pick in 1998, the franchise made a dramatic turnaround. Manning led the Colts to their most successful decade since the 1960s and their first Super Bowl title since 1971. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

That's quite a big trophy

XII: Your eyes aren't deceiving you, the Vince Lombardi Trophy is quite big. According to Investopedia, it's 2 feet tall, weighs nearly seven pounds, and includes a regulation-sized football in the kicking position. It didn't become the Vince Lombardi Trophy until it was named for the legendary coach in 1971 after his death -- before that, it was engraved with "World Professional Football Championship."

XIII: The trophy is created every year from scratch by Tiffany and Co., according to DuJour. It was originally drawn up -- as many great things are -- on a cocktail napkin. Tiffany vice president Oscar Riedener drew it up during lunch with then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

XIV: According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Riedener's idea came while eating breakfast a couple of days before:

XV: Tiffany is not surprisingly the champion of trophy-making. The tradition began with a trophy for a Kentucky horse-racing association in 1860, which ultimately became the award for the Preakness Stakes and is the record-holder for the most continuously awarded trophy, according to DuJour. Tiffany also creates the trophies for Super Bowl MVP, the World Series, and the NBA and WNBA championships.

Hungry? Probably up for wings and chips

XVI: Though there's no real good way to measure, quite a few food sites in 2020 predicted that the most popular Super Bowl snack would be chicken wings. (That said, the New York Post found a study that put the cocktail wiener ahead of the wing, while Better Homes & Gardens preferred chips and dip. So it probably depends on your tastes.)

(Update: In Florida, the wing is king -- at least as far as Google searches in 2021 are concerned.)

More:Super Bowl dips: Savory, savory, sweet and easy

XVII: Now, if you're getting pizza delivery -- you won't be alone. According to WalletHub, 67 percent more pizza is eaten on Super Bowl Sunday than on normal days, and orders go up 50 percent. So it may take a little while longer.

XVIII: Anheuser-Busch may not be bringing out its biggest star for this year's game, but that doesn't mean a lot of people will be drinking Budweiser come game time. Last year, according to survey site YouGov, Bud was the No. 2 beer consumed for the Super Bowl, behind its stable-mate, Bud Light. The two Bud beers were followed by Corona, Samuel Adams and Coors Light.

More:Budweiser becomes latest Super Bowl commercial stalwart to sit out this year's broadcast

XVIX: Be wary of Super Bowl Sunday if you're an avocado -- there's a very good chance you'll end up in guacamole. According to the CBC, more than 105 million pounds of guac are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, and in fact, the Super Bowl is credited with popularizing the avocado. In the 1990s, a public relations firm solicited recipes for guacamole from NFL players and families and called it the "Guacamole Bowl". The success of the promotion saw the humble fruit -- yep, it's a fruit -- spike in popularity.

FILE- In this Jan. 26, 1986, file photo, Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka is carried off the field by Steve McMichael, left, and William Perry after the Bears defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in  Super Bowl XX in New Orleans. Argue all you want about which is the best team in NFL annals. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has opted for the 1985 Chicago Bears. The Canton shrine will premiere "85: THE GREATEST TEAM IN FOOTBALL HISTORY" on Jan. 3. It will then hit theaters nationwide on Jan. 29.  (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)

'85 Bears couldn't beat Prince & The Revolution

XX: Though the Chicago Bears were a dominant team in 1985, and won Super Bowl XX, they will also be remembered for the "Super Bowl Shuffle", which actually was nominated for a Grammy. It was up for best rhythm and blues performance by a duo or group. The Bears and the Shuffle couldn't compete with Prince, as he and the Revolution won for "Kiss."

XXI: Prince is known in Super Bowl lore for the halftime show at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, where he put on an absolutely memorable set. But the show that changed halftime from "time to step away from the TV" to "unmissable TV" was in 1993's Super Bowl XXVII, when Michael Jackson performed five songs. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely for the NFL -- they went away from marching bands and gimmicks to pop music icons going forward.

