It’s hard to miss but in case you did, there is a football game on Sunday. When it’s over, the world will have mowed an unworldly amount of guacamole and viewed some funny TV commercials. Somewhere in the mix we will have a winning team and an obnoxious confetti shower that will signal the end of another year of NFL football.
The Big Game as we know it was not always the spectacle it is today. The First AFL–NFL World Championship Game, now known as the Super Bowl, was played on January 15, 1967, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Tickets to the game averaged $12 and it wasn’t a sellout. Today, tickets average $6800 and sellouts are guaranteed. In 1967, 24.9 million people watched the game on television, last year 115.1 million tuned in. Two college marching bands entertained the crowd at half time of Super Bowl One. Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and Janet Jackson’s nipple have all made the Super Bowl stage at one time or another. This year it’s Usher.
In 1967, Vince Lombardi made the decision to leave the frozen tundra of Green Bay to practice the week before the Big Game on the west coast. Rather than expose a rowdy bunch of football players to the bright lights of Hollywood, Lombardi chose Santa Barbara as the Packer’s home for the week before Super Bowl One.
The team stayed at the Santa Barbara Inn on Cabrillo Boulevard and practices were held at Harder Stadium at UCSB. Unlike today, not much attention was paid to the team as they focused on the first AFL-NFL showdown. The team went about their business under the watchful eye of the strict disciplinarian Coach Lombardi and nothing out of the ordinary occurred. That is unless you ask Carpinteria resident Kathy Quigley.
Quigley, a local kid of 18, was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin and moved with her family to Santa Barbara in the early 60’s. A huge football fan and avid Green Bay Cheese Head, Kathy was determined to see her heroes go through their preparation for the AFL-NFL showdown.
Catching a ride from Dad, Quigley was able to slip security and watch the team practice for a day.
‘Not shy about her love for the team, Quigley introduced herself to coach Lombardi and received a hug for her trouble. That could have been the highlight of the day but things were about to get more interesting.
As practice broke up for the day, Bart Starr the quarterback for the biggest team in football at the time, happened to walk by as young Kathy Quigley was speaking with coach Lombardi and asked, “Hey kid, do you know where there’s a pizza place around here?”
Kathy was quick to answer, “Yes I do know where to get pizza, I could tell you about it but I would rather show you.”
Starr was game, “OK kid, get on the bus” and off they went. Bart Starr, about a dozen other gentlemen from the team and a wide eyed Kathy Quigley dined at Shakey’s on Hollister Avenue across from the airport. The pizza party lasted about an hour and some, no paparazzi, no security and none of the drama on the scale we expect of today’s NFL, just a curious kid and a pile of hungry athletes sharing tales of simpler times.
The players loaded up on the bus and returned one happy football fan back to the campus. The Packers drove back to the Santa Barbara Inn ahead of curfew. Kathy called her dad and as they drove home she filled his ear with tales of her brush with football royalty. There was no greater pleasure for an 18 year old than when she got to her jealous brothers what she did that afternoon.
“Cameras weren’t everywhere in those days so all I have are the memories of the day I ate pizza with Bart Starr,” said Quigley.“The Packers coming to Santa Barbara wasn’t really a big deal to a lot of people but they don’t know the team like I do. In Green Bay these guys were Gods.”
Green Bay went on to win the first Super Bowl and launch what has become a national obsession.
Today, the Big Game is unlike any other American sporting event but in 1967, before Swifties and 7 million dollar thirty-second commercials, the AFL-NFL championship was just a football game, except for Kathy Quigley one lucky Green Bay transplant in Santa Barbara.