Tim Secor knew how it felt. Some years before, he had been hit by a truck, an accident that left him a paraplegic. Some guys visited in the hospital. Others called. Again, not Joe. Tim never once heard from Joe.
Namath's friendships didn't have second acts. Whatever his old pals meant to him, they had one thing in common: They weren't blood.
Everything came down to blood, even the money. But hadn't Joe always known that? Going back to the first big deal, Sonny Werblin's concern was publicity, while Joe's was providing for his family. The Super Bowl, and the myths it spawned, made him a good living. But his life—what made Joe Namath weep and tingle—was the two girls.
The money helped, but it didn't cure anything. Joe still had to negotiate his own kind of truce with the bottle. He had to learn how to be a divorced dad. "Some pain never goes completely away," he said. "But you learn to deal with it."
After the girls left, he began flying out to the coast "every couple of weeks or so." Then, in January 2002, he bought a condo in Brentwood and began spending more and more time in Los Angeles with his daughters.
He was a better man when they were around. He even went back to school that fall, taking tutorials to finally earn his degree at Alabama. Namath hadn't forgotten the promise he made to his mother, but even more compelling than that assurance was a remark Jessica had made. She said she would be the first college graduate in the family.
"You want to bet?" said Joe.
It was right around that time when Tad Dowd ran into them in Century City, Calif. It was a Friday, early evening. Tad had stopped at Johnny Rockets, a hamburger joint in the mall. He was ready to sit down and study the The Racing Form when he spotted Joe in a baseball cap. Joe introduced him to his daughter as "Mr. Dowd." The two men had seen each other perhaps a half dozen times over the last two decades. Still, they talked for the better part of an hour before Joe finally said goodbye. "Make sure to call the office and leave your number," he told him.
He was taking Jessica to a movie, a big picture with a handsome young star his daughter liked.
Going back all those years, Tad had never seen any woman have this effect on Joe. "There was a lightness to him," he says. "A glow."