It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. And when you’re right as often as I am, it’s even harder because you don’t get much practice. But I’ve been wrong about Joe Namath. More times than I’d care to mention. But here goes.
Most recently, I was both gladdened but also a little saddened by Broadway Joe’s recent announcement that he hasn’t touched a drop of sweet, soul-nourishing alcohol since the infamous Suzy Kolber incident. Glad that he used that rock bottom episode as a moment of clarity to reassess his life. Sad to lose one of the true legends of the party game:
Joe Namath was one of the all time greats. A barroom hero at a time when they were celebrated as almost mythical figures in American culture. Those men whose livers helped defined who we were as a people. From the Don Draper days to Sinatra and his Rat Pack to the three martini business lunches of the 70s. From the cocaine-fueled Reagan Era to the infamous White House of the Dallas Cowboys 90s dynasty. From Dean Martin to Delta House to Barney Gumbel, the Unrepentant Boozebag was an icon.
And Joe Namath was a patron saint in the Church of the Highly Functioning Drunk. Two generations lived vicariously through him. Whether he was scoring Manhattan cocktail waitresses by the dozens, starring as the title character the landmark biker film “C.C. & Company” or during the Aging Lothario portion of his career, as the saying goes, men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him.
But jeez, there’s no denying sobriety has been good for him. And helped usher in the Wise Elder Statesman portion of his career. Because he’s a bright guy and always was. But has never sounded smarter than he did today.
Second, I may have used Namath as an example a time or two of my theory that every Hall of Fame should designate one member as their official LDI, Least Deserving Inductee. Use that person as a benchmark. So in order to get elected, you have to be at least better than them. Ralph Kiner in baseball. Randy Newman in Rock ‘n Roll, and so on. And I’ve said that any quarterback with a career record of 62-63-4, with 173 TD, 220 INTs and a Passer Rating of 65.5 is as good a choice as any for Canton’s LDI. I now officially take that back. The honor is all yours now, Lynn “237th in Receiving Yards, 117th in TDs, one All Pro season” Swann.
And I may have suggested that Joe lived off that Super Bowl III guarantee for the last 50 years. That he’s a One Hit Wonder and that one quote was the “If You Could Only See” to his Tonic. Certainly Jets fans have been. But I realize now that I was too harsh toward Namath. He’s a mensch. With a keen eye for evaluating football. And also one of the greats who recognizes a fellow great. Game recognizing game.
Granted, this will not sit well with those fans who’ve been doing that living off his one success for all of their lives. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to hear our most beloved civic treasure praising the man we hate more than anyone else. If say, Larry Bird came out and declared that Lebron is the best that’s ever played the game while Stern seaid he’s never seen him fail, I don’t know if I could stand to face the sunrise tomorrow. Good for the city that Stern is no longer doing terrestrial radio in New York with 25% of all commuters listening to him in the car. Every highwway in and out of the five boroughs would degenerate into “Fury Road.” Thoughts and prayers to them in this difficult time.
So please accept my apologies for being so wrong about this remarkably astute man. America needs Sober Joe Namath now more than ever.