Carnett: A Super Bowl game for the history books

It was the first football game with the words "Super Bowl" emblazoned on the cover of its printed program.

That game today is known as Super Bowl III.

The game took place Jan. 12, 1969, in Miami's Orange Bowl. The previous two years the game's official nomenclature was AFL-NFL World Championship Game.

Founded in 1960, the upstart American Football League became a serious competitor to the time-honored National Football League, and proved so by signing 75% of the older league's first-round draft choices in its first year. Despite that feat, many sportswriters routinely derided the quality of its players.

In 1966, the two pro football leagues agreed to a merger. The 10 AFL teams were absorbed into the NFL in 1970.

The more established NFL easily won the two World Championship contests. Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers swamped Kansas City's Chiefs in 1967, 35-10. The Packers crushed Oakland's Raiders, 33-15, in 1968.

That set the stage for the 1969 game, officially designated "Super Bowl." "Broadway" Joe Namath and his New York Jets represented the AFL that day and changed football forever.

I was a big AFL fan. I loved the league's wide-open style of play.

Super Bowl III matched the Jets against the NFL's Baltimore Colts. Heavy favorites, the Colts were considered one of the great teams in NFL history.

Baltimore went 13-1 during the 1968 season and walloped Cleveland in the NFL championship game, 34-0. The Jets were 11-3 and nipped Oakland in the AFL championship, 27-23.

Three days before kickoff, brash Jets quarterback Namath publicly guaranteed a win for his team. The world laughed!

At the time, I was preparing to graduate from Orange Coast College and transfer to Cal State Fullerton. I worked weeknights and weekends at a paint store on South Main in Santa Ana.

On Jan. 12, 1969, I worked a regular Sunday shift, from noon to 6 p.m. Kickoff was set for 12:05 p.m. Pacific Time.

We had no means for following the game at the store: no TV, no radio and no social media. I might as well have been marooned in East Java.

I arrived at work at 11:30 a.m. and volunteered to make our regular Sunday morning doughnut run. I timed my departure for noon, and drove to a shop several blocks from the paint store.

In transit, I listened to Charlie Jones call the game on NBC Radio. The Colts kicked off to the Jets, and New York took over at its 23. The Jets picked up a first down but were forced to punt. The Colts took possession on their 27. They recorded successive first downs and had a first-and-10 at the Jets' 46.

I waited for a time-out, jumped from the car, raced into the doughnut shop and picked out a dozen gut-busters. I sprinted — box under my arm like a football — back to the car.

The Colts' drive stalled, and they missed a 27-yard field goal. Yes!

"Hey Carnett, did you stand by as the doughnut lady stewed fruit in a kettle to make that jelly for your doughnuts?" the store manager chided when I got back. "You've been gone for an hour."

"Traffic," I mumbled.

I discovered that one of my fellow workers, Woody, had secreted a transistor radio on his person. Standing in the john with four other guys, I listened as Matt Snell scored on a four-yard run with 9:03 left in the first half to stake the Jets to a 7-0 lead. That's what I'm talkin' about!

The Jets kicked three field goals in the first 17 minutes of the second half to take a shocking 16-0 advantage. Sweet.

Gerald Hill scored for Baltimore on a one-yard run with 3:19 to play, making it 16-7. The Colts then recovered an onside kick. Nervous time!

Woody was sending hand signals from the linoleum department to my buddy, Bill, and me, camped out in wallpaper.

Finally, it was over. Woody gave a thumbs up. The Jets were Super Bowl champs!

And my AFL had finally earned its spurs.

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.

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