May 31, 2013, - 5:24 pm
Today, Joe Namath–one of my favorite athletes of all time and definitely my favorite NFL player–turns 70.
This pic, which I love, is on my fridge . . .
Yes, he had his drunk moment asking Suzy Kolber to kiss him on national TV. But that’s not the Joe Willie Namath I’m talking about. The Joe Namath I’m talking about is the cool, fur-coat-wearing (and sometimes pantyhose-wearing, but for warmth only) man of the ’69s and ’70s. He exuded cool.
The swagger, the ego was all part of it. And so was his very cool autobiography, which he had the chutzpah to write at just 26 years old, “I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow … ‘Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day.” It featured his mug on the front cover and the actual title on the back cover–all meant to put an egomania out there that was more show than reality. But, still, very cool. (I bought a copy at a used book store after I spied one on the coffee table at the Los Angeles apartment of my friend, former Wisconsin Badger football player, Chris Kennedy. My copy is signed by the late Dick Schaap, who co-wrote it, but I want Namath’s John Hancock, too.) It’s got chapters like, “I Like My Girls Blond and My Johnnie Walker Red,” and “Some of My Best Friends Are Arabs” (about three drinking buddies, business partners, and pals of Lebanese Christian descent, whom he called, “my Arab legion”).
Get Yours . . .
Yes, I’m way too young to have been alive or old enough to be cognizant of much of Namath’s career. But I learned about and liked him afterward, when I’d see him as a TV commentator or an actor on cheesy TV shows. He was the man. And that’s the man to whom I’m wishing a Happy 70th Birthday, today–a life milestone we all hope to achieve and then some.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I was somewhat disappointed in some of the later Joe Namath, like his November 2006 appearance on “60 Minutes” to “repent” for his alcohol-laden Suzy Kolber incident on ESPN. Here was my comment then:
Did we really need to see Joe Namath cry and hear that he has an imaginary friend? Yet another man’s man deconstructed to girlie-man. Liked him better like this, when at age 26, he wrote his autobiography.
Unfortunately, today, we expect feminized men, not the masculine, real men that Joe Namath represented–the American men of the ’60s and ’70s who weren’t hippies and jerks. That’s why you see the Namaths and Terry Bradshaws crying on national TV and telling us how they’re getting in touch with their inner selves.
The showmen–the Broadway Joe Willie Namaths of yesteryear–are gone. No more guys so masculine like Namath, that wearing a fur coat only highlighted his Pennsylvania blue-collar, coal-mining upbringing. He was a man’s man. But no more of that great American story, in which blue collar man makes good and shows us his bravado on and off the field in a good way.
Nope. Today, in the NFL, what rules is rap, drugs, and babydaddies fathering a gazillion kids with a bajillion different women. Namath married one woman, and though they divorced, he had two kids with that same woman and only that woman. He also raised both his daughters (who lived with him) and is now a grandfather. And he never had a criminal record or wasted his life savings on a collection of Nike Air Jordans.
Can’t say the same for most of the NFL players today. (And most of them are destined for bankruptcy.)
Happy Birthday, Joe Namath. I like that guy.
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