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IN THIS ISSUE: 3 easy facts and 15 hilarious GIFs explaining just how important the Super Bowl is in the grand scheme of things.

Fact #1: The Super Bowl made American sports what they are today.

Did you know that football didn't always allow the forward pass? And that each team put 15 men on the field? And that President Theodore Roosevelt almost outlawed the game in 1905, because 18 people died that year playing it? Good thing the modern game has clear rules and required helmets (they were optional in the college game until 1939), making football 100% safe to play.

Pro football's organizational setup was just as crazy until the Super Bowl came along. The NFL was seen as a weird older-guys version of college football until University of Illinois star Red Grange joined the Chicago Bears in the 1920s, and after that the pro game still went through decades of multiple leagues and haphazard scheduling. Order finally started to take shape when the NFL and AFL agreed to merge by 1970, and hold a yearly NFL-AFL championship game beginning in 1966, in the hopes of the new title game being pro football's most adorable bloodbath yet.

Somebody came up with the placeholder name "Super Bowl" for the game, which stuck. Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls for the NFL, which left everyone worrying that the AFL sucked too hard to make the big game interesting. Then the underdog New York Jets won Super Bowl III for the AFL (as guaranteed by quarterback 'Broadway' Joe Namath) and convinced everyone that the Super Bowl should be the biggest pro football game in America for the next half-century.

The Super Bowl thrilled sports audiences, mixing the interleague clash of a World Series with the one-night-only drama of a college bowl game. And with the Super Bowl tying the NFL and AFL together, the combined league could focus its energy on destroying upstarts like the USFL and Vince McMahon's XFL on the way to becoming the biggest thing in American sports. College football became the NFL's free farm system, all the major TV networks battled for the well-organized pro game's broadcasting rights, and the days of boxing and horse racing being a big deal gave way to grown men spending four hours in the freezing cold with foam cheese wedges on their heads.

The Super Bowl is the marquee event that unified and popularized the single pro football league that dominates American sports. Yeah, sure, other sports have fans and stuff. But only the NFL created gambling and fantasy football businesses worth hundreds of billions of dollars, without actively trying to do so. That's a better measure of popularity than any NASCAR attendance number or asterisk-riddled baseball record book will ever be.

So the Super Bowl's clearly America's biggest sporting event, but does that mean anything outside of sports?