Happy Birthday, Joe Namath

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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The last day of May should be celebrated yearly at the University of Alabama, the New York Jets, and the NFL.

The date falls on Wednesday this year, as former Alabama and New Jets quarterback Joe Namath celebrates his 80th birthday.

The way I see it, Namath is mainly responsible for the NFL becoming a multi-billion dollar business it has become today in different ways.

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First, Namath glamorized the quarterback position.  His charisma and matinee idol looks made him a box-office attraction with the ladies.

The then-St. Louis Cardinals and New York Jets of the upstart American Football League went into a bidding war for Namath’s services in 1965.  Namath eventually chose the Jets in the Big Apple and was quickly named “Broadway Joe.”

The AFL wanted to show the long-standing NFL that they were equal rivals.

Namath’s signing with the Jets proved that and then some. Namath quickly became a media icon who attracted mainstream popularity outside of sports. He appeared in commercials and movies.It eventually led to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Namath was MVP in Super Bowl III, still regarded as one of the biggest upsets ever when the Jets knocked off the Baltimore Colts in 1969. Namath legitimized the AFL-NFL merger, especially with his “Guarantee of a Super Bowl win.

Many have forgotten that Namath was the first starting quarterback to win a college national championship (Alabama, 1964) and a Super Bowl. Only Joe Montana has accomplished this feat, at Notre Dame (1997) and San Francisco 49ers (1982,1984,1988, and 1989).

Quarterbacks in the NFL should give Namath $1 million after they sign big contracts. They have him to thank for making quarterbacks one of the top positions in professional sports.

From where I sit,  Namath set a high standard of excellence for Jets quarterbacks who can’t deliver a Super Bowl title.

This season, I believe Aaron Rodgers will be the latest Jets quarterback to fail under the 55-year-old curse set by Namath in 1968. No one has come close.

I first met Namath as a six-year-old and saw him again 33 years later. Namath is still cool, even at an old age.

We wish you a happy birthday, William Joseph Namath.