By Peter Schwartz
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Having followed the Jets since I was young man growing up in Queens before moving out to Long Island and living a touchdown pass away from their complex at Hofstra, I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about the history of the franchise. However, it’s always good to learn a thing or two that you didn’t know before.
I was a year and a half old when Joe Namath made good on his guarantee in leading the Jets to a 16-7 upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. While there’s plenty about Joe Namath that many of us know about, there’s always room for more knowledge.
That’s where HBO comes into play. Their sports documentaries are always fantastic and I always seem to learn something about a subject that I didn’t know before.
And they’ve done it again.
In conjunction with NFL Films, HBO has come up with another gem in “Namath” which premieres on Saturday night at 9pm. I was fortunate to attend a screening of the documentary this week and I’m telling you that it’s a must see. The program takes you through Namath’s life story from growing up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania to his days with the University of Alabama and to his decision to sign with the AFL’s New York Jets instead of playing in the NFL.
The 90-minute program also delves into Namath’s many injuries and his drinking problem including his famous “I want to kiss you” embarrassment with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber.
Kolber was one of many people interviewed for the show with others including former teammates Matt Snell, John Schmitt, and Don Maynard, former Colts head coach Don Shula, former NFL players such as Ben Davidson and Fred Dryer, and actress Ann Margaret.
Here are some highlights of “Namath”
Joe Namath, who spent countless hours being interviewed for the documentary: “Something’s been guiding me around throughout my life. I keep saying, ‘I’m just a lucky guy.’ ”
Former Alabama teammate Gaylon McCollough: “He had good command of the Alabama offense. He was shifty, he was all over the field and he almost left you standing in your boots when you were trying to tackle him. He had tremendous speed and quickness and agility. He was like trying to tackle the wind. One of the tragedies in American sports is that most people never had the chance to see a healthy Joe Namath play, to see how good he really was. If you had ever seen him at his best, you’d never forget it.”
Former New York Jets offensive coach Ken Meyer: “(He’s) the only quarterback I’ve ever been around that you didn’t have to look to see when the ball was released…You could hear the ‘whoosh’ when the ball left his hand. And that is not kidding!”
Former Colts head coach Don Shula on Namath delivering in Super Bowl III: “You gotta give credit where credit is due, and Namath, he made the predictions, then he made them come true.”
Former NFL player Fred Dryer: “That guy was very important to the game of football as a cultural icon, and how he brought professional football into the television era and with it a whole degree of excitement…The likes of him will never ever, ever pass this way again.”
Even if you’re not a Jets fan, “Namath” is a great watch for the big football fan. He is one of the great icons in the history of the sport and the combination of HBO and NFL Films does a great job in telling his story.
BROADWAY JOE ON THE CURRENT JETS
After the screening of “Namath”, the Jets’ Hall of Fame quarterback had plenty to say about the current edition of gang Green…
On the fractured locker room and can everybody on a team get along?
“It’s hard. The only way to have a locker room with harmony is to win.”
On being critical of the current players, coaches, and management
“I’m allowed to critique things these days. With the current Jets situation the last few years, I’ve just tried to explain how I felt about things. When we talk about (Rex Ryan), he’s unique. I’d never seen that style all the years I’ve been around football.”
On his fractured relationship with the Jets organization
“I feel awful about it. I feel awful about my relationship with the Jets right now in the sense that ownership, general manager, head coach…I don’t want them upset with Joe, but damn it I have to say what I see, what I think and what I feel.”
On who he’s rooting for in Super Bowl XLVI?
“I want a winner here and not wearing blue necessarily but I hope it’s this year.”
Did Namath say he was rooting for the Giants to beat the Patriots?
“Yes, you’re darn right. I don’t pull against people. I pull for people and I’m pulling for the Giants. I don’t know anybody up in Massachusetts that I really care about.”
On Mark Sanchez ignoring his suggestions on ball control during Hard Knocks
“This group is not the first group that I explained about getting the ball from center and the correct technique that they ought to be using and none of them have changed it. We saw one put on the ground in the last game in the end zone going in so that bothers me.”
On media and fans criticism of Mark Sanchez
“Some of it is deserved but just like I see myself throw the ball to the defensive back saying how could the quarterback do that? Well he didn’t see him but you’re supposed to see him. Mark made some mistakes this year no doubt, but he can play. It was his third year man! You see guys out that there than have been playing a lot longer than that making those same mistakes. He’s going to learn from his mistakes and he needs help around him. He’s a man out there and if they get the people around him, he’s going to be fine. How about our man Eli (Manning)? Eli wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms and got nothing but standing ovations his first few years. He endured. He’s tough and he’s wonderful. He improved and already won a Super Bowl. You got to have the team and the guys and you have to have to learn through experience. Mark is going to be better than he was this past season.”
That’s all for now! I’ll be in Indianapolis covering Super Bowl XLVI for WFAN so check out my daily blogs!