How ‘Broadway Joe’ put the glitz in the Super Bowl
MIKE VINSON, Guest Columnist
Sunday, January 29, 2012 3:44 am
Fate has dealt a great hand to die-hard football fans: The New York Giants will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI – and what a game it promises to be!
Sports analysts predict Super Bowl XLVI could command a record number of viewers.
Too, it’s likely that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will go into the game with a revenge-type “chip on his shoulder,” stemming back to Super Bowl XLII in 2008, when Brady and his Patriots lost to Eli Manning and his Giants.
As a sports fan, the 2008 Super Bowl XLII was the best Super Bowl game I ever have watched.
With approximately 30 seconds left to play, and the Patriots ahead 14-10, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, having survived several near-sacks, took the snap and managed to complete a 13-yard “desperation” pass to Plaxico Burress for a touchdown, making it 17-14, securing a victory for the Giants, while ruining a chance for a perfect season for the Patriots.
However, the Super Bowl game I deem the most pivotal in the history of pro football goes back many years, to Super Bowl III in 1969 and a cool-cat quarterback named Joe Willie Namath.
Hailing from Beaver Falls, Pa., Namath led Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide football team to the Division I national college championship in 1964. A rebel, Namath had numerous run-ins with the no-nonsense Bryant. But, they managed to remain close friends until Bryant’s death in 1983.
Upon leaving the University of Alabama, Namath was taken in the first round of the 1964 draft by the American Football League’s New York Jets and signed for a then-record salary of $427,000.
Namath earned the AFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1965. He became the first pro quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season, passing for 4,007 in 1967 (when there were only 14 regular-season games).
After signing with the Jets, Namath set up posh bachelor’s quarters in a penthouse apartment – complete with a llama rug – in the upscale section of 76th and First Avenue.
Sporting a Fu Manchu mustache (which Remington Razor Blades paid him $10,000 to shave off in a television commercial), wearing a full-length mink coat on the sideline during games, and dating a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous women, some of them well-known actresses, it wasn’t long before Namath became the toast of New York City, the press flatteringly nicknaming him “Broadway Joe.”
However, the pinnacle of Namath’s career, indeed, came on Jan. 12, 1969, when he led the AFL champion New York Jets to a 16-7 win over the much-favored NFL champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Until that fateful day, football critics and analysts were of the opinion that, in terms of football quality, the AFL wasn’t on the same level with the NFL, and the AFL didn’t deserve the opportunity to merge with the NFL.
Still, many thought the 1969 Baltimore Colts was the “greatest football team in history.”
Though records and memories may vary a bit, the Jets were somewhere around a four-touchdown underdog to the Colts. A few days before Super Bowl III, Joe Namath cockily declared, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.”
Though Namath’s guarantee made headline news all across the country, most felt it was booze-fueled bravado. Mass opinion was the Colts would soundly trounce the Jets, and Namath would look like a fool.
Not only was the New York Jets’ 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts the biggest upset in Super Bowl history, Joe Namath’s clairvoyant guarantee of a victory, I feel, helped to add just enough glitz to make the Super Bowl what it is today: the most-watched sporting event in the world.
(NOTE: By today’s standard, Super Bowl III is considered the first actual Super Bowl.)