On Aug. 3, 1985, Namath went on the air wearing a yellow blazer with the logo of ABC SPORTS. He was broadcasting live from the annual exhibition contest in Canton, Ohio, where earlier that day he had been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry Bruno, his high school coach, made the speech introducing him. Joe accepted the praise with great gratitude for everyone, especially God: "He was kind enough to Old Joe to let me find my wife, Deborah."
To hear "Old Joe," as he now called himself, Deborah completed him.
The Monday Night booth now featured a Hall of Fame backfield—Gifford, Simpson and Namath—with unmatched endorsement power. Unfortunately, they didn't make much of a broadcast team. Gifford was ever the straight man. Simpson did his best work shilling for rental cars. As for Namath, the years had taught him something about humility. But humility was of little use to him now. In fact, it was a detriment.
The network didn't offer him a lot of tutelage, as Arledge didn't want his man sounding too polished. The ABC boss, an otherwise shrewd judge of talent, had convinced himself that a 42-year-old expectant father could again become the kid he used to be, as if it were still 1969. But instead of Broadway Joe, Arledge got Old Joe, this curiously deferential character who insisted on addressing him (as he always addressed his employers) as "Mister."
Old Joe Namath was not the character people liked to remember. Perhaps his misgivings should have been apparent. "I have to convince myself I know what I'm doing," he said.
Deborah went out and got him books on how to speak. "She wanted him not to make mistakes," says Hoot Owl. Joe studied diligently, but Hoot Owl could never understand why Joe Namath of all people was worrying himself sick over his diction and his grammar.
"The greatest announcer that ever was, was Dizzy Dean," Hoot Owl told him. Diz was just a hillbilly from Arkansas, who barely spoke a word of proper English.
But Joe didn't want to be Dizzy Dean, or even Dandy Don. For that matter, he didn't want to be Broadway Joe either. Speaking properly became a point of honor, as if it were the responsible thing to do. There was a problem with this approach, however: It wasn't him.
"If he'da have just been Joe Namath, they would've loved it," says Hoot Owl. Hoot Owl could notice the change every time his friend went on one of those TV shows: "Joe don't act like himself."
From the New York Post, April 11, 1987: BROADWAY JOE AND FIJI DEBBIE: Joe Namath isn't asking people he meets what their sign is, but he did go to the Fiji Islands last month because it was "in the stars." Broadway Joe and baby daughter Jessica were accompanying Joe's wife, Deborah Lynn [sic] Mays, who was making her annual "solar return." And what is a solar return? "Every year on your birthday, the planets line up in the exact same configuration as on your original birthday," Debbie said. But the lineup takes place in a different part of the world each year. And to derive maximum astrological benefit, you have to go to that place. "Astrology is kind of like religion," Deborah told PAGE SIX.... "I'm not a flaky kind of person.... Astrology doesn't monopolize my time. It's kind of like going to a therapist."