It's on those
trips that Namath feels like a celebrity again.
"To most of
the young players, Super Bowl III and me are ancient history, but sometimes
somebody will bring it up," he says. "Sometimes they're still a little
in awe. Merril Hoge of the Steelers wanted me to sign something, but he was so
embarrassed that he had Tony Parisi, the equipment man, introduce us. Then Hoge
explained that he always used to follow the Jets.
a trip, somebody will come up and just want to talk about the Super Bowl, the
'I guarantee it' quote. I try to explain that it wasn't an arrogant line, it
was an angry one. I was at the Miami Touchdown Club dinner at the Miami Springs
Villa, and I was up at the mike, and someone yelled something nasty from the
back and I said, 'Wait a minute, let's hold on. You Baltimore guys have been
talking all week, but I've got news for you, buddy. We're gonna win the game. I
I'll talk to old Colt fans, and all they want to talk about is when Earl
Morrall didn't see Jimmy Orr for a touchdown on the flea-flicker, or the two
field goals they missed. Well, so what? We missed two field goals, too, and if
Orr would have scored the touchdown, you think we couldn't have opened it
The years are
melting away, and some of the old Namath is coming back, feisty, bristly, the
old Broadway Joe. Namath set what was then the pro football record by throwing
for 4,007 yards in 1967, but the Jets didn't become a championship-caliber team
until the defense and the running game emerged a year later. That was the
season Namath went conservative, and all of us geniuses in the press box were
writing What's-wrong-with-Broadway Joe? stories because he went six games
without throwing a touchdown pass. In the AFL championship victory over
Oakland, Namath and Daryle Lamonica threw 96 times, but in the Super Bowl, as
the Jets' lead grew from 7-0 to 10, then 13, then 16-0, Namath pulled in his
horns and threw only when he had to. An early Colt score? Well, in that case
you might have seen a 30-14 Jet win.
sharper games," Namath says. "I missed George Sauer early; I got away
with one that Lyles almost intercepted. But from the standpoint of not making
mistakes, I had a good game. I didn't throw into coverage, I didn't call
anything to the wrong side of the defense. But most of all, it was a total team
victory. I can't think of a player on our team who played a mediocre game. Hey,
Matt Snell running over those guys. Al Atkinson, our middle linebacker, playing
with a separated shoulder and reaching up to tip away a pass at the goal line.
Dave Herman switching over to tackle and then having a great game against
He stares out at
the water, at a small school of snook making splashes, at two pelicans sitting
on a pole. "God, those names, those memories," he says. "Goose
bumps again. Look."
He holds out his
right arm. I look, see an arm, tanned and healthy, pretend to see bumps, nod.
What I really see is a man at peace.