BILLINGS – A couple weeks ago, Q2 Sports ran a story on how outrageous Super Bowl ticket prices have become. Not long after, a Billings Marine Corps veteran phoned in and said he agreed.
And he would certainly know. Richard Schultz was at Super Bowl I, where they could barely give away tickets.
“For some reason, seems it was free,” Schultz recalled on a recent afternoon. “But for some other reason, I think I may have had to pay $10 for a ticket.”
Safe to say, the cost of a Super Bowl I ticket was nowhere near the prices on today’s secondary market. The average price for a Super Bowl LII ticket is over $5,000. Here’s how Schulz was in position to go during the late 1960s.
“Well, I was in the Marine Corps and waiting to go to school,” Schultz said. “I was wandering around Oceanside, California, and went inside the USO (United Service Organization) to get a free cup of coffee and a couple doughnuts. And they had a sign up that said, ‘You want to go to a football game? The bus leaves in a half hour.’ I wasn’t doing anything else, so I decided I might as well to go the football game.”
He remembers an hour-and-a-half bus ride up to the Los Angeles Coliseum, and not knowing a single person on board.
Schultz had gone to college in Minnesota, and says he could sit in corner end zone seats at the Vikings game for $1. So, naturally, he had no idea the event he was about to witness would become iconic.
“It was no big deal,” Schultz deadpanned in his Billings apartment. “Going to a pro football game wasn’t a big deal. And going to what they called the first playoff game … I mean, it wasn’t even the Super Bowl yet.”
January 15, 1967. It was billed the first World Championship Game: AFL versus NFL. The Packers were champions of the National Football League. The Chiefs won the American Football League. Then they settled it in Los Angeles. Only later did they retroactively call it Super Bowl I.
“We got a ticket, a program, a Coke, a hot dog and a seat cushion,” recalled Schultz. “I saw a thing on TV once, Antique Road Show or something, that the only thing that was worth money from the thing was the seat cushions.”
And Schultz says he didn’t keep any of it.
“My ticket, as soon as I sat down it was on the ground,” he said.
But here’s what really struck him as strange.
“We all had to sit on one side of the stadium,” he said. “If you watch the tape, they show it every now and then, there was a couple plays they filmed from our side of the stadium over, and there’s not a soul over there. And they wouldn’t even let you walk over there. They had guards in the end zone that wouldn’t even let you get past the end zone.”
The attendance is listed today as just under 61,000, and fans there hardly knew they were watching future Hall of Famers — Chiefs coach Hank Strahm, players Buck Buchanan and Len Dawson. And for the Packers, coach Vince Lombardi, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr.
What people don’t realize is, there was actually a lot of animosity between the two leagues, so both teams were feeling heat to win. A lot of fans and media thought because the NFL had been around, it was clearly superior.
But the Packers only led 14–10 at break. And unlike today, the halftime show wasn’t anything to write home about.
“We just had a band going out there, UCLA’s band or USC’s band,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a big production like it is now.”
The Packers forced a turnover early in the second half, scored 21 straight and won the game, 35-10. Quarterback Bart Starr was the MVP and Vince Lombarti had his first big championship.
An interesting TV note: This game remains the only Super Bowl aired by two networks. NBC had rights to the AFL games, CBS had the NFL rights. So both were allowed to televise it. And afterward, amazingly, both networks reportedly erased their tapes of the game. The only reason you see rare moving pictures today is thanks to NFL Films, which spent months scouring archive footage. Then they stitched it together like a jigsaw puzzle — 145 pieces of film, one for every play, according to a senior producer at NFL Films.
Though Schultz admits it wasn’t a big deal at the time, reflecting now brings a smile.
“There’s not that many people who can say they’ve been there,” he said. “Or were there. I was just a PFC in the Marine Corps and … took a free trip.”