When we think of 1968, sports don’t usually come to mind. That year, two once-in-a-generation political and moral leaders were gunned down in their primes. LBJ was driven from the presidency at the height of the Vietnam War, but he was still luckier than nearly 17,000 troops who came home in body bags. The Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Richard Nixon became President despite failing to win a majority of the popular vote. Hippies and activists across the country occupied administration buildings, demanding reform and change. The Olympics were overshadowed by demonstrations of Black Power and a violent crackdown against Mexico’s own youth movement by its ruling political party’s secret police.
But the games went on, and in the realm of sports fandom, we might remember 1968 for something else. This was the first time when one could definitively say, based off TV ratings, that the NFL championship (by now called the Super Bowl) surpassed the World Series. Was this the year, then, that football overtook baseball as “America’s Game”? I used the Sports Illustrated Vault online to see if that was true from their point of view. I focused on the cover, the magazine’s most prominent feature.