In 1970, Sears was the king of retail. Pan American, Eastern and TWA ruled the skies. Bethlehem Steel employed more than 120,000 people across the country.
The NFL had just completed its fourth Super Bowl, with the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, before 80,562 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Tickets (which were the first to carry the name "Super Bowl") cost about $15.
Thirty-five years later, tickets for next Sunday's Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, the league's 39th, have a face value of $500. The game has become an unofficial national holiday, and nothing comes close to the hype that's generated during the week leading up to the game.
Sears, meanwhile, is being taken over by Kmart. Pan Am, Eastern and TWA are out of business, as is Bethlehem Steel.
Back in 1970, when the NFL was just starting its rise to become the most successful sports business in the nation - maybe even the world - you'd have been laughed out of any corporate boardroom if you had predicted that those five icons of American capitalism would be gobbled up or be gone.
So 35 years from now, is it even remotely possible that the NFL - and the Super Bowl - will have gone the way of Sears?
"The answer to that question is no," said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports and now a consultant to the TV industry. "Sears doesn't get 60 ratings points a week."
But former Ravens principal owner Art Modell, an early architect of the NFL's success, said there is one thing that could take the league down. "Greed," he said, "is the one element that could destroy the NFL."
To predict the NFL's future, you have to look at its past.
The league was founded in a Canton, Ohio, car dealership in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association. In the early years, its popularity was far behind that of baseball, horse racing, even college football.
When asked how the NFL came to be such a dominating presence in the culture, experts cite a number of factors, including the league's business model and gambling. And all agree that two of the most important are television and that each team plays a limited number of games.
"I think what happened is pro football figured out earlier than any other sport how to manage television and use television to its own advantage," said Michael MacCambridge, author of America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.
Made for TV
Said John Madden, analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football, which has been on the air since 1970, making it the second-longest-running TV series in prime time: "It is the perfect sport to televise. We have change of possession, and there's a timeout every change of possession, and there's a commercial. That's what pays for everything."
Even though Pilson's pedigree is in TV, he said the most important reason for the NFL's success is that every game is critical.
"In baseball, you play 162 games; in basketball and hockey you play more than 80 games," he said. "In professional football, you play 16 games. That tends to focus everyone's attention. It dramatically emphasizes the importance of each game. And when you are talking about the importance of each game, you start talking about the importance of each play."
Taking it one step further was Steve Bornstein, president and chief executive of the NFL Network, which was launched by the league in November 2003 with the mission of promoting the NFL.
"They kept the sport very special," said Bornstein, who made his mark in the TV business as a builder of ESPN and as president of ABC Sports. "They didn't play every day of the week. They concentrate their games on Sunday; they create a scarcity of opportunity to see it."
After Modell bought the Cleveland Browns in 1961, he and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle persuaded the league's 13 other owners to equally share the money they got from their national TV contract.
Beginning in the 1963 season, every team started each year with essentially the same amount of money. The Green Bay Packers could compete with the New York Giants or the Los Angeles Rams.
Recently, owners such as Daniel Snyder of the Washington Redskins and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys have pushed for less sharing of some locally generated revenues and more freedom to make their own deals.
According to Modell, "Revenue sharing is the key to our success.
"George Steinbrenner is a very dear friend of mine," Modell added. "I'm preaching to him all the time that baseball has to adopt some of the NFL techniques. You can't gobble up every nickel and every player. You'll wash out the little guy; you won't have the competition.
"The thing that sells sports is competition. Competition is what makes our game great."
Madden talked about free agency, another key to competitive balance. A team that's down doesn't have to stay down for a long time.
He cited the Carolina Panthers, who were 1-15 in 2001, then reached the Super Bowl and nearly won it two years later.