SI Vault
 
Guaranteed Cool
Paul Zimmerman
January 28, 1991
An otherwise mellow Joe Namath says he still gets goose bumps when he reflects on how his Jets triumphed in Super Bowl III just as he predicted
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 28, 1991

Guaranteed Cool

An otherwise mellow Joe Namath says he still gets goose bumps when he reflects on how his Jets triumphed in Super Bowl III just as he predicted

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

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.

"Sometimes on 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 guarantee it.'

"Sometimes 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 up?"

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.

"I had 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 Bubba...."

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.

1 2 3 4