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"Peyton's Places" Tells the Story of How Lamar Hunt Named America's Greatest Game: The Super Bowl

The show, which will air on ESPN+ on Dec. 24, explains the origins of how Hunt coined the term “Super Bowl”

The mythos that is the Super Bowl transcends language, culture and even an individual's interest in sports. "Super Sunday" has grown into an event unlike any other, existing as a fixed component of life itself that's no different than national holidays such as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July.

It's why the name itself – "Super Bowl" – is recognizable in every corner of the globe, but as history tells us, the naming convention for America's greatest spectacle not only has its origins with the Kansas City Chiefs, but it was almost entirely accidental.

The latest episode of "Peyton's Places," which will air on ESPN+ on Dec. 24, explores that story at length as Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning visits with Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt, Head Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

In fact, it was Hunt's father – Chiefs Founder Lamar Hunt – who famously coined the term "Super Bowl," even if he didn't necessarily mean to do so.

"In a word, it was accidental," wrote Hunt in a piece titled "Naming the Game" that ran in the New York Times in 1986.

NFL Commissioner Pete Rosell and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt are all smiles prior to Super Bowl IV.

Hunt's article centered around a committee meeting tasked with working out the details of the AFL-NFL merger. Hunt's upstart American Football League was set to join forces with the established National Football League, and among the many action items that required discussion was the new league's championship game.

The first edition of this new game was set to be played at the conclusion of the 1966 season, but as the initial conversations surrounding the new playoff format took place, there was often a general sense of confusion when it came to differentiating the individual league championships from the final, unnamed contest.

Finally, Hunt interjected with the phrase that we've all come to know.

"The members of the joint committee continued to have those conversational problems regarding the postseason games and the newly created title game," Hunt recalled in his New York Times piece. "Then one day, the words flowed something like this: 'No, not those games - the one I mean is the final game - you know, the Super Bowl.'"

Hunt credited the name – which he saw only as a placeholder at the time – with the most unlikely of inspirations: a children's toy.

"I do not recall any predetermined thought relative to this rather unhistoric moment," Hunt wrote. "My own feeling is that it probably registered in my head because my [children] had a toy called a Super Ball, and I probably interchanged the phonetics of 'bowl' and 'ball.'"

Peyton’s Places visits the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium to film their holiday episode, Thursday, July 21, 2022.

In an ironic twist, the committee – including Hunt himself – didn't consider the name to be a serious option. Other names, including "The Big One," the "Pro Bowl" and the "World Series of Football" were reportedly tossed around until the two leagues agreed on the verbose, "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" ahead of the first title contest in 1966.

Hunt's phrase found its way into the public's vernacular, however, and there was no stopping it.

"That mouthful [of the AFL-NFL World Championship Game] was printed on the tickets and programs, but the media people had their own ideas," Hunt wrote. "Once the magic words got out, it was to be 'Super Sunday' and 'Super Bowl.'"

Newspapers and television networks across the country adopted the phase, and even NFL Films tagged their film reels from the first championship game as "Super Bowl." The term was officially adopted for the third installment of the annual title game, and the iconic usage of roman numerals began with Super Bowl V.

Take a look at some behind-the-scenes photos of the filming of Peyton's Places at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

It's estimated that among all televisions that were powered on in the United States during Super Bowl LVI this past February, nearly 90 percent of them were tuned to the annual championship game. Nielsen believes that more than 200 million people watched it, and while it wasn't originally intentional, each of those viewers knew the game by its transcendent name.

The episode of "Peyton's Places" dives into that story with a fun and endearing twist while serving as a reminder that sometimes the greatest ideas begin with the smallest of inspirations.

To purchase ESPN+ and stream "Peyton's Places," click here.