More:From Bruce to Prince, Florida has had some amazing Super Bowl halftime shows

XXII: The record for halftime act who's performed the most times at a Super Bowl halftime show? That belongs to the Grambling State University marching band -- one of the most beloved college marching bands around. The "World Famed Tiger Marching Band" has appeared six times, while jazz trumpeter Al Hirt and the musical show of Up With People have each done four halftime shows.

XXIII: The halftime show may look pricey, but in terms of how much the NFL pays the performers? That's more of a bargain -- the performers don't get a dime as far as appearance fees go. The NFL can pay quite a bit for the expensive lighting, stagehands, musicians outside the main acts, etc., however. According to CNBC, that bill can run up well past $10 million. 

XXIV: While there's no money exchanged between the NFL and the halftime performers, the publicity can be remarkable. CNBC reported that Justin Timberlake, who performed at Super Bowl LIII in 2018, saw his music sales jump 534 percent the day of the game.

XXV: With the United States mere months into the Gulf War of 1990-1991, Whitney Houston sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" backed by the Florida Orchestra before Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Houston's version - actually recorded earlier and not broadcast live - was received in an overwhelmingly positive way. Her record label, Arista Records, released her version as a single, and it hit No. 20 on the Billboard Chart.

FILE - In this July 24, 2000, file photo, Pat Summerall, lead play-by-play announcer for the NFL on Fox Sports, announces his retirement during a news conference in the Century City section of Los Angeles. Summerall transitioned from a successful playing career to the booth in the 1960s and became the voice of the NFL. He started off as an analyst and was part of the first Super Bowl. He shifted to a play-by-play role in 1974 at CBS and that is where he really shined. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Pat Summerall here — for a lot of games

XXVI: In a game that saw Washington hand Buffalo the second of what would be four straight Super Bowl losses, Pat Summerall and John Madden called the game for CBS. In all, Summerall called 15 Super Bowls in the booth on TV for either CBS or Fox, stretching back to Super Bowl III. In fact, Summerall's history with the game goes back to the beginning, as he was a sideline reporter for Super Bowl I. (Which was the AFL-NFL — oh wait, you know that already.)

XXVII: Of the 15 times Summerall called the Super Bowl, seven of them were with his most famous analyst, Madden — who, of course, also coached in two Super Bowls with the Oakland Raiders (II, as linebackers coach; XI, as head coach). Madden went on to call three more big games with Al Michaels when the coach moved to NBC.

XXVIII: But the man who has called the most Super Bowls overall has but one television appearance to his credit. However, Jack Buck called 18 games on the radio during his amazing career. His son, Joe Buck, has called six games on television. 

XXIX: Gale Gilbert may have the record for toughest luck in Super Bowl history. He is the only player to have been on the roster in five straight games -- four with the Buffalo Bills, then in this game with the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, the backup quarterback's team won none of those games. 

21 -- Deion Sanders

Deion gets it done in Prime Time with two different teams

XXX: Deion Sanders wins his second consecutive Super Bowl -- but with a different team. Prime Time, who picked off a pass to seal San Francisco's win the year before, moved to the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent and repeated the feat, even catching a pass on offense during the game. He is one of only five to win two Super Bowls in a row with different teams -- the others are Ken Norton Jr. (Cowboys and 49ers), Brandon Browner (Seahawks and Patriots), Chris Long (Patriots and Eagles) and LeGarrette Blount (Patriots and Eagles).

XXXI: Ron Botchan is the umpire in this game, in which the Green Bay Packers downed the New England Patriots 35-21. Botchan shares the record for most Super Bowls officiated, five, with four others -- Bob Beeks, Jack Fette, Al Jury and Tom Kelleher.

XXXII: Mike Lodish, Denver Broncos nose tackle, wins the first of two straight Super Bowl rings and appears in the fifth of what would be six Super Bowls altogether. By 1998, Lodish has appeared in the most Super Bowls of any NFL player -- after losing four in a row with Buffalo, Lodish turned around and won two with the Broncos. As you'll see in a little bit, Lodish would not hold onto this record.

