The first Super Bowl was played in 1967. But the event truly began in 1969 when a charismatic quarterback from Beaver Falls, Pa., (via the University of Alabama) named Joe Namath put the event on the map. After guaranteeing a win, Namath’s New York Jets upset the 17-point favourite Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III to seal the National Football League-American Football League merger and to make the Super Bowl the most powerful television property in America.
Before Tom Brady and before Tim Tebow, there was Namath, the first football player to wear both white shoes and pantyhose. Joe Willie. Broadway Joe. As the Super Bowl looms next Sunday, HBO has created a superb documentary on the first football player who loved the lens – and whom the lens loved back.
Namath: Beaver Falls to Broadway documents the bittersweet life and times of the athlete who transcended his sport to become a media superstar in the 1960s and a YouTube punchline decades later. Other jocks had tried (and failed) before to look comfortable in front of the camera, but Namath was the first to own it, doing movies, TV commercials and living large in New York with a twinkle in his eye and a beauty on his arm. He effortlessly mixed with Truman Capote, Ann Margaret, Howard Cosell and Bear Bryant.
In later years, when drinking and depression got the better of him, Namath also provided one of the most cringe-worthy TV interviews of all time on Monday Night Football – and that’s in the HBO film, too. Namath had drunkenly slurred, “I want to kiss you” to interviewer Suzy Kolber. Kolber talks about it for the first time, and Namath owns the moment, talking about his battle with booze.
The HBO doc shows Namath, as charming now as he was in his heyday, a 68-year-old rascal grandfather seated in his southern Florida home, spinning stories. “I liked my ladies blonde and my scotch red.”
Whether embracing his playboy image or the litany of injuries that curtailed a brilliant career, Namath is honest, engaging and occasionally profound viewing. We “guarantee” you’ll enjoy it.
You killed the car
Speaking of Super Bowl – and what else is there to talk about – Honda has captured the early lead in the coveted most-anticipated-commercial category. The auto maker has apparently gotten Matthew Broderick to reprise his Ferris Bueller character for a spot that will run during the game. “The question isn’t, ‘What are we going to do,’ the question is, ‘What aren’t we going to do?’ ” Honda isn’t denying the story. “It’s real simple. Whatever mileage we put on, we’ll take off.”
I like a larf
Would that Ferris Bueller had driven the Ferrari to Ottawa for the NHL all-star weekend. The hijinx reminded us of the frustrated politician who reportedly muttered, “We don’t need a new system, we need new people.” Everything about the weekend was fine, except for the monochromatic players. Poor James Duthie of TSN looked like Rockin’ Mel Slirrup of SCTV fame, trying to elicit remote signs of wit from inanimate objects. Best call from TSN was recognizing that Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price would go against type and actually have something to say. Best Price line, after watching goalies in the not-so-speedy contest, “Your heartbeat break 80?”
We defend Tim Thomas’s right to protest bypassing the White House, but for a little perspective on grace maybe he should talk to Christian Ehrhoff. While in Ottawa a few years back, the entire Vancouver Canucks team took a pass on practice to attend the Remembrance Day parade on Parliament Hill. Among the Canucks honouring the sacrifice of Canadian troops was Christian Ehrhoff. Who is German.
Friday, we documented CBC’s reasons for dropping the Grand Slam of Curling series run by Kevin Albrecht and iSport Media and Management. Jeffrey Orridge, CBC vice-president for sports properties, told us that it was because of financial, not performance, issues. At the time we were unable to reach Albrecht, but he subsequently supplied us with a statement:
“We were all disappointed to receive the news that CBC Sports had unilaterally terminated the curling agreement. There were many serious non-performance and non-delivery issues that both parties needed find a way to resolve. For Mr. Orridge to classify this as a one issue dispute is a gross misrepresentation on his part. We have paid CBC Sports well over $3-million … in production subsidies during this agreement. We were the customers and we were unhappy customers with unhappy fans – have you read the curling blogs?
“If he truly wanted to resolve all the issues, why did he not exhaust every alternative dispute resolution option available to him? ... His cavalier decision to just skip over these viable options and go straight to termination, just one week before 76 of the world’s best amateur curlers from Canada and Europe had already spent their own money on travel expenses to compete this weekend in Dawson Creek, does not jive with his expressed ... concern for the curlers and the fans … which now can only be looked upon as a disingenuous and condescending.”
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