9 Facts That Prove Joe Namath Was Cool Before Cool Was A Thing
Athletes are idolized by many – it just happens. They can do what regular people can’t even fathom. LeBron James made $153 million on a four-year contract and he had his own production company, to boot. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has six Super Bowl Rings, and he’s married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. These things are unimaginable to the average person. But arguably the all-time coolest athlete was Joe Namath, one of the most memorable quarterbacks in NFL history…
More Money, More Namath
These days, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear about an athlete making a massive amount of money. Back in Joe Namath’s day, though, athletes weren’t pulling in quite as much as they do currently. But Namath did. As a rookie, he signed a $427,000 deal with the New York Jets.
At the time, it was the largest contract any football player had ever signed, and Namath very shortly proved that deserved what he was making. He led the Jets to their very first (and only) Super Bowl win.
Joe Had No Doubt
In 1968, the New York Jets were enormous underdogs to win against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The Jets were in the American Football League (AFL) – which was a far cry from the NFL, where the Colts played. It was generally believed that the NFL was the superior league, because it had been around longer and simply had better teams.
However, Namath didn’t buy into any of that. He was so confident the Jets would win Super Bowl III, he told reporters, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” In response, football fans everywhere laughed.
He paid it no mind, and led the Jets to a 16-7 victory against the Colts. This helped legitimize the AFL in the minds of many fans, and may have helped to inspire the merging of the AFL and the NFL in 1970. The Jets’ head coach later said, “Joe always had a way of delivering.” That was the year “Broadway Joe” first won the hearts of America.
Strong-Willed And Stubborn
After Super Bowl III, Namath used his money to open a Manhattan nightclub, interestingly named Bachelors III. Frequent visitors included celebrities, supermodels, and some serious members of organized crime.
However, this put Namath’s contract with the Jets in question. Pete Rozelle, the NFL commissioner, threatened Namath with a suspension if he did not give up his part-ownership of the club, claiming that Namath had breached the “associating with notorious persons” clause of his contract. After threatening to give up football altogether, Namath later gave in, and attended training camp with the rest of his team.
Athlete-Turned TV Star
Namath’s next trick was starring in his own TV show called The Joe Namath Show. He brought in a number of big-name guests including Woody Allen, Truman Capote, Muhammed Ali, and Peggy Flemming, but the show didn’t quite take off and was canceled after 13 episodes.
From TV To The Big Screen
His failure in television didn’t stop Namath from trying his hand at movies. In his best-known foray into films, he played C.C. Rider in the movie C.C. & Company, starring as a motorcycle-riding rebel who rescues female lead Ann-Margaret from a dangerous gang of outlaw bikers. “Loving, brawling, and bustin’ it up” was the movie’s campy tagline. The reviews were not kind, with one New York Times review suggesting that it was, “The picture to name when someone asks you to recommend ‘a good bad movie’.”
He also went back to television for a time. His most notable appearance was in a famous episode of The Brady Bunch, where he guest-starred as himself in a few scenes with Bobby Brady.
The Horseshoe That Kicked American Parents
In 1968, Joe Namath did a remarkable thing: he decided to rock a Fu Manchu mustache. It was short-lived but never forgotten. Though the mustache was more of a horseshoe-style than a legitimate Fu Manchu, parents went wild, questioning the message Namath was sending to their impressionable children.
Though Namath assured the anxious parents of America that he merely enjoyed the style, he decided to let it go. Schick famously paid him $10,000 to shave it off in a TV commercial.
When You Can’t Act, Sell Products In Commercials
It wasn’t long before Joe Namath was doing commercial spots by the dozen. He could sell anything, and he did. Among the products were Double Mac grills, Hamilton Beach popcorn makers, Olivetti typewriters, Brut cologne, and Ovaltine. He even starred in a Noxzema shaving cream commercial with Farrah Fawcett.
But his most famous commercial, by far, was for Hanes Beauty Mist pantyhose. The camera panned up his pantyhose-adorned legs, and he said, “Now I don’t wear pantyhose, but if Beauty Mist can make my legs look good, imagine what they’ll do for yours.”
Namath’s style was all his own. Even on the sidelines, he snagged every moment to bask in the glory of the crowd’s attention. Injured in 1971, he famously stood on the sidelines in a full-length fur-trimmed coat, with patterned bellbottoms and shades.
He was still working the camera 40 years later, at Super Bowl XLVIII, wearing a coyote fur coat trimmed with Norwegian fox. PETA went nuts.
Namath was not opposed to being the only one – or the first one – to do something. He marched to the beat of his own drum. His Jets uniform was no exception, as he was the first pro football player to show up in white cleats.
Starting with his time at the University of Alabama, he wrapped white tape around his black cleats. Some might have called him superstitious. Finally, his equipment manager surprised him with a brand new pair of white cleats, so he wouldn’t have to continue taping his black ones. A famous photograph from the time shows him in a sea of black-cleated football players, wearing those white cleats.
Joe Namath was a guy who had it all – from talent to style – and for a while, he epitomized ‘cool.’ He could take an underdog football team to an unbelievable victory, while simultaneously starting businesses and starring in movies. He was truly a legendary athlete and celebrity.