Ever since the American Football League was formed four years ago, fans have been excited by the prospect of a "World Series" game between the champion of the new league and the champion of the established National Football League. Now Joe Foss, commissioner of the AFL, has issued a written challenge to Fete Rozelle, NFL commissioner, proposing that such a game be played at the end of the 1964 season. Rozelle, understandably disinclined to listen to suggestions from the people who sued his league for $10 million (the AFL's antitrust lawsuit was rejected, but it cost the NFL more than $300,000 in litigation fees), temporarily refuses the challenge. His decision, like others made in this most testing of years for him, will arouse violent controversy. But when Rozelle makes a decision he makes it—and he feels strongly that it is too early for the two leagues to have friendly sporting relations. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, along with the fans, says that the game must be played, and the sooner the better (always supposing the AFL survives, which some still doubt). What would be the result of such a game? On page 26, Dan Jenkins, who has followed the AFL since its inception, argues that the young league would acquit itself surprisingly well and could conceivably win. Tex Maule, the NFL expert, firmly maintains that the older league would beat the AFL by at least six touchdowns. There is, of course, only one way to find out.
Much talking has been done of late by the public and press as to when the American and National football leagues will meet in a championship game. I feel strongly that the time has arrived for the inauguration of such an annual game.
Therefore, on behalf of the AFL, I reissue an official challenge to the NFL for the first game to be played at the conclusion of the 1964 season, with the winners of the respective league divisional playoffs opposing one another.
December 16, 1963
The '64 season, as you're well aware, Pete, will be our fifth year of operation, certainly a sufficient period for our teams to have achieved a high talent and maturity level.
It was in the exact same year of their existence that the Cleveland Browns moved from the defunct All-America Conference into the NFL. The Browns, as you'll recall, quickly proved a representative of the so-called "neophyte league" of that era was more than capable of holding its own. They won the league title that very first year.
Nevertheless, any argument as to which team would win the initial AFL-NFL game is of secondary importance. The overriding fact is the establishment of a World Series of professional football is necessary to the continued progress of our game if we're to be true sportsmen and not merely businessmen in sports.
Pro football has now attained the status where many regard it as our national sport. What could be more fitting then than for us to match baseball in having an annual classic between the leagues?
I think now is the time for action rather than talk, Pete, and if you concur I'll be available to commence arrangements for the game at your earliest convenience.
As I have said on a number of occasions, we have no plans for such a game.