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No Apology Necessary, Joe.
January 30, 2004

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

I guess infomercials serve some purpose. There's a billion different channels broadcasting over cable and satellite these days, they have to fill 24-hours of air time with something. Why not an infomercial? It's not like I have to sit there for a half hour and actually watch it.

But it peeves me that these mini-series marketers all too often and too casually bandy about the consumer buzz word "guarantee" when hawking their products to the masses. "We guarantee you will lose 30 pounds in 30 days." "Use the Abdominal Crunchilizer for three minutes a day and cut inches from your waistline – guaranteed, or your money back."

 
 


"Or my money back?" How can they guarantee that their product will work if they think there's a chance I'll want my money back? They may as well say "with any luck, you will lose 30 pounds in 30 days," or "use the Abdominal Crunchilizer for three minutes a day – we'll cross our fingers that you cut inches from your waistline."

With the obvious exceptions being death and taxes, life offers no guarantees. To the average guy and gal, this is no great revelation. That's what makes Joe Namath's "guarantee" that the New York Jets would win Super Bowl III so remarkably legendary.

The 1968 Baltimore Colts steamrolled their NFL opponents and arrived in Miami with an impressive 15-1 record. The upstart AFL was no match for the more established league. The handicappers made the Colts 18-point favorites. The Jets didn't stand a chance.

Namath must have been hitting the Jack Daniels a little too hard to make such a bold prediction. He had to be loaded to actually believe that the Jets could beat the mighty Colts.

"I've got news for you," Namath informed the group assembled at the Miami Touchdown Club, "we're gonna win the game. I guarantee it." His sentiments were echoed in the sports headlines of every major newspaper in the country.

Broadway Joe had a prominent reputation as a partier and womanizer –the brash statement could have easily been interpreted as the ramblings of an overconfident, 25-year old football star who had a few too many.

This was the sixties; sex, drugs and rock-and-roll; Woodstock was still eight months away. The times, they were a-changin'. Namath was a product of a new generation. His guarantee, unlike the infomercials, came with no caveats, no reimbursement and no apologies.

And darned if he wasn't right. The Jets beat the invincible Colts 16-7 and Namath was named the game's Most Valuable Player – the only quarterback in Super Bowl history to win the honor without throwing a single touchdown pass. Party on Joe.

Alas, now it's Broadway Joe that's in his sixties. And based on a sideline interview he gave to ESPN's Suzy Kolber during a Patriots-Jets game in December, he's still partying and still womanizing.

During the interview, Namath, apparently intoxicated, twice told Suzy that he wanted to kiss her. I watched the interview, I grew up watching Joe Namath, I didn't bat an eye. It was Joe being Joe – Broadway Joe.

Namath has since apologized to Kolber and last week announced that he is undergoing counseling for alcohol abuse. Now I can understand his decision to seek help if he habitually gets behind the wheel after drinking, or his liver is pickled.

But what did he do in that sideline interview that he hasn't been doing for forty years? Why did this episode lead him to declare that "I've embarrassed my family, and the people that I work with and my friends and all?" I don't get it.

He was at a pre-game reception at the stadium and said he had been drinking for a couple of hours. Seems to me he'd have had a bigger problem on his hands had he not been a little tipsy by halftime. Half the people in the stands were well on their way by then.

In 1974, Namath shaved his legs, put on a pair of panty hose and green silk shorts for a television commercial. To steal a line from Ralph Kramden, "let me have what you're having, I want to get loaded too." That's a time in his life when rehab should have been considered.

In 1969, Joe Namath "shocked the world" before "shocked the world" became an overused sports cliché. I hope this incident doesn't turn out to be the one for which he is best remembered.

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