More of a great memory revisited than an insightful docu, HBO's "The Wild Ride to Super Bowl 1" surfs upcoming Big Game's hype wave as it replays the 1967 Packers-Chiefs title game through memories of several participants. Footage of gridiron warriors just doesn't have the social resonance this project covets from the first frame onward.

More of a great memory revisited than an insightful documentary, HBO’s “The Wild Ride to Super Bowl 1″ surfs the upcoming Big Game’s hype wave as it replays the 1967 Packers-Chiefs title game through the memories of several participants. Despite the determined efforts of producers who want to liken the inaugural battle to a shift in American sensibilities and a foreteller of more complex times, the footage of gridiron warriors like Max McGee, Fred Williamson, Len Dawson and Boyd Dowler — while a blast to watch — just doesn’t have the social resonance this project covets from the first frame onward.

“Ride” tries to place the competition within the framework of a society that is undergoing significant change. Indeed, there is film of Lyndon Johnson on the White House lawn; there is brief mention of the Vietnam War; and there’s even an interview with astronaut Wally Schirra, who recalls the mood of America at the time when three died in a grounded fire aboard Apollo 1.

But all of this culture association is a stretch, since the Super Bowl has never been a reflection of the times in the manner of say, music, fashion or film. The more fascinating element here was the AFL-NFL merger itself, which, while certainly featured as a backdrop here, could have been the subject of a more substantial documentary on its own.

The union forced a “stepchild” attitude that became the main reason Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi felt pressure to demolish Kansas City (The Pack won 35-10). At the time, the NFL, home to powers like the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, felt embarrassed and peeved that commissioner Pete Rozelle had agreed to align with a weaker league with inferior teams and talent.

The Lombardi-K.C. coach Hank Stram showdown becomes the real focus of “Wild Ride,” as the two, Lombardi a cranky warrior and Stram a Napoleonic clown, sniped at each other and each other’s conferences through a group of journalists who collectively pale in comparison to today’s global coverage.

The actual game, named after a Super Ball toy, took place on Jan. 15, 1967, at the L.A. Coliseum. The differences between then and now are astounding: Tickets ranged from $6 to $12, two networks (CBS and NBC) carried the game, 30,000 seats went unfilled and Los Angeles was blacked out. Thirty-second ads cost a “mere” $42,000.

As with most sports docus — at which HBO is becoming the undisputed leader based on volume and chosen moments — the collection of participants for “The Wild Ride” is its greatest asset. Hearing Williamson talk about his “Hammer” sensibilities, watching a press conference with Rozelle and Lamar Hunt or listening to tales of night-before drunken partying from McGee are as vital to the doc’s attitude as the game’s original broadcast, minutes of which have been restored to almost pristine quality.

The Wild Ride to Super Bowl 1

HBO, Mon. Jan. 26, 10 p.m.

Production

Filmed in various locations by HBO and NFL Films. Executive producers, Ross Greenburg, Rick Bernstein, Steve Sabol; producer-directors, Ray Didinger, Jeff Hillegass, Steve Seidman.

Crew

60 MIN. Narrator: Liev Schreiber.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more