by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Troy Haupt is a 47-year-old nurse anesthetist here in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He has a secret to reveal about Super Bowl I: He owns the only known recording of its broadcast.
CBS and NBC, which televised the game, did not preserve any tapes. But the copy that Haupt owns — of a broadcast that launched the Super Bowl as an enormous shared spectacle that attracts more than 100 million viewers — might never be seen on any network. The N.F.L. does not want to buy the tapes and has warned Haupt not to sell them to outside parties or else the league will pursue legal action.
Unless the league and Haupt make a deal to resolve the financial differences that have privately divided them since 2005, the tapes will stay in storage in a former mine in upstate New York. …
Haupt’s father, Martin, taped the game…. He went to work on Jan. 15, 1967, with a pair of two-inch Scotch tapes, slipped one, and then the other, into a Quadruplex taping machine and recorded the Green Bay Packers’ 35-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He told his family nothing about his day’s activity.
It would take another eight years for Martin Haupt to tell his wife what he had done. By then, they had divorced and both had remarried.
He was sick with cancer and handed her the tapes.
“He said maybe they could help pay for the kids’ education,” she said. And she put them in the attic, where they accumulated dust and intrigue. …
The story might have ended with those two tapes deteriorating in Shamokin if not for a phone call from Troy Haupt’s childhood friend, Clint Hepner. In 2005, he read that Sports Illustrated had described a tape of Super Bowl I as a “lost treasure” because CBS and NBC had not saved copies of their broadcasts. The magazine estimated that a tape, if found, would be worth $1 million.
“He said, ‘Remember when we were 10 and in your mom’s attic playing board games and saw this box with metal cases in it that said Super Bowl I?’” Haupt said. “I had no idea what he was talking about and he said, ‘Talk to your mom,’ and Mom said, ‘Yeah, they’re up in the attic.’” …
With Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos approaching Sunday, [Haupt] felt it was time to come forward as the owner of the tapes. For the past five years, he let his lawyer speak about an unidentified client who had the recording, who had made a deal with the Paley Center for Media in Manhattan to restore it and who was trying to sell the tapes to the N.F.L.
But the league does not seem to agree with him that the tapes are a significant enough part of its legacy that it should pay him what he wants. It countered his initial request for $1 million with a $30,000 offer. It never raised its price and is not interested anymore in paying anything at all.
“It’s awesome to have the tapes, but it’s frustrating that we can’t do anything with them,” Haupt said. “It’s like you’ve won the golden ticket but you can’t get into the chocolate factory.” …
It is still a viewable document, a vintage broadcast by CBS, with Ray Scott calling the first half with Frank Gifford, and Jack Whitaker taking over in the third quarter with a friendlier, wittier play call. Gifford referred regularly to Green Bay Coach Vince Lombardi as “Vinny” and kept promoting the Chiefs’ great play well after they were out of the game. …
As the game entered its final seconds, Whitaker started to count down. “Nine, eight,” he said, and the game ended. A marching band ran onto the field. It played “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
“The first Super Bowl was always our holy grail of lost sports programs, appearing on our most-wanted list for years,” said Ron Simon, the Paley Center’s television and radio curator.
Haupt owns the recording but not its content, which belongs to the N.F.L. If the league refuses to buy it, he cannot sell the tapes to a third party, like CBS or a collector who would like to own a piece of sports history that was believed to be lost. He would like to persuade the league to sell the tapes jointly and donate some of the proceeds to their favorite charities. His mother said that she would give some of her share of the sale to the Wounded Warrior Project.
“They’re not doing anybody any good sitting in a vault,” he said. “Let’s help some great charities.”
But that is unlikely to happen. A letter from the league to Harwood last year provided a sharp warning to Haupt. “Since you have already indicated that your client is exploring opportunities for exploitation of the N.F.L.’s Super Bowl I copyrighted footage with yet-unidentified third parties,” Dolores DiBella, a league counsel, wrote, “please be aware that any resulting copyright infringement will be considered intentional, subjecting your client and those parties to injunctive relief and special damages, among other remedies.”
The law favors the league, said Jodi Balsam, a professor at Brooklyn Law School. …
But, she added, the league has not handled the matter as well as it should have. …
“They’ve known about this tape for years, and it seems to me they should have resolved this years ago, because it’s important footage.”
But until the league and Haupt resolve their differences, the public will never see the game as it happened, on the winter day when Green Bay became the champion of the N.F.L. and A.F.L., and Martin Haupt took a mysterious route to recording history.