May 31, 2013, - 5:24 pm

Happy 70th Broadway Joe Willie Namath, My Fave NFL Player Ever – Back Then, He Was a Man’s Man

By Debbie Schlussel

Today, Joe Namath–one of my favorite athletes of all time and definitely my favorite NFL player–turns 70.


Front & Back Covers of Best Joe Namath Autobiography

(From the Library)

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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26 Responses

There’ll never be another player like him.

As it is, today’s players are playing Daddy to multiple kids out of wedlock and the rest of them are headed to prison.

They don’t make the NFL like they used to. Joe Namath testifies to what’s wrong with pro sports, including pro football today.

They don’t got game and they don’t got sportsmanship! Namath could teach today’s athletes a thing or two about those qualities.

I join Debbie in wishing him a Happy 70th birthday!

NormanF on May 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm


    I wanted to wish Joe a Happy Birthday, May 31th.
    I know him from Hofstra, held the door for him,
    and was his friend. My name is Robert E. Judge.
    Author, “My eyes have seen the glory”, he has a copy
    gave to the Jets office to give him.[]
    May 30, 2015

    Robert E. Judge on May 30, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Nice one Debbie! He will always be my favorite football player too! After more than 40 years, Super Bowl III is still one of the happiest days of my life. Happy birthday Joe!

JohnF on May 31, 2013 at 5:52 pm

He’s such a 70’s fixture to me (and I mean that as a HIGH compliment as I LOOOOOVE the 70’s very much!) that I have to like him but I don’t know much about him…except to concur he was indeed manly.

There is a stasis right now (yet the worm is turning and the water getting ever so warmer in our pot o’ toads…) but you’re dreaming if one thinks this road we are on in 2013 is a good road.

Women now being 41% the breadwinners…making more money than their hen-pecked men who are more likely useless baby-daddies these days and not even in the same building as real men. Single baby mamas who dismiss men and deny their very children a strong male influence gifting them the shaky foundation of years of affective disorders, narcissism and an ability to function normally and healthfully.

As many wise peeps have pointed out many times here in the past, a society ruled by women is not a stable one.

But all in not lost for a universe full of nebbishy, girly-men. Women have never been so skanky and give it up easier than ever these days and for NOTHING. I wouldn’t give a crap but children are by-products of this dysfunctional and disgusting behaviour and they suffer and end up being dysfunctional adults. Rarely is the circle unbroken.

Women have become real shrews to their men and emasculate them and also can’t pick a real, good man to save their lives. I am not optimistic about the future. A matriarchal society is a doomed society.

Skunky on May 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Broadway Joe and his aura made a Jets fan of me. But the fact is that the Jets have never recovered when they lost him.

Ralph Adamo on May 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm

What’s definitely interesting also is how coal-mining regions of southwest Pennsylvania have produced so many HOF QBs:

Blanda, Unitas, Montana, Namath, Marino, Kelly

DS_ROCKS! on May 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I was in High School when Joe predicted the Jets Super Bowl win..remember that like it was yesterday. Didnt know it was his birthday today, glad he’s still around.

Jesse on May 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm

There are still a few good ones.

I’d say Peyton Manning who played here in Tennessee fits the mold. Not the “Broadway” image, but as a man’s man.

Russell Wilson of the Seahawks seems he might be in the same mold, too.

Jeff_W on May 31, 2013 at 8:28 pm

My favorite too, Debbie, Jets fan here since 1965, when I first saw his face and heard his name. I could go on and on about watching him play, and how I cringed watching him at age 31, 32, when he could no longer plant and was throwing with all arm. He was washed up by then, playing on inferior teams, and battered in to retirement at an early age, far more injured than today’s quarterbacks could ever be under current rules. My favorite too, Debbie. I could go on and on about how much I love this guy.

A friend my age said after the Suzy Kolber incident that back then she would have jumped at the chance to be with him, as so many others would and did. Other than that, it was just an unfortunate moment in time, that’s all, a guy who let certain things in life get away from him. Us Jets fans and our favorite team had our Day In The Sun, but alas, that was it. 44 years later, we still haven’t even made it to another Super Bowl.

