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Volume 22 No. 7
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Closing Shot: Broadway Joe’s big moment

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important games in professional sports history, the New York Jets’ shocking upset of the heavily favored Baltimore Colts on Jan. 12, 1969. Joe Namath reflects on what the win meant for him personally and for the NFL overall.
Joe Namath trots off the field following the Jets’ 16-7 win over the Colts in Super Bowl III.
Photo: ap images

The New York Jets’ win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III validated the Jets and their fledgling American Football League, paving the way for the successful merger of the AFL into the NFL.

No picture summed up the euphoria of the moment more than Jets quarterback Joe Namath running off the Orange Bowl field, his finger held aloft. Funny enough, Namath said the gesture was out of character.

“That was the only time I ever did it,” Namath said. “Times were different in the ’50s and the early ’60s. You didn’t flaunt victory. You know you jumped up and down, you hugged each other, you patted each other on the back. But we didn’t run around holding our finger in the air.”

Why did he do it then?

“The finality of having achieved that goal at that time, running off the field, and seeing all of those people ahead of me in the stands just so damn happy and me so happy. And also relieved we had done it,” he said. “It was a very relaxed statement, and yeah, we are No. 1, that’s right.”

Did he know how important that win would be?

“I just knew that if we didn’t win that one, how would we as a team and league be looked at and perceived by the rest of the sports world?” he said.

Namath has his first authorized autobiography coming out later this year, a book he admits has been a struggle to write.

“Why am I writing it? Because basically a publisher and some associates thought there was a place for it, a time for it,” he said. “I was convinced that there was interest in what I would have to say about some of life’s lessons and some of the potholes, fun times, good times.”

I just knew that if we didn’t win that one, how would we as a team and league be looked at and perceived by the rest of the sports world?

The title? That had to be pulled out of Namath grudgingly. He’s no fan of “All the Way.” The phrase is taken from a Namath quote: “If you are not going all the way, then why go at all?”

Namath said he ceded to the publisher, Little Brown, on the title. “I am not even keen on it, I hate to say it,” he said.

So where does Namath plan to spend Saturday, the 50th anniversary? As of this interview he had no great plans, having already celebrated the anniversary with members of his team at a Jets game in October against the Colts. Meanwhile, he points out why the number 12 has been so important to him, from his jersey to other key dates.

“My mother was born in 1912, my daughter Jessica was born on the 12th, my other daughter Olivia was born the 12th month,” he said. “The 12th of January is very special.”