Mad Men: the Era of Don Draper was formative for major sports leagues – Metro US

Mad Men: the Era of Don Draper was formative for major sports leagues

Mad Men: the Era of Don Draper was formative for major sports leagues
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Mad Men sheds light on the palpable impact the 1960s (and early 70s) had as a formative time period for the culture we know today.

And just as social norms, politics and the world of advertising experienced a critical period during the Mad Men era, so too did the world of sports.

From humble beginnings, the juggernauts and billion dollar industries that are the NFL, NBA and NHL seem to have had their unofficial births while Don Draper was at the height of his success (and struggles). And Major League Baseball continued as America’s pastime, with the upstart Mets and slugging Yankees battling for New York City supremacy.

Here’s a look at how the sports world has changed in the last 45 years:


The Pete Rozelle era took the NFL from a fringe professional league (college football was previously king) to the giant of industry and culture it is today. In 1960, the NFL had just 10 teams, and had its hands full competing for players and ratings against the AFL’s 10 teams. But a merger in 1966 set the two leagues on a course to join together, and after the Packers beat the Chiefs in front of a half-empty stadium in Super Bowl I the league picked up steam. Three million people went to pro football games in all of 1960; 114.4 million watched the Patriots beat the Seahawks in January. The league reported revenue of $9.5 billion in 2013.


The 1960s were dominated by one team: the Celtics. The Bill Russell-led squad won nine of the possible 10 championships in the decade. The early part of the 60s were Wilt Chamberlain’s best years, as the 7-footer averaged a ridiculous 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds in 1961-62. In March of 1962, he scored 100 points. The league grew in popularity due in part to its stars, but would hit a road block in the 1970s. Luckily for the league, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would come to the rescue in the 1980s.


When the decade began, the NHL was comprised only of the original six. Then in the mid 1960s, the league expanded to include six more teams (in part to squash competition from the Western Hockey League). The Red Wings’ Gordie Howe and Blackhawks’ Bobby Hull were the superstars of the era but teams from Canada, the Canadians and Maple Leafs won eight of the decade’s 10 titles. The game would grow in popularity in the 70s after expansion teams like the Flyers began to play competitively, and even more in the 80s after the Miracle on Ice.


Major League Baseball was in the midst of a spectacular decade, one that Draper himself could have enjoyed. The Yankees, led by Mickey Mantle, dominated the early part of the 60s while the miracle Mets in 1969 won a championship after just seven years of existence. The years in the middle showcased some of the best pitching the game would ever see, with Sandy Koufax thrilling with his exceptional curveball and Bob Gibson posting an ERA of 1.12 in 1968.

Boxing, golf

Before it fell off the map as a major sport, there wasn’t a more popular pastime in the 60s than boxing. And with race relations reaching a fevered pitch and the Vietnam War heating up, Muhammad Ali dazzled with his performance in the ring and his words outside of it, as did Joe Fraizer. The 60s were also the era of Jack Nicklaus (who unseated Arnold Palmer as the world’s best golfer).

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