I’ll leave it at that. Happy Birthday, Broadway Joe Namath.

Had the book you mentioned, and a couple others, Debbie. You might want to look up two called “The $427,000 Quarterback” and “Joe Namath’s Sportin’ Life.” Bought them all as soon as they came out.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on May 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I was more of an Ed Marinaro fan. He played running back and later became famous as Officer Joe Coffee on Hill Street Blues.
I am an admitted Jets fan but I do not think that we will ever see a Joe Klecko or NY Sack Exchange.

Namath is still a consultant to the team. Hopefully, he will convince management to oust Sanchez and Ryan.

AR on May 31, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Namath, as an tv analyst, once called a fake handoff to A running back ‘the sucker draw’…..still awesome and no one talks like that anymore


AnusPresley on May 31, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Like Mantle, he could have been even greater but was horribly betrayed by his knees. He also didn’t have the outrageous stats that today’s QBs have because there was more emphasis on running back then, receivers were fair game and not the hothouse flowers referees treat then like today, and Namath didn’t play in an era of the short passing game. But he could throw a ball a mile with pinpoint accuracy.

And as much as he cultivated the image of the swashbuckling Lothario, he was always a very smart student of the game. His prediction wasn’t boasting, it was an astute observation of something all the football experts were not seeing: the NFL, characterized by the Colts, had become a slow, methodical game. The AFL, was not only faster, more daring, and younger, they had become better players. The Jets win wasn’t luck: if they played that Super Bowl ten times, the Jets would’ve won ten times. In fact, Namath’s play that game was very conservative. The entire Jets team beat the Colts. Remember, Baltimore scored one touchdown the entire game. Namath knew this.

Once he decided to settle down, he settled down. He adores his daughters. He truly loved his wife, but she was much younger and wanted some limelight, and Joe wasn’t only older, but in a lot of pain. He admitted he was content to sit in front of the tv and drink a beer.

I felt bad for him with the comments to Suzie, but unlike many of today’s celebrities, he realized he’d made a fool of himself. A wise man learns from his mistakes.

Oh well, we had generations of men who knew that getting from point A to point B can be very hard, and were willing to pay the price and make the effort, and in the end, give the glory to someone else. We had generations of women wise enough to look for those type of men to share their lives with.

We now have a generation of Lil’ Wayne and Drake and Justin Beiber and Amanda Bynes and pop stars writing poems about terrorist murderers.

The Chinese are so laughing at us.

gmartinz on May 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Namath didn’t have Don Maynard for the Super Bowl. Maynard led the league in yards per catch with 22.8, had 10 TD’s, on 57 catches. He totaled 1,297 yards, second only to Lance Alworth by 15 yards, but Maynard played only 13 games. He missed the entire last game of the season, and although catching two important passes in the Championship Game with the Raiders, he still wasn’t himself.

On the first play of the game, Namath decided to scare the Colts. He threw a bomb to Maynard, who because he was hobbled, could not catch up to the ball. It did scare the Colts. The recently deceased George Sauer, a “possession receiver” who himself had a great season with 66 catches for 1,141 yards, torched the Colts with 8-133, while Maynard spent the rest of the game on the bench.

There are die hard Unitas fans who to this day try to say that if Johnny U. had been healthy, it would have been a different story. Bull-fuckin’-shit. With a healthy Don Maynard on the other side of George Sauer, the Jets would have unleashed nuclear war on the Colts. Earl Morrall had as good a year as Unitas ever had that season. Namath was for sure an incredible student of the game, one of the greatest readers of defenses of all time.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on May 31, 2013 at 11:36 pm

The Jets vs. Colts game was one of the best ever. I was the only believer in Joe amongst my friends. The Jets were 21 point underdogs eventhough Unitas was injured. Though I hate gambling, I couldn’t resist a sure thing. Being a Texan, I had another reason to pull for the Jets, there were 5 UT grads and 12 Texans on that team. Nearly all my friends hated Joe. They just couldn’t wait to watch him fail. As I collected my bets I rubbed it in with salt.

