No Ordinary Joe: HBO, NFL Films To Premiere Namath Documentary Saturday
HBO Sports and NFL Films Saturday will premier “Namath,” which chronicles Pro Football HOFer Joe Namath’s “youth in Beaver Falls, Pa., his time as a New York Jets superstar and his life today,” according to Richard Huff of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Namath said that “sitting down to talk” about his life for the documentary “wasn’t easy.” Namath: “It was difficult because I don’t care to do this kind of talking and revisiting. I was trying to be honest, when I know some of the things I say are going to ruffle feathers or rub people the wrong way. Why talk about it now?” Huff noted the film includes "new interviews with childhood friends, sportswriters and sportscasters like Sal Marciano, who covered Namath when he arrived in New York, and former on-field rivals and teammates.” There is “plenty of archival footage, too, such as Namath and the Jets practicing in Peekskill, N.Y., then the team’s summer home.” Namath “isn’t worried what viewers think of him after seeing the film.” he said, “This is a chance for the viewer to see a journey I have taken.” There is also “some stuff he didn’t talk about.” Namath: “I think some private battles and how we dealt with them, that doesn’t need to be shown. Some secrets I don’t share because there isn’t a positive outcome” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/22). Namath added, “I didn’t want to do it, are you kidding me? To talk about your life and all, it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard when you have parts of your life you don’t care to talk about or share” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/26). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes ESPN’s Suzy Kolber in the documentary “talks publicly for the first time about a drunken Joe Namath memorably saying on-air he wanted to kiss her.” Kolber said she had not previously spoken publicly about the incident “because I knew he wanted it to go away” (USA TODAY, 1/26).
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes HBO had “long wanted to produce a Namath documentary,” as former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg, who “negotiated the deal to make it, has been a fan of Namath’s since childhood.” When asked “why he agreed, Namath did not talk about being paid.” He said that he did not want to participate and “broach subjects that upset him.” But he said that he “trusted ‘minds sharper than mine’ at HBO and NFL Films.” Namath was “paid an undisclosed sum for ‘home movies, family photographs and other materials,’ and to attend the premiere and to talk to reporters,” but he received “no editorial control.” Sandomir writes “perhaps the money he received was not a primary reason for his participation.” At 68 years old, maybe “it just seemed like time to open up, to a filmmaker or a writer” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27). In Buffalo, Greg Connors writes the documentary “doesn't shy away from asking Namath about some low points in his life: His bouts of heavy drinking, for example; his divorce, and the squeeze put on him by the NFL in 1970 to sell his interest in his Bachelors III night spot because gamblers and organized crime figures were known to gather there.” Still, for all the access, it is “hard to feel that you come away knowing the man behind Broadway Joe.” Connors: “Whether you remember seeing Broadway Joe on TV or on the football field, or you just want to see what his legend is all about, HBO's documentary is a good place to start” (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/27).
THE PORTRAIT: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes landing “somewhere between a documentary and tribute, ‘Namath’ has failings.” It is “stuffed with tributes from cronies," but those failings are “overwhelmed by fascinating content.” HBO’s and NFL Films’ historical treatments of sports is “made special by their specialty, the inclusion of fabulous photos and footage” (N.Y. POST, 1/27). CABLEFAX DAILY’s Heiges & Arenstein write this “warts-and-all portrait is loaded with fun, great footage, stills and useful cameos" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/27). In Denver, Dusty Saunders wrote the film provides an “in-depth look at a colorful Hall of Fame quarterback.” As a “superb 90-minute documentary illustrates, Joe Namath remains a fascinating personality” (DENVER POST, 1/23).