Every year in late January-early February Americans gather around their TV sets to watch the big game. It doesn’t matter if they are football fans or just people who enjoy party food and entertaining commercials, they sit down in crowded living rooms and packed bars to watch the Super Bowl.

While the Super Bowl has become of the biggest events of the year, it began as a compromise.

The Super Bowl began with the creation of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. The AFL was created by a group of businessmen who wanted to own pro football franchises, but the National Football League (NFL) did not want to expand so the AFL was created as an alternative league. It created a rivalry that would boost professional football as a beloved spectator sport.

In 1966 NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and AFL owner of the Kansas City Chiefs Lamar Hunt formed a plan to merge the two leagues into one by 1970. In preparation for the merger, the two leagues would play each other at the end of the season. Hunt suggested naming it the Super Bowl. He and Rozelle acknowledged that a better name could be used, but sportswriters began using it before another name was chosen.

The inaugural game was played on January 15, 1967 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. It was held in the Los Angeles Coliseum but did not produce a sellout crowd since, at this time, fans didn’t travel to neutral sites for games. It did, however, draw 65 million television viewers, becoming the largest American sporting event at the time.

Vince Lombardi’s Packers won the first two Super Bowls and some believed that it displayed the NFL’s superiority to the AFL. But the New York Jets took home the win for the third game, proving the AFL’s talent.

After the two leagues merged, the NFL split teams into the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC). The top team from each conference would play in the Super Bowl at the end of each season. The media’s presence and coverage drew at an incredible rate in those early years. A two-week gap was built into the NFL schedule between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, allowing the media to build more and more anticipation.

With such a gargantuan TV audience, advertisers quickly realized how beneficial Super Bowl commercials could be. One of the most memorable early commercials aired in 1973; a Noxzema ad starring a pre-Charlie’s Angels Farrah Fawcett with quarterback Joe Namath. Four years later Xerox aired an ad about a monk learning how to create copies of a manuscript using a photocopier.

Notable commercials became an integral part of the game in the 1980s. In ’84 Apple hired Ridley Scott to direct a commercial for their new Macintosh computer. The ad was based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, featuring a woman destroying a TV screen that was showing Big Brother propaganda.

Super Bowl commercials became so sensational that corporate America started cashing in, or rather paying out, for screen time during the big game. The habit has become such a cultural phenomenon that companies shell out incredible amounts of money and pulling out all the stops with A-list celebrities and highly creative ads. For some non-sports fans, the commercials are the best part of the game.

The commercials aren’t the only draw for non-sports fans, though. Plenty of people also tune in for the halftime show.

During the first few years the halftime show was performed by college marching bands, then in the ’70s performances had more variety, including drill teams and other ensembles. By the late 1980s and into the ’90s popular musical acts took the stage, including Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, New Kids on the Block, Patti LaBelle, Clint Black, and Tony Bennett.

Since then the halftime show has included performers who were current chart toppers and popular musicians from days gone by. While there is usually one headliner, other musicians pop up for cameo appearances to further excite the audience. Last year performers included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar.

With 56 games in the books, the NFC has won 29 times and the AFC has won 27 times. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have the most Super Bowl victories with six wins apiece. The Patriots has been to the big game the most times, with 11 appearances, followed by the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys at eight each, and the San Francisco 49ers at seven.

Teams that won back to back Super Bowls are the Green Bay Packers (1966-1967), Miami Dolphins (1972-1973), Steelers (1974-1975, 1978-1979), 49ers (1988-1989), Cowboys (1992-1993), Denver Broncos (1997-1998), and Patriots (2003-2004). The Buffalo Bills are the only team with four consecutive appearances (1990-1993), but lost each game.

The 49ers hold the record for most points scored in a single game at 55, as well as the largest margin of victory, beating the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV. The smallest margin for victory was a single point, when the New York Giants beat the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV. The highest scoring game was Super Bowl XXIX when the 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers 49-26, and the lowest scorer was Super Bowl LIII when the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.

Since the NFL ends its season with one all or nothing game rather than a series like pro baseball or basketball, it brings a giant audience of people together. It’s regularly the most watched American televised broadcast of the year and at this point the game reaches north of 208 million viewers.

On Sunday, February 12, 2023, the Kansas City Chiefs meet the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona for the 57th Super Bowl and possibly some new records.