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A look at the history of the Super Bowl

February 6, 2023

The Super Bowl is one of America’s most popular sporting events, garnering around 100 million live viewers each year. Its appeal goes beyond the field, with extravagant halftime shows and cinematic commercials, but it wasn’t always this grand.

This year’s game will be at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be a game that is both tied to a long history and is historic in that it will be the first time in the National Football League’s history where two Black quarterbacks will start.

As the state of Arizona and the rest of the nation gear up for the big game, Victoria Jackson, clinical assistant professor of history at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and a renowned sports historian, answered our burning questions about the Super Bowl’s past, present and future.

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you tell me a little bit about the first Super Bowl? What would people not recognize? 

Victoria Jackson stands in a desert wearing a sun devils athletics tank and has her hair pulled back in a ponytail.

Victoria Jackson, clinical assistant professor of history.

Answer: This, believe it or not, is a trick question. Packers fans will tell you the first Super Bowl was in 1967 and won by Green Bay, and Jets fans will tell you that technically the first Super Bowl was in 1969. ... Yes, it wasn’t until the third meeting of the champions of the National Football League and the American Football League that the game was dubbed the Super Bowl, and following that game, the leagues merged and the former NFL and AFL became conferences within the NFL, the NFC and AFC.

So, yes, Green Bay, defeating Kansas City 35–10, won the retroactively named first Super Bowl. ... The game was played in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, the iconic stadium that opened 100 years ago this year.

Q: What can you tell us about the other times the Super Bowl was hosted in Arizona, in 1996, 2007 and 2015?

A: Well, this year should have been the 30th anniversary of the time Arizona first hosted the Super Bowl, but it is not. ... The first Super Bowl in Arizona was planned for 1993 but did not happen until three years later, in 1996. Public and corporate pressure convinced NFL owners to vote in 1991 to relocate the 1993 game from Sun Devil Stadium to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Why? Because Arizona voters had rejected Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid state holiday. Arizona had (already) had the holiday; Gov. Bruce Babbitt established it in Arizona with Executive Order 86-5 after President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the day a national holiday in 1986. But when Evan Mecham became governor in 1987, he rescinded Babbitt’s executive order. Meachum was impeached the next year, and in 1989 the state legislature passed a law to adopt the holiday … pending voter approval. Then voters rejected the holiday.

But here’s what happened next. Losing the Super Bowl played a role in keeping the holiday on subsequent state ballots. And in 1992, Arizonans voted to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue worked to broker a deal with then-Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, and Arizona did end up getting its first Super Bowl, though later than initially planned. Crucial to note here: The Super Bowl also got Arizonans Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This was not the first time interest convergence in football forced racial progress in the United States, nor would it be the last.

And, in a great coincidence of history, Arizona will now be hosting the first Super Bowl featuring two Black starting quarterbacks — Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes ... and Jalen Hurts.

Q: How has the Super Bowl changed over the years?

A: The 1990s really was the period when the Super Bowl halftime show became the "Super Bowl Halftime Show" and the spectacle of celebrity musical performance expanded audiences beyond sports fans and made the Super Bowl a massive cultural phenomenon. ... The ads are the other piece that made the Super Bowl the spectacular event it is today. The iconic commercials that air during the Super Bowl? Apple deserves the credit for creating the genre of unexpected, cinematic Super Bowl commercials with the iconic “1984” ad introducing the MacIntosh computer. The commercial was a Chiat/Day concept and directed by Ridley Scott.

Of course the Super Bowl’s center remains the football game, but the ads and the halftime show have made the event super and spectacularly American. Just try not to be stuck outside of the U.S. on Super Bowl Sunday if you want to tune in and enjoy the full experience; the global feed does not include the ads.

Q: With so many safety concerns raised in recent years, do you see the game evolving?

A: I don’t think anyone could have predicted less than a decade ago when the NFL and the game of football faced an existential crisis over concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that the NFL would be enjoying the financial and popular success it enjoys today. The NFL enjoys the most valuable franchises, the greatest annual revenues, the biggest media rights deals and the most viewers who tune in. Concussions continue, but the concussion crisis was temporary, at least to the premier professional league of the sport.

Football is an inherently dangerous sport. The danger in football won’t go away. ... If you tune into a game of American football, you are accepting that you are watching athletes play a game that puts them at risk, and at a category of risk that sets this sport apart from most others. ... Concussions and sub-concussive hits, which some researchers believe may contribute to the development of CTE, are still part of the game, with strong protocols in place. ...

The greatest evolution in the game we have seen has been a transformation in the players, an expansion of what it means to be a football player and what it means to be a "manly" man. The expressions of concern, compassion and love for Damar Hamlin, and the Bills and Bengals together deciding to end the game after Hamlin’s heart had stopped, capture this new expansive embodying of football manliness among these young men. This is the evolution in the game worth celebrating.

Top photo by Juan Salamanca via Pexels.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator , School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

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The state of artificial creativity

February 6, 2023

AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence share their thoughts on content-generating technologies

​If you have been on social media in the past month, you may have been tempted to submit your photo to a content-generating website to see yourself transformed into a futuristic cyborg, a pop-art portrait or a mystical woodland creature. Or, you may have explored the depths of your imagination to pull the most obscure themes you could think of to see what image the technology could dream up.