RIP George Sauer. It is amazing that he made it as a pro after playing for DKR at UT. DKR was famous for saying “3 things can happen when you throw the ball, and 2 of them are bad.” As a star Sauer walked away from the the pros in 1970, disillusioned by the games violence and how coaches treated players like children.

Jimbo on June 1, 2013 at 12:59 am

I remember him well. He could even be manly enough to pull off wearing panty hose! He made watching the Jets fun. But personally, my favorite QB was Bart Starr. With a perfect quarterback name like that; Vince Lambardi, and the rest of the Green Bay legends—how could you miss? Of course, we can’t forget “Dandy” Don Meridith, Roman Gabrael, Rodger Stahlbach, Leon Jawarski, Johnny “U” Unitis. Great quarterbacks and legends of the game. Those were days before all the primadonnas; when men played for the love of the sport come downpours, mud, or “frozen tundras”.

Paul on June 1, 2013 at 9:24 am

Debbie you and I are the same age so I don’t remmember much of Namaths playing days. I do remember seeing him on an episode of “The Brady Bunch”. He was so cool and my dad who was and still is a diehard football fan told me about him. I also like the classic sports channel because it had Superbowl III. You’re right Debbie he was a mans man along with guys like Bradshaw, Unitis, Starr, and Stahlbach. Now we have wussy quarterbacks like Brady and Romo. Happy 70th Joe you are one of a kind.

Ken b on June 1, 2013 at 10:32 am

I just want to clear something up before it becomes fixed in the minds of people who were not of age back in the Namath era, or who do not study statistics like a ravenous vulture the way I do.

The reason for the vast number of interceptions thrown by guys like Namath, Unitas, Daryle Lamonica of the Raiders etal, and the much lower completion percentages, was not because there was more of an emphasis on the running back, as one poster previously stated. Far from it. Yes, you had the “three yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy held by some teams mostly in what was then the NFL. That’s right, there was the NFL and the AFL.

Take a look at the Yards Per Completion statistic, NOT Yards Per Attempt. Yards per attempt statistics remain virtually unchanged, and is really a bogus statistic, since you are accounting for incomplete passes and interceptions in trying to form a numeric perception. Why the NFL continues to use this statistic as something meaningful is beyond me, and there are those who have sharply criticized its use over the past 15 years or so.

Namath and his contemporaries played a longer passing game. Guys like Namath, Unitas and Lamonica had mammoth Yards Per Completion statistics compared to the quarterbacks of today. There was no such thing as a Yard After Catch statistic, because it didn’t happen. Guys caught the ball way downfield, and were either tackled immediately, took a couple steps in to the end zone, or were knocked out of bounds.

There was no such thing as the “dink and dunk” offense, also referred to as The West Coast Offense, where plays were set up to gain a plethora of yards after a short, more “efficient” pass play was made. Along came The Kansas City Chiefs who took over supremacy in the AFL, with a quarterback named Len Dawson. Dawson’s completion percentage was much higher than his contemporaries, and the Chiefs played to get things set up for the short passing game. This was the beginning of the change.

The argument is made today that because interceptions have virtually vanished as a statistic and completion percentages of less than 65% are considered paltry, that it is a more efficient, and therefore more effective game. Did you get that? It coincides greatly with the rise of the corporation in America to godlike status. With the advent of the 1980’s, corporate dress codes were ushered in, taking calls at home as early as 7 a.m. became increasingly frequent, and the expectation that one would make the corporate environment the centerpiece of their life became the norm.

That’s what happened in the NFL. Did you ever hear of a quarterback who could throw five interceptions in a game, and yet his team only lost by two points? Or who could throw six in a game, and hold the other team to a tie? Namath and the Jets tied the Houston Oilers 28-28 in 1967, the first time in his career that Namath threw six in one game. In the following season, the Super Bowl year, Namath had been asked to cut down on his interceptions and run a more balanced attack.

