How Super Bowl III Was Recovered

Tales of Recovery examines how specific television programs once thought missing or lost have been recovered. Often, these recoveries were not well-publicized or took place so long ago that they themselves have been forgotten.

The third AFL-NFL Championship Game, better known as Super Bowl III, pitted the New York Jets (AFL) against the Baltimore Colts (NFL). The game was played on January 12th, 1969 in Miami and aired on NBC with Curt Gowdy, Al DeRogatis, and Kyle Rote calling the action. Spoiler alert: the Jets won 16-7.

It’s likely that NBC recorded some or all of the game on videotape. If so, it’s equally likely the network then recorded over those expensive videotapes. For more than 15 years, Super Bowl III was considered lost. It wasn’t until 1985 that a copy of the game was found by the Museum of Broadcasting (now known as The Paley Center for Media) thanks to a call from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Here’s how Robert Batscha, then-president of the Museum of Broadcasting, described the recovery for The New York Times:

We found Superbowl III, the famous 1969 game, when we got a call from Ascap saying they had a warehouse of material they wanted to get rid of, stuff that had been randomly recorded, and did we want to take a look. [1]

An article in the Spring 2000 edition of the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property called “The Super Bowl III Problem” examined whether the live TV broadcast of the game was under copyright, a question raised after a VHS tape was listed on eBay.

The NFL Network aired Super Bowl III on February 3rd, 2007 as part of its Super Bowl Classics series.

Sources:

1 Bennetts, Leslie. “Where Watching TV Is Like Watching History.” New York Times. 22 Dec. 1985: H29.

Last Revised February 19th, 2016

7 Replies to “How Super Bowl III Was Recovered”

  1. A very late addition to this post… but I thought you should know that Super Bowl I was in fact discovered in 2005. It was recorded off-air (on quad) by an affiliate engineer and later uncovered in the attic of his house. Unfortunately the New York-based institution to which it was graciously donated has kept this find under wraps (i.e. off its public catalog), mostly because one of its administrators is golf buddies with someone at the NFL. But it does exist.

  2. The recording was likely found a few years earlier than 1985 because a clip of the opening was aired by NBC for a pregame feature in their Super Bowl XVII broadcast which aired in January 1983.

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