On Sunday night, the Super Bowl played to an audience sure to top 100 million viewers in the United States alone.
On Saturday afternoon, Super Bowl I was replayed to an audience of about 200, which to one man felt just as meaningful.
“I had only ever seen it on a small screen,” Troy Haupt told Newsday when it was over. “To have all the energy of the people behind us was great.”
The occasion was the first public screening of CBS’ broadcast of the inaugural Super Bowl since it was seen live on Jan. 15, 1967, and Haupt sat in the front row at the Paley Museum in Manhattan for the big event.
Why him? Because he owns the ancient 2-inch videotape that made it possible, and because his late father, Martin, thought to record the game while working at a Scranton, Pennsylvania, television station that day.
It was an era when TV networks regularly taped over old programs rather than preserving them. As a result, for decades the CBS and NBC telecasts — both networks carried the game — were assumed lost.
Martin’s tape sat in his ex-wife Beth and son Troy’s Shamokin, Pennsylvania, attic for decades until a childhood friend of Troy’s read an article in Sports Illustrated in 2005 that listed Super Bowl I among missing sports memorabilia treasures.
The friend, Clint Hepner, who also was at the Saturday screening, recalled seeing a canister marked “Super Bowl I” in the attic when they played there as children. He asked Troy if it still was there. His mother confirmed that it was.
So Haupt asked the Paley Center for Media — then known as the Museum of Television & Radio — to examine it and help restore the fragile artifact.
“When I [first] saw it on that little screen, it was really exciting to see that, wow, we have it, it’s there,” he said. “But today was even better, just to have all the people behind us, cheering along with what was on there.”
Haupt would love for the telecast to be seen by a wider audience, but that will not happen without an agreement with the NFL, which owns not the videotape itself but the rights to what is on it. The sides have discussed it for 19 years, to no avail.
The Saturday screening was permissible because there was no separate admission fee. It simply was part of an ongoing exhibit called “Beyond the Big Game” on Super Bowl history that runs through March 3.
The Paley Center has the audio of NBC’s coverage of the game but not the video. And the NFL itself in 2016 premiered an account of the game that used the radio coverage over images captured by NFL Films that day.
“I think a lot of people think that the broadcast has already been out there,” said Haupt, who added, “[NFL Films] had 13 cameras. They have every second of the game, far more material than what we saw [Saturday]. But they didn’t have the broadcast.”
The screening attracted a diverse crowd, but it did skew toward those old enough to recall the game, including a number of Packers fans who cheered big plays as if they were happening live.
The quality of the color images is good. But Martin Haupt, presumably trying to preserve tape, turned off the recording between many plays, most commercials, the entire halftime program and the first part of the third quarter.
“It was the foresight of this gentleman, who worked on technology, who knew 2-inch machines, to actually make a copy of it,” said Ron Simon, head curator for the Paley Center. “I’m still amazed. He is one of only a handful of people that could have done this.”
The game itself looks similar to that of the 2020s, although some rules were different. Late hits and cheap shots that would have drawn penalties in 2023-24 resulted in . . . well, nothing.
Instant replay still was a relatively new concept, and CBS sought to help viewers by labeling them as “slow motion” or “videotape.”
One nuance: Analyst Frank Gifford and others went out of their way to praise Kansas City despite the lopsided score, perhaps to justify the game’s very existence.
It was not until the Jets’ upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III that the AFL proved definitively that it belonged.
Haupt, 55, called Saturday’s game “a step” toward getting the game to a wider audience. He rejected any notion of a legal fight with the NFL over the rights.
“I think it would be a long, drawn-out battle,” he said. “Going up against the NFL, which owns a day of the week, it would be tough to do that.
“That’s not really our interest. We just hope we can work something out and that everybody can get to enjoy what we saw today.”