December 2 in history:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was born on this date in 1983. Under Coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers from a wild card playoff berth to the Super Bowl championship after the 2010 season.
Another man from Wisconsin named McCarthy was one of the most powerful and feared persons in America in the 1950’s. Senator Joseph McCarthy became famous for charging that Communists had infiltrated the government, and he held Senate hearings into Communist influence in the U.S. The senator was criticized for ruining reputations with reckless accusations, and he sometimes suggested that his critics were on the side of the Communists. On December 2nd, 1954, a majority of senators voted to condemn McCarthy, and his influence declined quickly.
The Washington Senators baseball team suddenly has a great season (because of a pact with the devil) in the 1954 novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.” The book was turned into the Broadway musical and movie “Damn Yankees,” starring Ray Walston as the devil. Walston, born on this date in 1914, is also known as Mr. Hand from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Judge Bone from “Picket Fences,” and Uncle Martin, the title character from the sitcom “My Favorite Martian.”
The music video for the Britney Spears song “Oops!…I Did It Again” is supposed to be set partially on Mars. Spears, born on December 2nd, 1981, was 17 when she had her first hit album.
November 21 in history:
Thomas Edison became famous for many of his inventions, but the first one that caught on was the phonograph. Edison announced the development of the sound recording device on November 21st, 1877. His machine could both record sound on a metal cylinder and play it back. Edison discovered that the phonograph worked when he recorded “Mary had a little lamb…”
The phonograph eventually led to other recording devices, such as the VCR. No doubt, video recorders all over the U.S. were being used on November 21st, 1980, to tape the season premiere of “Dallas.” It was the first new episode in eight months, since the cliffhanger episode in which bad guy J.R. Ewing was shot and wounded by an offscreen attacker. The answer to the popular question “Who shot J.R.?” was…his mistress Kristin Shepard, played by Mary Crosby. That night, “Dallas” set an American ratings record, broken three years later by the last episode of “M*A*S*H.”
“Dallas” was still on the air in 1989 when quarterback Troy Aikman joined the Dallas Cowboys. He spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys, leading them to three Super Bowl titles in four years. Aikman was born November 21st, 1966.
To the discomfort of host Adolf Hitler, American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, becoming the first U.S. athlete to win that many golds in one year. Owens earned his fourth gold medal in a relay on August 9th.
To the discomfort and dismay of many Canadian hockey fans, Wayne Gretzky was traded by the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9th, 1988.
This is the birthday of several athletes who have entered the Hall of Fame for their respective sports: basketball star Bob Cousy (1928), tennis pro Rod Laver (1938), Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (1967), and second-generation hockey star Brett Hull (1964).
Whitney Houston was born on this day in 1963. At the peak of her singing career, Houston performed the national anthem at the Super Bowl in January, 1991, shortly after the start of the Persian Gulf War. Her rendition of the anthem became a Top 40 hit. The Super Bowl performance was controversial because although Houston reportedly did sing live at a microphone, a pre-recorded version was played in the stadium and on TV in order to avoid any mistakes.
June 11th in history:
On June 11th, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed five delegates to draft a declaration of independence from England. Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman were joined on the committee by three other men better known to modern Americans: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
The right to freedom of speech was the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court when it released a decision on flag-burning, on this date in 1990. The Court struck down a federal law which prohibited desecration of the flag.
June 11th is Montana’s birthday – Joe Montana, that is. Quarterback Montana (born 1956) led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl championships. It’s also the birthday of the Green Bay Packers coach whose name is on the Super Bowl trophy, Vince Lombardi (1913).
February 1st in history:
One of the songs most associated with the Civil War was the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
Toward the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
A different freedom — freedom of speech — was under dispute after the Super Bowl halftime show on February 1st, 2004. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Justin Timberlake tore part of Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
January 28th in history:
On January 28th, 1959, Vince Lombardi was hired to coach the Green Bay Packers. Under Lombardi, the Packers won five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. The championship trophy for the Super Bowl eventually was named after him.
In Super Bowl XXX, played on this date in 1996, the Dallas Cowboys became the first team to win three Lombardi Trophies in four years. Dallas defeated Pittsburgh, 27-17.
Super Bowl XXX received higher ratings than any other TV broadcast up until that time, except for the last episode of “M*A*S*H” in 1983. Alan Alda, who played Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce for 11 years on “M*A*S*H,” was born January 28th, 1936.
January 24th in history:
The California Gold Rush was triggered on January 24th, 1848, when James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill. Most of the U.S. didn’t hear about the discovery until late in ’48, when President James K. Polk mentioned the gold rush in his State of the Union message. The treasure hunters who went to California in the months afterward became known as ’49ers.
Today’s 49ers, the NFL team from San Francisco, played in the Super Bowl for the first time on January 24, 1982, at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. They won Super Bowl XVI by a 26-21 score over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The ring awarded to Super Bowl winners is made of gold and decorated with diamonds. January 24th is the birthday of Olympic gold-medal winner Mary Lou Retton (born 1968) and singer-songwriter Neil Diamond (1941).
The Super Bowl didn’t become known for clever and expensive TV commercials until Apple Computers did a parody of the book “1984” to introduce its new Macintosh personal computer. The Super Bowl ad ran two days before the Mac officially went on sale January 24th, 1984.