The Super Bowl Could Have Been In Rock Island
No, you haven't hit your head, or been abducted by Doctor Who. The story below is a 'what if?' scenario, an alternate reality of sorts that could have come true but for a fateful decision in 1926.
ROCK ISLAND, IL - The Rock Island Independents became the first host team to win a Super Bowl title yesterday with a win over the Cleveland Browns in Super Bowl LI. The victory by one of the founding teams of the National Football League, just blocks from the site of the first ever NFL game, made for a christening gift of sorts for their new John Deere Field stadium on 11th Street in Rock Island. The site of the former Watch Tower Plaza was cleared by the city as part of a controversial plan led by Mayor Dennis Pauley to make way for the league's newest state-of-the-art stadium.
The Rock Island Independents were a real football team, and a founding member of the National Football League when it first formed as the American Professional Football Association. It's also true that on October 3, 1920, nearly 3,100 fans watched the first game between two NFL teams at Rock Island's historic Douglas Park, still located at 18th Ave and 9th Street. The Independents defeated the Muncie Flyers, 45-0.
According to Wikipedia, The Independents were a dominant team, and Rock Island a popular place to play amongst the league's players, but that all came to an end when they made the fateful decision to jump to the first iteration of the American Football League when it formed in 1926. They were the only NFL team to make the move to the rival league formed by a disgruntled C.C. Pyle when he was denied an NFL franchise.
The new AFL floundered and finally folded after just one season, and the Rock Island Independents disappeared into history, while the NFL grew into the most popular league in America.
As you watch the real Super Bowl this weekend, imagine how different the Quad Cities might be today if the Rock Island Independents had survived and thrived, and actually hosted Super Bowl LI at a John Deere Stadium in Rock Island.