Namath responded by throwing only 15 TD passes all season, with 17 interceptions. Each of those categories was 11 less than the prior year. 13 of his interceptions came in the Jets three losses, with Namath throwing five in one game twice. In each of those games, the Jets lost by only two points. Unheard of today, where by the time a QB throws his third of the game, his team is usually on its way to being slaughtered.

Brett Favre is called a gunslinger. Brett Favre is, and statistics will bear me out, numbers don’t lie, simply one of the greatest dink and dunk passers of all time, who could also unleash a huge bomb almost at any given moment to drive an arrow in to the heart of the opposing team. But his Yards Per Completion statistics pale in comparison to guys like Namath, Lamonica and John Hadl of the San Diego Chargers.

Namath did indeed balance the attack more during the 1968 season as opposed to previous years, at one point going six consecutive games without throwing a TD pass. The Jets won five of those games. But his Yards Per Completion rate was 16.83, a gargantuan number compared to anyone that has come along since the 80’s style corporate football mentality was introduced. It’s a much shorter passing game nowadays, simply put, relying on Yards After Catch rather than the length of the pass.

Another case in point is Namath’s favorite target, “Country” Don Maynard, a wiry Texan who has a book out called You Can’t Catch Sunshine. Don Maynard had deceptive but tremendous speed, and was never caught from behind during his AFL/NFL career. His Yards Per Catch lifetime of 18.7, while not the best of his era, was far beyond the receivers of the past three decades. It took Jerry Rice a LONG time to break Maynard’s record of 50, 100+ yard games.

Lance Alworth, Bob Hayes, Paul Warfield, look up their lifetime Yards Per Catch rates. Staggering statistics compared to today’s receivers. Back then, a “possession” receiver like George Sauer had higher Yards Per Catch than the “bomb threats” in today’s game. Today’s passing game is shorter, more efficient, more “corporate” if you will, that’s the difference.

Interceptions are not a good thing, for sure, and Namath threw a few too many, even for his era. But he could come right back and throw an 80 yard TD pass on the next series, the ultimate fuck you. Many of Namath’s interceptions happened late in his career, when he had no more legs to plant on, poor offensive line play, and was desperately heaving with his arm only. But no QB of today can throw five interceptions and still keep his team in the game until the final gun. Namath could and did, more than once.

Corporate football, rather than a wide open, more free wheeling type of game, take your pick. Corporate everything, a byproduct of an America that experienced a Cultural Pancake Flip after the JFK assassination until the close of 1969. During the 80’s, the changes began to become really evident, as the Baby Boomers came of age and accepted corporate marching orders, intrusion of the work place in to their personal lives, including dictating what colors could not be worn to the office.

I have nothing against corporations per se, but America has a tendency to take certain things too far, and the stamp of corporate America has in my opinion made too many inroads in to far too many aspects of our culture, including the way football is played. Too bad Debbie didn’t actually see Broadway Joe play in his heyday. Guys with rocket launcher arms like Jay Cutler, Tom Brady, etal, had nothing on Namath and his contemporaries. They just played a different brand of football, that’s all.

Shorter, more “efficient” passes, that’s the difference in today’s game. It’s what the guys in the suits want to see. You don’t see defensive backs getting 10-12 interceptions per season anymore, either. Guys lead the league with 7 interceptions, in a season that’s two games longer than what was played back then.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on June 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    You talk a big but no nothing abut the game itself. First off, “picks” have not vanished as a statistic from from the game. The whole dynamics of football has morphed into something that is extremely complex and vastly different from football of the Namath era.

    Cutler with a rocket launcher arm. Who are you kidding? Aside from not being a team player that bitches out, he is simply a dog. As far as Brady, with the exception of Joe Montana, Fouts and Bradshaw, is ten times the QB of any QB of this or any other era.

    The obvious is the size of the linemen. If you look at a roster when he played, I am reasonably certain that you will not find an offensive lineman over 200 lbs. Linemen of that era did not have to block speed merchants that could run 4.4 in the forty and could bench press up to 500 lbs.

