For me it is incomprehensible why you were always so willing—even eager—to undergo the painful journey from Manhattan out to Shea and back. If you had almost given up the notion of an interesting life and had moved to Flushing, I could see why you would be willing to step over the railroad tracks or hike across the asphalt from your boat at the World's Fair Marina to watch your Jets' games. Otherwise, I wonder where does love of sport end and love of punishment begin? Even being in the club at the stadium was torture on championship day, not only because of the crowd but because it was unsettling to look out at the half-frozen faces looking in. I could see lots of urchins in stocking caps, fat red-faced fellows in sports shirts buttoned at the neck, tall girls standing back from the press of noses at the plate glass. It was like an illustration from some Victorian novel, all the yearning noses mashed against the glass, unable to come closer—and probably better off for it.
At least partly because of the wind, neither passer was accurate. The runners had great difficulty with their footing on the frozen ground. It was a dreary up-and-back game during the first half, with Namath completing only six of 19 passes but moving the team far enough for Jim Turner to kick two field goals (out of three attempts). Hewritt Dixon scored on a 34-yard run with a screen pass, and Oakland led 7-6 at intermission. "If only the Jets could win this one for Max," Doris told me. "Wherever he is, he'll know and he'll stand up a little straighter." I am sure this information did not reach Namath, but on the first play of the third quarter he threw a pass to Maynard, who had got behind George Atkinson on a skid-and-go. The run seemed to take half an hour, Maynard and Atkinson skating along on the icy ground, their arms flailing in exaggerated movements, David Grayson coming across with his head down like a speed skater as he tried to catch up, and I kept thinking the public-address system should be playing a scratchy recording of The Merry Widow Waltz. The play covered 73 yards and put the Jets ahead 13-7.
On the following kickoff that fellow Rademacher, the one you admire for his hitting on the Jets' special teams, chased a ball that was bouncing crazily over the ice as a dozen or more players slapped at it and fell down. He hugged the ball in both arms and skidded to the Oakland 14-yard line before taking a header. Snell and Mathis ran at left guard and tackle for a first down on the three. Namath tried his rollout after a fake into the middle, but Lassiter got him for a two-yard loss. On second down Mathis carried a flare pass to the one. With Snell leading, Mathis went in at left tackle to score on third down, and it was 20-7. In the fourth quarter another pass to Sauer allowed Turner to kick a 38-yard field goal. A Jet fumble provided Blanda with a 41-yard field goal to make the score 23-10. Game plans were out the window because of the weather. Every fourth play you heard the thunk of cold toes hitting hard bail. Namath was stunned by an elbow to the chin. Parilli replaced him and did not try a pass. Wells, Biletnikoff and Smith were open several times, but the wind blew Lamonica's passes away. The final score was Jets 23, Oakland 10, and I think nobody was disappointed that the game had ended. Namath completed 11 of 27 for 131 yards and one interception. Lamonica was 14 of 32 for 116 yards and two interceptions. On the ground New York had 68 yards to 56 for Oakland.
Max, you have never seen a group of people happier to go to Miami than the Jets. The AFL owners and officials could not conceal their pleasure, either. For years they had wanted a winning team in New York and now at last they had one. Half the population of this city went down to Miami for the Super Bowl, or tried. There was not a seat to be had on plane, train or bus, and hotel rooms were scarcer than Giant fans. I used your reservation at the Doral Beach Hotel; it finally paid off, this quirk of yours about booking rooms at the Super Bowl city a year in advance just in case the Jets would make it. I thought about you often, and warmly I might add.
The papers were full of stories about Namath being seen at the Bon Fire, the Racquet Club, the Palm Bay Club, here and there, but Ewbank denounced them as lies. I did see Namath, though, one evening in that restaurant, the Post and Paddock. He still was wearing his mandarin mustache and long sideburns, the Jets having decided to keep their face hair for luck, and he had on a maroon silk jacket, gray slacks and white shoes (more about that later). He was talking to someone, just slouching there by the table—you know how he stands, in the shape of a?—and smiling, knowing that everybody in the place was looking at him, and I heard someone say, "But of course he hasn't run into Billy Ray Smith yet."
The Baltimore Colts, who beat Dallas for the NFL championship, seemed very loose and relaxed for their first Super Bowl, being old heads at big games and not expecting too much trouble from the Jets. Baltimore has a very tough team—mentally tough, as coaches like to say—and they all work together with great cohesion, allowing no slackers. The Colts were 14�-point favorites. I thought they would win by more. So, I suspect, did they.
The Orange Bowl was filled up, naturally, and the spectacle was fantastic, hundreds of luscious girls prancing about, bands playing, balloons floating against that bright blue sky, colors everywhere, a feast for the eyes. Then out came Namath in his white shoes, and my heart sank. As you know from countless arguments with me about it, if I were to select the 10 best quarterbacks in professional football today, Namath would be somewhere toward the bottom of the second five. Maybe the white shoes have much to do with my opinion. I think white shoes are appropriate aboard ship or on a tennis or basketball court, but on a football field, Max, I hate to say this but they look, well, sort of arch, in the sense of being sportively mischievous. There is no question that Namath has a wonderful arm (he has to have, the way he so often throws off the wrong foot), but the shoes are not at all to my taste.
The Colts scored as soon as they got the ball. Jimmy Orr made the touchdown on a 27-yard pass from Earl Morrall. It was so easy that I believe it actually hurt Baltimore. Here they were, all geared up to play a fierce game, and instead of a manly struggle they just strolled right down the field and scored. An early touchdown, too simply obtained, can dull the mental edge of the team that scores it. The Colts seemed to lay back as though the rest of the afternoon would be no less of a lark. They were decidedly wrong.
Namath, you know, can be extremely sharp and just as extremely off, all in the course of one game. But when he is sharp he is astonishingly good, throwing the ball very quickly and precisely to a point. The Jets' main offensive strength is in pass blocking. Namath was keeping Mathis and Snell in the backfield for protection, and he was throwing beautifully. He mixed in a few of Ewbank's favorite draw plays to give the Baltimore rushers something to consider. The Jets were not able to run wide with any success, but Namath completed his first five passes before Turner missed a field goal.
In the second quarter Gerry Philbin leaped over a cut-block and smashed into Morrall, who left the field cradling his right hand in his left and bending over in pain and despair. He had a sprained thumb. Unitas came in. The Jets knew Unitas could not throw the ball far because of the tendonitis in his right arm, and so they crowded the receivers. Baltimore could not get consistent gains running against that quick Jet line, though the Colts kept trying to come back to their own left, refusing to believe that a 212-pound linebacker like Larry Grantham could not be brushed aside. With his arm obviously hurting, Unitas threw two interceptions to stop Baltimore drives. Namath began to look for Lammons, who caught four passes in the second quarter, one of them for 45 yards and a touchdown on a third-and-one situation. Turner kicked field goals of 37 and 21 yards and the Jets—amazing!—had a 13-7 lead at the half. Mackey almost scored in the last seconds, dragging Jim Hudson some 10 yards before Hudson could bulldog him down at the New York two as the clock ran out.