Joseph William "Joe" Namath (born May 31, 1943), nicknamed "Broadway Joe" or "Joe Willie", is a former American football quarterback for the New York Jets, and is widely considered the greatest bad quarterback in NFL history.
In a dazzling 13-year career, Namath threw 173 touchdowns and 220 interceptions, completed 50 percent of his passes, appeared in one Pro Bowl and amassed a quarterback rating of 65.5, putting him on the short bus of NFL players. Nevertheless, his Super Bowl III "guarantee", his 4,000 yard passing performance in 1967 and his 161-game streak of drinking Jimmy Breslin under the table landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, forever disproving the "East Coast Bias" of sportswriters.
Namath's "intangibles" are often cited in his listing among football immortals. While Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach were better quarterbacks, "Broadway Joe" did sleep with a lot of beautiful women, and his Hall of Fame enshrinement gave hope to charming fuck-ups everywhere.
Namath was born in Beaver Falls, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh. As a boy, Namath's charisma enabled him to excel in sports, particularly baseball and basketball. Despite logging a high number of strike-outs, umpires often waved Namath around the bases and encouraged him to score. Similarly, when Namath threw hard fouls in basketball, he would flash a winning smile at the referee, who would grin and eject Namath's victim.
But football proved to be Namath's first love. Despite poor quarterback mechanics, repeated fumbling and a habit of running screaming into his own end zone, Namath received dozens of offers from college football programs, who hoped Namath would get some tail into the AD's office. Namath first applied to the University of Maryland, but was turned down when he scored poorly on the College Boards. The University of Alabama immediately swooped in and offered Namath a scholarship. The offer astonished the country, which had been unaware that Alabama had education beyond the fifth grade.
Playing for Paul "Bear" Bryant, Namath failed to win national championships in 1962 or 1963, leading Crimson Tide boosters to call for Bryant's ouster. Bryant, however, had naked photos of Gov. George Wallace, and held onto his job into the 1965 season. Wallace frequently appeared on the Alabama sideline during the season, slapping Bryant on the back, cheering the team and enthusiastically rifling through Bryant's office. Namath, meanwhile, compiled a 10-1 season, through absolute luck, and won the national championship.
Namath hurt his knee during his senior season. In work-outs before pro scouts, Namath repeatedly fell on his face, tripped his running back and once stepped onto the field with a soccer ball. In response, the New York Jets offered him a $400,000 contract. Energized by the contract, Namath delivered an 18 touchdown, 15 interception rookie season while completing a gaudy 48 percent of his passes and finishing off 341 shots of whiskey.
Determined to get his numbers up, Namath threw 27 interceptions the following season and 28 in 1967. That same year, Namath amassed 4,007 yards in a 14-game season. The performance, combined with his frightening ability to possess his victims and force them to do his desires, made him the toast of New York. When the World Champion Green Bay Packers arrived for a goodwill tour after Super Bowl II, coach Vince Lombardi delivered a speech at Lincoln Center. Columnist Dick Schaap wrote:
- Lombardi, whose team does not have Joe Namath under center, spent his 45-minute, Joe-less lecture discussing non-Namath topics. Lombardi, like everyone else in the country, would gladly trade five championships for 4,007 yards. But he can't. Namath rules all. Hail our demon lord! Hail!
Super Bowl III and beyond
The Jets backed into the AFL championship in 1968 and faced the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The Colts, who focused on passing and a stout run defense, eschewed the Jets' style of football, known as the "Oh-man-what-the-fuck-do-I-do" offense. The Colts were heavily favored to win, but three days before the game, Namath told a heckler:
In a shocking upset, the Jets defeated the Colts 16-7, behind fullback Matt Snell's 121-yard, one touchdown performance. Namath, who was undeniably on the field during the game, somehow won the MVP award; sportwriters were later found mumbling "I am nothing" in the press box following a brief Namath appearance.
The Joe Namath Show
Namath's success led to his very own talk show, which aired in the fall of 1969. With Schaap as co-host, and Luisa Moritz's breasts reading off "viewer mail," the show became a hit. Viewers were enthralled by Namath's complaints about the media, Schaap's bold descriptions of the obvious and Moritz's ditzy manner and breasts. A typical exchange went like this:
Namath also endorsed pantyhose, electric razors and furniture. In-between alcohol and womanizing, Namath fit football into his schedule. Injuries limited Namath in the early '70s, but "Joe Willie" courageously went forth on the field of battle. Despite his bad knees, Namath set new records for boozing and fucking in 1972.
Namath's knees retired after the 1974 season, but Namath felt the need to carry on and reach new heights of lucky bastardness. While winning the 1974 Comeback Player of the Year Award, Namath told reporters the next season that he was "disappointed" and "hoped to return to my usual level of shittiness" for the 1975 season. His hopes were realized as he threw 28 interceptions and 15 touchdowns, and set a career low in passer rating.
Namath was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, where he hoped to find new fields to conquer and women to nail. But injuries severely limited his action, and Namath retired after only three games and 12 scotches.
Retirement and legacy
Namath has worked as an actor and broadcaster (in Namath's words, "I cast around for broads") since leaving the NFL. He also works with the Joe Namath Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and grants to charming ne'er-do-wells who fall short of their potential but still become successful. Alumni include Rod Stewart, Victoria Beckham and George W. Bush.