XXXIII: Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium is the site of this game -- one of 11 times the Florida city has hosted the game, which is the most in Super Bowl history. New Orleans is a close second with 10.

XXXIV: One of the most thrilling Super Bowls, in which the St. Louis Rams held off the Tennessee Titans 23-16 when Titans wideout Kevin Dyson was tackled on the one-yard line on the game's final play. This also is the last Super Bowl in which neither team had won a Super Bowl previously.

XXXV: Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens set a weird record, starting with his team's win, in which he was MVP. The former Miami Hurricane had the longest stretch of time between Super Bowl wins (with none in between) -- the Ravens wouldn't win the Super Bowl again for 12 years, when they beat the 49ers in Lewis' final game.

Most pass attempts (62) and pass completions (43) -- Tom Brady, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI

Meet Tom Brady, you'll get to know him real well

XXXVI: After taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in the second game of the season, Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots to the AFC East title, then to the AFC Championship. Though the Pats were underdogs against Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams, Brady leads New England on a game-winning drive and gives the Pats their first Super Bowl win, 20-17. Between this game and 2021's Super Bowl LV, there have been 19 Super Bowls. Brady has been in 10 of them.

More about Tom Brady:

XXXVII: Tampa Bay won its only appearance in the Super Bowl -- before this year, of course -- in a game that had two interesting link-ups. First, Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden beat the team he used to coach, the Oakland Raiders -- the season after he moved to Tampa Bay. Secondly, John Madden became the first broadcaster to call consecutive Super Bowls on two different networks -- he moved from Fox to ABC in the off-season.

XXXVIII: This game -- which is known for being Brady's second win, and also for the infamous halftime where Janet Jackson's breast was exposed -- also holds the current record for the longest Roman numeral attached to a game. This record will fall at kickoff in 2059, at the start of Super Bowl LXXXVIII.

XXXIX: Brady's third game -- and third win -- was a 24-21 Patriots win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It is also the only time the game has been held at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium -- which is now TIAA Bank Stadium. 

XL: The Pittsburgh Steelers won the NFL title despite having not played a home game in the playoffs. It's been done before -- and since by the New York Giants in 2008 and Green Bay Packers in 2010 -- but the Steelers were the first to win four playoff games for the title despite lacking home-field advantage.

XLI: Peyton Manning wins his first Super Bowl this season -- a 29-17 Indianapolis Colts win over the Chicago Bears. He would be the only quarterback to win the title with two different teams: He also won Super Bowl 50 as a Denver Bronco. (However, if a certain Buccaneers quarterback can pull it off... well, watch this space.)

XLII: Remembered most for the David-Tyree-holds-the-ball-to-his-helmet-catch that gave the Giants an improbable win over the Patriots, 17-14, this game also had a Florida moment -- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played the halftime show. We've seen the Sunshine State represented before at halftime: Gloria Estefan has played it three times (twice solo, once with the Miami Sound Machine), and the University of Florida, Florida State University and Florida A&M University marching bands have also appeared. 

Former President George H. Bush, along with his wife, Barbara, flipped the coin at last year's Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. 
The Melbourne-based The Highland Mint, makes the coin for the big game.

The coin: We're not flipping a quarter

XLIII: Before the kickoff, there's the coinflip -- and this is no mere quarter. Each game gets a special coin struck by the Highland Mint of Melbourne. On the "heads side" is the Vince Lombardi Trophy; on the inverse, or "tails side", are the two helmets of the teams playing.

Made in Florida:Super Bowl coin minted in Melbourne, turns up tails more than heads

XLIV: One of the coins used for the flip made quite a voyage. According to, the coin used in Super Bowl XLIV in 2011 made 171 orbits around the Earth over 11 days aboard space shuttle Atlantis. 

