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Tom Sestak draws a bead on Len Dawson in 1964 when the AFL was known as the MICKEY MOUSE League - photo Buffalo Courier-Express


George Blanda was one of the toughest NFL players of all time "The Grand Old Man" - (September 17, 1927 – September 27, 2010)




James Loving/National Radio Text Service



The AFL was the laughing stock of professional football when they began in 1960. They were referred to as rejects, have beens and referred to as the Mickey Mouse League. NFL players that were verbally abused for joining the new league and had something to prove. Nine years later the AFL earned their respect when Joe Namath led the New York Jets and AFL to its first Super Bowl victory. The following year Len Dawson led the Kansas City Chiefs to victory. After the first four Super Bowl games the AFL received the respect they deserved


Saturday February 04, 2012


This weekend the New England Patriots will take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 5, 2012. The Giants have a 3-1 record in their four Super Bowl appearances and the Patriots are 3-3 in the big game. It will be Eli Manning leading the Giants and Tom Brady in charge of the Pats. Brady will be going for his 4th Super Bowl win and Manning his 2nd.

This is in the now but the history of what led up to the biggest sporting event in American sports began in 45 years ago 1966 when there were two separate leagues competing for the US sports fans dollar the established NFL (National football League) and new kid in the block the AFL (American Football League).

Since 1966 America has developed football fever with the culmination eventually being named the Super Bowl in 1970. The first two games were called the World Championship Game which was to settle a dispute which of the then two separate leagues was the strongest.

The two leagues split winning the first four games game with the NFL's Green Bay Packer winning the first title match January 15, 1967 defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in a blowout 35-10 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a meager crowd of 61,946 in a stadium that seats 104,000. A stadium that was only 2/3 full was not an impressive start for a competition that eventually would become the biggest sporting event in America.

When the then AFL (American Football League) was a separate league it started by some business elite including Lamar Hunt who was the owner of the then Dallas Texans. They moved to Kansas City and appeared in two of the first four Super Bowls.

The dominance of the NFL (National Football League) was evident and in our radio feature with then Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson when he said with a chuckle that the AFL was looked down upon as being the Mickey Mouse League.

The league came together with castoffs and aging players from the NFL. Dawson was a reserve player with the Cleveland Browns. The new league gave him an opportunity to play. In an effort to strengthen the league the AFL became aggressive in drafting and signing top collegiate players particularly from the black colleges who were largely ignored by the NFL. One of their first and most sought after college players was Bill Canon who signed with the Houston Oilers.

The Oilers also made a major signing of aging quarterback George Blanda who was falling out of favor with the Chicago Bears. Bears coach and owner George Halas had a problem with Blanda. He used him as a quarterback, kicker and linebacker until Blanda was injured. In 1954 Halas regulated him to being just a kicker until an unhappy Blanda retired in 1958 at the age of 32.

Blanda wanted more playing time in addition to being the main place kicker for field goals and extra points. The Oilers gave him that opportunity.

TRIVIA QUESTION 1: What was the largest attendance at a Super Bowl game?

TRIVIA QUESTION 2: What metropolitan area has hosted the most Super Bowls?

Blanda thrived in the AFL with the Oilers and later the Oakland Radiers. His accomplished of over 26 seasons in professional football is the most in the sport's history. He scored more points than anyone in the games history at the time of his retirement in 1976 after a pro career that began in 1949 with the Bears.

If there was an NFL icon that contributed to the success of the Mickey Mouse League AFL then it would be Balnda. He was mocked by the sports media as an "NFL Reject", but he went on to lead the Oilers to the first two league titles in AFL history, and he was the All-AFL quarterback and won AFL Player of the Year honors in 1961. During that season, he led the AFL in passing yards (3,330) and touchdown passes (36).

Blanda's already-long career seemed over when he was released by the Oilers on March 18, 1967. However, the Oakland Raiders signed him that July, seeing his potential as a contributing backup passer and a dependable kicker. It was his contribution to the AFL that set the stage the Mickey Mouse League could compete with the NFL. They wanted to prove that they were as good as or better than the senior league.

The irony was that although it was players like Blanda that set the foundation for the AFL to play in a Super Bowl Blanda did so at the age of 40 with the Raiders in Super Bowl II in a 33-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers who were by far the most dominate team in both leagues at that time.

The game that proved the leagues were equal was Super Bowl III on January 12, 1969 when the New York Jets led by their bragging quarterback Joe Namath who predicted the AFL'S first victory in the Super Bowl game. Namath delivered on his promise as he led the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the NFL's t Baltimore Colts. At the time it was the most shocking result in American sports. It was as shocking as Muhammad Ali's first victory over Sunny Liston February 25th, 1964. It was Ali's saying and Namath embraced the motto with his team as being The Greatest.

After that surprising ALF victory the leagues merged in 1970 with the NFL'S Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh being assigned to the AFL. The Colts are the only team that played a pre AFL–NFL merger Super Bowl for the NFL, and then moved to the AFC in 1970. Although members of the old NFL before the 1970 merger, the Steelers did not play in a Super Bowl before moving to the AFC post-merger.


TRIVIA ANSWER 1: On January 20, 1980 when the LA Rams played the Pittsburgh 103,985 attended Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Steelers defeated the Rams 31-19.

TRIVIA ANSWER 2: New Orleans has hosted the game nine times

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