    The defenses in that era were also one dimensional and the reads were beyond simple. They did not have zone blitzes, substitutions, disguising coverages, etc. Also, nobody can throw 80 yards not in that era or any other era. The other simplistic reason is that the linemen would man block. There was no such thing as zone. They basically just threw the ball into space. They did not have precision routes that were timed and the offensive linemen did not have literally volumes of rules that apply to line audibles and various calls.

    No one will argue that the league is not money driven

    AR on June 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      AR, I could address everything you said point by point, but I’m done with this thread. I know all about the size of the offensive lineman compared to back then. I was a bodybuilder for a while, a “never was” rather than a has been, for two main reasons. A car accident that left me with permanent neurological damage, and a complete unwillingness to take performance enhancing drugs. I could drop quite a few names and experiences.

      As for performance enhancing drugs, what they’ve done to offensive lineman and sports in general, I know as much about the subject as anyone, living or dead. Not a boast, a FACT. I’ve been involved in health and fitness since early 1972, and PED’s are just one subject I’m a street corner expert in. No formal accreditation doesn’t make me inferior in knowledge. I had a 12.2 reading level in 7th grade, was tested at 140 IQ at age 14, and was the only kid in my junior high to make it to Stuyvesant HS.

      My own personal failings in not becoming the next Albert Einstein, Howard Hughes or Arnold Schwarzenegger are no reflection on my intelligence, knowledge, observances or experiences.

      Cutler does indeed have a rocket launcher for an arm. His personal failings on the field are not relevant to his arm quality. As for how far guys could throw back then, you obviously never saw Namath or his contemporaries actually play. Try reading John Madden’s first book, about what Namath did on a dare, DRUNK, during an impromptu tire toss outing.

      I don’t “talk big,” I speak from knowledge, and could unleash a dissertation pages long addressing every one of your “talking points.” Your post proves nothing about my supposed lack of knowledge. Guess you got bored of trying to get in to Debbie’s pants and coming up with no replies from her time and again. All you did was smack me around. Wow. Enjoy your “victory.”

      Alfredo from Puerto Rico on June 2, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I mainly remember him for this goofy commercial with Farrah Fawcett:

Irving on June 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Yes, we long for the days where football had guys like Namath. As a Packers fan, I have to give the slight edge to Paul Hornung only because of the numerous local stories I have heard, and read, about.

bryan on June 1, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Thanks Debbie for the reminder. I’ve been a Jets fan and Namath fan since both started (also Mets, so I’m used to losing). You are spot on about Joe Namath. He was also a nice guy and friendly to his fans. My favorite statement was when he was cornered by reporters about him dating a different girl or two every night and going to night clubs and restaurants. In typical Namath fashion w/o missing a beat says (paraphrase), why I think it’s downright un-American for a young single guy not to date!

Unfortunately, all pro sports are being wussified.

Lou on June 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

LOL!!! Good Namath story, Lou. There’s another famous Namath quote which got him in a bit of trouble after a 1966 24-0 loss to the Denver Broncos. Cornered by reporters in the locker room, he responded merely with “Booze and broads.” ROTFLMAO!!!

Gotta love Namath. Nowadays, if a Tony Romo came out of his face with a remark like that, he’d be on a one way, no frills, coach class flight to Siberia.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on June 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I remember Joe Namath very well – was in HS at the time – and he was always great! The Colts Jets game is a classic and Joe delivered.

Thanks for the memory DS – didn’t know it was his birthday.

Back at you: there is a great old poster of Namath at a urinal… Not a poster kinda guy, but that one is so much a product of its era.

No room for a Namath in today’s USA. Too bad so much has changed, but I’m real glad I’m of the generation I am.

CG on June 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

Happy Birthday joe from sherrie schaufele. sherrie Remington, and the gang

Anonymous on June 3, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I don’t think much of someone who had arab friends. We know the flip side to that. I liked Joe Namath up until just finding this out.

Laura on November 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

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