This Day In Sports: Now it’s the National Football League

June 24, 1922, 100 years ago today: The National Football League is officially born, although technically it was two years old. The league had previously been called the American Professional Football Association. Coinciding with the name change to the NFL, Curly Lambeau paid $50 for the franchise rights to the Green Bay Packers, formed three years before thanks to Lambeau’s employer, the Indian Packing Company. Smart move. The NFL, while overshadowed by baseball, grew from there.

The playoffs were instituted in 1933, capped by the NFL Championship Game through the 1965 season. After the 1966 campaign, the Super Bowl against the American Football League took hold. The NFL slowly but surely overtook Major League Baseball as America’s most popular sport after it merged with the AFL in 1970. Super Bowls now account for the 22 most-watched programs in the history of television. And the NFL’s average attendance of 67,591 is the highest of any sports league in the world.

The Packers are one of three franchises remaining from the original NFL a century ago—the other two are the Chicago Bears (then the Decatur Staleys) and the Arizona Cardinals (then the Chicago Cardinals). It’s interesting to trace some of the NFL’s franchise roots. You have the Detroit Lions, who were the Portsmouth Spartans until 1934. The Kansas City Chiefs were the Dallas Texans (in the AFL) until 1963, and the Tennessee Titans were the Houston Oilers until 1997. The San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns came from a rival league that folded in 1946 (the All-America Football Conference).

As for Lambeau, little did he know the successful monster he had created. But he was around to see it happen. Lambeau founded the team in 1919 with friend George Whitney Calhoun after their employer, the packing company, contributed $500 for uniforms. So they were called the Packers. They joined the AFPA in 1920 (when Lambeau became coach) and were charter members of the new NFL in 1922. Lambeau coached Green Bay through 1949 and won six NFL championships. Shortly after his death in 1965, the Packers’ home stadium (you know it) Lambeau Field.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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