Tag Archive: Baltimore Colts

[May, 2019 while hassling a relocation]

Growing up through my mid-teens, my main sports heroes were Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath. The latter were two of the most controversial athletes of my comeuppance – that’s one of the main reasons I admired them! Back then, controversy was not sleazy or tabloid like the “reality tv” gossip is today – often catty. It was the beginning of the end of the “Ossie and Harriet era” (if you don’t know what that means, it is your first “homework” assignment after you finish reading this blog post).

Had you happened into my college dorm room, you would have seen this life-size poster, sans the text, on our wall next to my top bunk.

I wonder where I got it from and where is it now? Probably was a casualty of one of the floods that happened while I had stuff stored at my parent’s house back in the mid-1980s. Sad. Regardless, I discovered pro football on TV around the time that the NY Titans became the New York Jets; Pops was a Giant fan.

Consequentially, I smiled to myself with anticipation when I learned of Joe’s new book that came out in May, “All The Way, My Life In Four Quarters” [Little Brown and Company, May 2019] ! Having read a couple of other biography-style books about Joe “Willie” Namath, mainly penned by sports writers through the years, I was first impressed that he, himself wrote this one with a little help from his friends Sean Mortimer and Don Yaeger.

The backdrop (or “drop back to pass”) is Mr. Namath reviewing Super Bowl III from his present kitchen table as he scrutinizes his life simultaneously. He writes about his traditional Catholic family, Hungarian roots, upbringing in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and his two main football coaching influences, his high school coach, Larry Bruno and the late Paul “Bear” Bryant of the University of Alabama (“Go TIDE!”,he would say here). While Joe relives the greatest win of his professional football career, he self-analyses his foibles, like drinking too many adult beverages (the Suzy Kolber interview) and how he’s now defeated those foes also. I’m impressed that he tells of still working out regularly on those famous knees, both of which were surgically replaced! Throughout the book he takes you inside the huddle, calling a quarterback sneak (I used to love when he did that!), back when quarterbacks were trusted to call their own plays, and the next moment, he describes events like why he came to wear his trademark white shoes and sport a Fu Manchu mustache for a while.

My favorite quote from the book is by his mother, and was uttered on the heels of one of Namath’s first experiences with racial segregation. The victim of a shopkeeper’s prejudice was his lifelong best friend, Linwood, and his mom explained, “There are some people in this world who are so sad and angry that they find ways (reasons) not to like other people.”

There is a neat little photo album section just about half-way into the tome, which includes his family, sports memories and candid, introspective moments. “First down!”

At 232 pages, “All The Way” is a solid, enjoyable, easy autobiographical read whether you are a Jet fan or not. The only thing missing is an index, so I could quickly refer back to the many highlights of his story (like describing my all-time favorite Jets defensive back, Johnny Sample, who talked smack in competition like Ali did). Joe is aging well, thanks be to St. Jude. I cannot wait to purchase a copy and hopefully have him autograph it for my personal book library. Five-out-of-five footballs is my rating. Way to go, Joe!

Too bad Joe Namath and Debbie never had a son, because it seems that is the only way the New York Jets would ever break what I call the “Jets Jinx”.  Ever since the January 1969 victory over the hated Vietnam war supporter, Johnny Unitas and his Baltimore Colts, the New York Jets or as I sometimes call them, the “Jests”, only serve to tease rather than please.  They will break your green heart every time; so close, but yet so far…my eyes adored you, yet I am disappointed again.

Tonight’s game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers provided more of the same Jekyll & Hyde folly.  They played like two different teams per game half. Falling behind early, only to come up short at the end.  Why didn’t they RUN the ball even after Pissburgh took their initial drive and used-up almost ten minutes of the first quarter by scoring the initial touchdown? Why DID they keep running the ball Up The Middle to-no-avail at the goaline in the early fourth quarter?? Don’t you just hate that??  QB Mark Sanchez is still unreliable and the passing game sputters nervously at best. I learned that he had problems with hearing the plays called-in from the sideline coach.  This is where a “real” QB would be able to shift into a mode where he could successfully call his own plays! Wow, what an idea! Actually using your own brain to analyse the defense!!  In a way, Namath set such a high standard as a play-calling Quarterback (he called his own plays for the most part) that no player has been able to measure-up at that position since; from Richard Todd and Kenny O’Brien (“the rag doll”) to “Boomer” Easiason – not one.  Had I been coaching the Jets, I would have taken a page out of Weeb Ewbank’s playbook and run my most Matt Snell-like running back a LOT of times.  Ok, maybe these days, it takes two men to run like one Matt Snell, but the firm of LaDamion & Green, et. al could have taken control of the game back at that point by employing this strategy.    

I like Rex (“the son of Buddy”) Ryan as coach, but he doesn’t know when to shut his yap.  Is it possible that he is channeling the poolside guaranteeing, braggadocio style of my main man, Joe Namath?  I called my ole college roomie of the seventies when I was the only black guy on-campus to have a life-sized picture of Joe “Willie” on our dorm room wall before half-time to let his voicemail know that my defense didn’t come out “smokin’ ” like old Joe Frazier, and that we would lose this game. Even my authentic “lucky”  number twelve NFL jersey didn’t work and it lies cast away in the corner of my living room where it landed after I cast it off in disgust.  My dearly-too-soon-for-words departed friend and Steeler fan, Rodney Irvin would have invited me over to his “Garagemahal” to watch the game.  I can hear him right now saying, “What do you expect? J-E-T-S…Just End The Season!”

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