02/05/2012 04:16 pm ET

Why The 'Super Bowl' Is Called The 'Super Bowl' - Would a Super Bowl by any other name be just as exciting? Not everybody knows that professional football's championship game owes its title to an unlikely source: the ultra-bouncy balls that entranced American children from 1965 until the late 1970s. Find out what a trendy plaything has to do with the most-watched event in the United States.

First held on January 15, 1967, the Super Bowl might never have existed without Lamar Hunt. In the late 1950s, the Arkansas-born sports entrepreneur failed to secure a license from the National Football League to start a Dallas team. So he founded a league of his own: the American Football League. (He would eventually establish the Dallas Texans, later known as the Kansas City Chiefs, which he owned until his death in 2006.)

The upstart AFL proved a game-changing success, and in the late 1960s the NFL approached Hunt with a merger proposal. To ease the transition, the two leagues planned a series of season-ending title games between their respective champions. Like baseball’s World Series, the event would bring the best players from both organizations onto the same field.

When it came time to choose a name for the contest, Hunt made history once again. Meeting to plan the inaugural game in the summer of 1966, Hunt and other football kingpins ironed out the details but couldn’t nail down a catchy moniker. Officially, the event would be known as the “First AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” but its organizers referred to it as the “final game,” the “championship game” and other iterations that never quite caught on.

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