XLV: There have been two other attempts to combine the coin and space, according to Mental Floss. In 1992, aboard shuttle Discovery, astronauts were asked if they would conduct the coin flip in space. One problem, said NASA's chief flight director, is that the coin would just flip and flip, and never come down. Gravity, or lack thereof, you know. But they did a ceremony with the Discovery astronauts anyway, as Roberta Bondar held the coin and did two complete flips. The coin came up heads -- as it did on Earth when coaching great Chuck Noll performed the flip.

(The other time, sadly, was when the coin was brought on board shuttle Columbia in 2003, when the shuttle broke up in the atmosphere on re-entry.)

Tickets cost how much in 1967?

XLVI: The average ticket at this game, between the Patriots and Giants, cost $1,200 at face value, and that's been the norm. Ticket prices can range into the thousands of dollars -- even this year with limited attendance. But the tickets for the first game? On average, you could get one for $12, according to (Though Readers Digest says some were available for as little as $6!) In fact, it wasn't until Super Bowl IV that the average price went up -- to $15.

XLVII: By the way, that first Supe-- sorry, AFL-NFL Championship Game? According to Mental Floss, the Packers-Chiefs game wasn't a sellout, partly due to the size of the stadium (Los Angeles Coliseum sat 90,000) and the cost of the tickets! While the price of $12 (or even $6) sounds good now, it actually was a lot of money in 1967. That same $12 ticket would cost $93 today, adjusting for inflation.

XLVIII: Ticket prices for this game averaged $1,500, and plenty of people bought them -- which is no mean feat considering this was the first game played in a "cold-weather city." The battle between the Seahawks and Broncos took place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Though the media and even some players (such as Richard Sherman in Sports Illustrated) railed against the possibility of a snowy Super Bowl, it was mostly cloudy with temperatures in the 40s. The next day, however, a winter storm dumped 8 inches of snow on the area.

More:The history of Super Bowl ticket prices

Tom Brady passes against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51. The Patriots completed the biggest comeback in team history when they beat Atlanta, 34-28, in overtime.

Ten years later, Tom Brady is back

XLIX: It had been 10 years since Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had won a Super Bowl, and it took one of the best games ever to bring Brady back to holding the Lombardi Trophy. It took a fourth-quarter comeback and a Malcolm Butler interception to give the Pats a 28-24 win, but Brady was back.

50: As we said before, Manning wins his second Super Bowl, becoming the first to do it as the quarterback of a different team. He also does so in a white uniform — of the last 16 teams to win the Super Bowl through 2020, 13 have worn white. (For the record, Brady's Bucs? They're wearing white this year!)

LI: Brady returns to lead the Patriots to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, a game in which the Atlanta Falcons led 28-3 at halftime. (This is also the only Super Bowl to go to overtime.) However, the Falcons can take solace in having reached the game at all -- something four teams have never done: the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LII: For all the amazing things Brady has done on a football field, statistically, his most breathtaking performance was in a loss -- a 41-33 victory by the Philadelphia Eagles best known for the "Philly Special" pass from former Florida Gator Trey Burton to quarterback Nick Foles. Brady went 28-for-48 for 505 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, his third in a Super Bowl.

LIII: Brady does win one more time, his sixth victory with the Pats in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. However, it is also the final time Brady will be in a Super Bowl with the person who has appeared in the most as either a coach or an assistant. Bill Belichick has appeared in 12 overall -- nine as the Patriots head coach, once as their assistant head coach and twice as an assistant with the New York Giants.

LIV: Patrick Mahomes leads the Kansas City Chiefs to a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers for the Chiefs' first Super Bowl win in 50 years. It had also been a long time, relatively speaking, since the Super Bowl had visited Florida -- this game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens was the Super Bowl's first game in Florida in 10 years, the longest stretch of non-Florida games to this point.

LV: In a game that promises to be chock-full of big moments -- for starters, it'll be either Mahomes' second straight Super Bowl win, or Brady's amazing seventh overall -- one has already been set this year. Sarah Thomas will serve as the game's down judge, making her the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. 

More:NFL referee Sarah Thomas gets history-making Super Bowl assignment