Imagine that a Super Bowl was blacked in the host city. It actually happened for what is now known as Super Bowl I. Back on January 14, 1967, what was then billed as the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum. And holding to previous NFL policies, the Los Angeles market was blacked out meaning that even though both CBS and NBC were carrying the game nationally, no local station would air the game so the only way to catch the game was on radio. Or was it?
In 1967, cable TV was a foreign concept to viewers so the way to watch TV was through roof antennas or the old fashioned rabbit ears on top of your TV set. And while pro football was growing in popularity, games in the home market were still blacked out. There was no 72-hour sellout rule, that would come into play in the 1970’s. So even though the AFL-NFL World Championship Game was a big deal, there was no getting around the blackout rule.
And with the Coliseum only two-thirds sold, there were many empty seats so that justified the NFL’s decision to blackout the game in the Southern California market.
So some imaginative fans had build their own high-powered antennas to bypass the blackout. Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News had some articles from 1967 depicting fans using plans to get signals from San Diego TV stations to watch the game:
Yes, a radio station was encouraging fans to build antennas, but that was the world in 1967.
Los Angeles Dodgers voice Vin Scully had his recollections of trying to watch the game at home:
“We had a small TV upstairs in the bedroom (at his home in Pacific Palisades). We had rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum and I kept moving them, trying to get a better picture. I finally got tired of that after a while and turned it off.
“Now look where we are.”
Yes, look at where we are. All NFL games are aired in the local markets and they’re accessible on broadcast, cable, mobile, tablets, computers and set top devices. But the NFL had to go through some growing pains with the Super Bowl to get where it is now and a local Big Game blackout hasn’t occurred since Super Bowl VI in 1972.