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Eight lessons from reading Namath

J. Namath

Sometimes I read books about football. I usually write down numbers of interesting pages on scrap paper and then never look at the scrap again. My wife loves this.

After reading Mark Kriegel’s terrific and lively biography on Joe Namath, I thought I’d pass a few of the notes along.

1. During the era of Jets owner Sonny Werblin, writers flew in first class and the players were in coach on team flights. One writer noted “everybody would be bombed” before the flight took off.

Yeah, things have changed a little in media-team relations in the last 50 years. (Rex Ryan, incidentally, remind us a little of Werblin. He sells and that steals attention from the reserved Giants.)

2. The AFL Jets battled the NFL Cardinals for Namath’s rights. There were strong rumors at the time the Cardinals were doing the bidding for the Giants, who would trade for the pick. The Giants wouldn’t admit it, but Namath confirmed the story.

3. Namath once told a fan to go ‘f-- yourself’ on a family picnic day at training camp after getting heckled. He then told a nearby reporter: “Yeah, you can go ahead and print that, too. I don’t give a f---.”

We’re just trying to imagine the reaction if a quarterback tried that in this era.

4. Namath was accused of being drunk in team meetings by coaches, especially early in his career. One time he went AWOL at training camp when his brother got some terrible medical news. Namath was spotted far away in New York City by the sports editor for Time magazine, and some sort of altercation ensued. Years of legal battles followed.

5. Jets fans booed Namath lustily early in his career because he threw so many interceptions.

“How do I know that all of this couldn’t end tomorrow? It could, you know, it really could,” Namath said. He was 23.

6. Trash talking was a lot more fun then. Namath said before Super Bowl III that opposing starter Earl Morrall was worse than at least five AFL quarterbacks, including Namath’s 39-year-old backup Babe Parilli.

7. Namath and two teammates skipped “Picture Day” at the Super Bowl. He was out late the night before and almost came to blows with a Colts player at a bar.

“If they want to take pictures of me, they are going to have to take them later than 10 o’clock,” Namath said.

8. How much have our attitudes changed about the preseason? Many Jets -- perhaps most -- said their 1969 exhibition blowout win over the Giants meant more to them than the Super Bowl III win earlier that year. Really.