With the help of artificial intelligence, or AI, all of this creativity is possible and accessible at the click of a button.

Content-generating AI technologies have kickstarted a global conversation, with tools like Lensa AIDALL·EChatGPT and GPT-3 dominating headlines. While these platforms are helping users access their inner artists and writers, they are also sparking a heated debate on a range of topics from privacy to academia to national security.

RELATED: The pros and cons of ChatGPT

AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, shared their perspectives on these technologies.

What is content-generating AI?

Chitta Baral, a professor of computer science and engineering, believes it is important to step back and analyze this technology by “taking the ‘A’ out of ‘AI.’”

“When we just look at intelligence, we’re trying to simulate or mimic human intelligence and achieve the same result in an artifact, robot or program,” Baral says. “The main themes of intelligence are if these tools can learn, reason and understand, which we are constantly striving for in the AI community.”

Lensa AI and DALL·E are examples of tools that generate images. Lensa AI reimagines and edits existing photos submitted by a user and DALL·E uses its own content database to generate unique images based on a brief description provided by the user.

Generative pre-trained transformer, known as GPT-3, uses deep learning and natural language processing, or NLP, to write human-like text. Examples of this have been seen in a broad range of applications from recipe writing to producing a scientific research paper using Meta’s Galactica tool — a practice that faced immediate backlash and was removed due to concerns about accuracy and misinformation.

Leaders from ASU’s Enterprise Technology team also weighed in on the advancement of these technologies. 

“AI is already being used on campus successfully to support learners with tasks such as financial aid guidance through services like Sunny, ASU’s AI chatbot," says Allison Hall, senior director of learning experience. "The question now is how these kinds of advancements in generative AI can be leveraged to further assist learners, as well as faculty and staff, to accelerate progress without sacrificing the undeniable need for human-driven critical thinking.”

Baral says what AI still lacks is context and reasoning, factors that are crucial in elevating these technologies to the next level of content-generating capabilities.

“Most of the time, AI-generated information makes sense, but the human brain can discern when context is missing and is able to tell this content apart from human-generated content,” he says.

Baral notes that holes in communication generated by AI technologies can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication, resulting in material that can potentially be problematic or insensitive.

Addressing concerns

Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor of computer science and nationally renowned AI thought leader, believes the risk that image-generating tools pose when they are in the wrong hands should be alarming to the general public.

He notes that while Lensa AI, DALL·E, GPT-3 and, more recently, ChatGPT are receiving national attention, they are among dozens of similar tools, some of which are not supervised. Many of these platforms take an open source approach, like Stable Diffusion, allowing the users to run the systems on their personal machines.

“While DALL·E has a filter to remove any violent, sexist or racist prompts, many other AI tools do not have regulations in place,” Kambhampati says. “There is no limit to the upsetting, potentially dangerous or explicit content that can be created. Once Pandora’s box is open, it can be very challenging to get the lid back on.”

Outside of creating generally misleading or offensive photos, Kambhampati says the lack of regulated images also has the potential to create political tension and even to go as far as create national security risks. He says some of the images appear so realistic that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart from authentic photos. The same has been seen in deepfakes, which use a kind of AI called deep learning to alter videos and fabricate events.

For example, Kambhampati explains that AI tools could generate images of political leaders appearing to share confidential documents, shaking hands with controversial business executives or having seemingly cheerful conversations with disputed politicians. This material could have the power to impact elections or alter relationships between sparring countries.

On the creative end of the spectrum, AI-generated artwork is winning national competitions and artists’ work is being used without their knowledge to train AI algorithms, causing an uproar among working artists.

Among the creative community, impacts of AI advancements are raising concerns that the roles of artists and writers could become obsolete. YooJung Choi, an assistant professor of computer science, believes there will always be room for humans in the creative world. She compares the phenomenon to the creation of the camera, which she notes did not destroy the art of painting but only evolved it from hyper-realism to modern art  a form cameras were not able to replicate. Anticipating a similar evolution for artists and writers, we must wait and see what they bring to the table that AI cannot.

Future advancement

As AI technologies continue to improve, countries are taking notice and passing legislation to establish more consistent regulations.

In the meantime, researchers like Baoxin Li, a professor of computer science, are addressing solutions to verify AI-generated content.

“Most fake media out there is fairly easy to detect, but the issue is that the technology is getting better and better,” he says. “When countries are investing funding and manpower in producing this content for terrorism-like activity and the average person can’t tell the difference, it becomes a very serious issue.”

Li and his visual representation and processing student research group are exploring the defense angle of image verification, building technologies to define and detect AI-generated content.

Looking at machine learning and AI systems, Li and his team are also researching how to make these systems more robust. By improving these systems’ ability to identify fake images on their own, Li can embed an added layer of defense if potential attacks go undetected.

“An example of this could be someone using a deepfake or AI-generated image to try to gain access through facial recognition software,” he says. “With teams to actively defend against adversarial attacks and mechanisms in place to make systems less vulnerable, attacks are harder to accomplish.”

Although there are important concerns to address as AI technologies continue to advance, AI experts in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence also see great potential.

“If used in the right way, AI can help bridge the gap between anything humans can imagine in our wildest dreams and the ability to make it a reality,” Kambhampati says.

Top image created by Erika Gronek/ASU.

Annelise Krafft

Communications Specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering