Bud Kennedy

How a little Dallas girl helped name the NFL’s big event

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The Super Bowl didn’t start here, but the name did.

It all started with a 7-year-old girl bouncing a toy ball.

Sharron Hunt was the girl. Her dad was listening one day in 1966 when she played with the new toy sensation that year: a Wham-O Super Ball.

Her dad was the late Lamar Hunt of Dallas, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs pro football team.

At their home on Orchid Lane in Dallas, Sharron made up a singsong chant as she bounced the little ball high off floors and walls:

“Super Ball!”

(Bounce.)

“Super Bowl!”

(Bounce.)

“Super Ball!”

(Bounce.)

“Super Bowl!”

At the time, Lamar Hunt was working on a pro football merger and a new championship game.

The way the late Hunt often told the story, he jokingly told league owners, “My daughter calls it the Super Bowl.”

Commissioner Pete Rozelle had another idea: “The Big One.”

But Hunt’s nickname caught on.

Three years and hundreds of headlines later, football’s “ultimate game” was officially named the Super Bowl.

Sharron Hunt is now Sharron Munson of Dallas.

She doesn’t remember the exact 1966 conversation. But she remembers how she was fascinated by college football’s Cotton Bowl.

“I could never figure out why they called it a ‘bowl,’ ” she said. “I can remember thinking, ‘Cotton? Bowl? What does that have to do with football?’ ”

Her older brother, Lamar Jr., had a new Super Ball. The hard, hyper resilient ball — made of the mysterious new polymer “Zectron” — was a million-seller soon after Wham-O introduced it for 98 cents at Christmas 1965.

Their stepmom, Norma, soon gave Sharron her own Super Ball. She always made up rhymes, so she thought one up.

According to Sharron, the next time Lamar Hunt saw his first wife, Rosemary, he told her excitedly, “Listen to what Sharron came up with!”

“The story is locked in the mists of time,” Munson said. “Did I say ‘Super Bowl’ first? Or did Dad say it first, and then I incorporated it into my game?”

Lamar Hunt always gave his daughter credit.

Her childhood Super Ball now has a permanent home: the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“It was never a deliberate thing,” Munson said. “It’s not as if Dad said, ‘Now, Sharron, do you have ideas?’ It was a kismet kind of thing.”

Her father was a great friend of Fort Worth, Arlington and Tarrant County and brought pro football games to Farrington Field. When he moved a team that began as the Dallas Texans to Kansas City, he considered one other city: Fort Worth.

After his death in December 2006, the family found something familiar among his mementos: an original Super Ball, a later gift from Wham-O.

Munson retrieved it for a closer look. She read the label: “98 cents, Made in USA, 1965. It looks like an original.”

So is the sticky note that Lamar Hunt had written lovingly:

“Save for Sharron.”

That Super Ball is staying wrapped.

But the wraps are off another Super Bowl.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.

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