Joe Namath turned 70 on Friday.
That will make a lot of old men feel a lot older this weekend. Joe was one of those guys who was never going to grow old — or up.
In the late ’60s, an era filled with rock superstars, Namath was the coolest man in America. If he and Mick Jagger (also 70, by the way) walked into a nightclub, Mick could take a seat at the end of the bar because everybody would be paying attention to Joe.
If Joe went in with The Beatles, he’d leave with more girls than the four of them combined.
Most of the people who aren’t old enough to remember those days think that Namath became cool when he predicted the Jets win over the Colts in Super Bowl III, but he was cool long before that — although it wasn’t until after the Super Bowl win that he wrote the American literary classic “I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow, Because I Get Better Looking Every Day.”
People just didn’t write books with titles like that in those days.
Of course, quarterbacks didn’t wear white shoes or have hair coming out of the back of their helmets or fu manchu mustaches, either. Namath parlayed his looks, personality and ability to throw a football into a leading role in a movie and a starring role in a network TV series.
Not only that, this kid from Beaver Falls appeared on Broadway in a production of Fiddler on the Roof.
There is no better indication of how the NFL has changed than by looking at Namath’s career stats.
He’s in the Hall of Fame with a 65.5 quarterback rating. He threw 173 touchdown passes with 220 interceptions and completed 50 percent of his passes. And there haven’t been three people on the planet who were better at throwing a football. In 1967, his third year with the Jets, he became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. There were only 14 games in a season back then. Dan Fouts of the San Diego Chargers was the next guy to do it in 1979. He threw for 75 more yards in a 16-game season.
Unless there are drastic changes in the NFL, no quarterback will ever be as “cool” as Namath. He never heard of dink and he never heard of dunk. He threw the ball downfield.
And if it was picked off, he threw it downfield again.
And it was his decision to keep throwing it downfield because he called the plays. There was no coach whispering in his helmet through a speaker telling him whether to dink or dunk.
Johnny Unitas, another pretty cool, western Pennsylvania quarterback, was Namath’s boyhood idol. Namath beat Unitas’ team in the Super Bowl and when he faced Unitas and the Colts in a 1972 regular-season game, a time when 300 yards was a monster day, he threw for 496 yards and six touchdowns.
Again, very cool.
• Just when you think the NCAA couldn’t possibly be more stupid, a story too outrageous to make up surfaces. A female athlete at a West Coast Conference school was fined $20 for washing her car. You read that right.
The athlete was never named, probably to prevent her from being scarred for life. According to sources, a WCC school self-reported an extra benefits violation to the NCAA when university officials caught one of their women’s golfers washing her car on campus.
This scofflaw took it upon herself to hook up a hose to a campus faucet and use university water for this selfish act. Since the water and hose were not available to all students, the NCAA ruled that the golfer had committed an extra benefits violation.
She was told to pay a $20 fine. One of the geniuses at the organization that is made up of many institutions of higher learning, determined that that would pay for the amount of water used and — Are you ready? — the use of the hose. You could wash the cars of every NCAA executive with less than 20 bucks worth of water.
• After stumbling across the story about the illegal car wash, I was linked to an NCAA stupidity story that may actually be worse.
It should please you to learn that, as of last August, cream cheese is no longer an NCAA violation. I won’t bore you with all the gargantuan problems that the NCAA could have been spending time on instead of this, but, in 2011, the Big East, which would eventually implode because of its own stupidity, incompetence and ineptitude, spent time coming up with proposal 2011-78. It allows institutions to offer “spreads such as butter, peanut butter, jelly and cream cheese” with the bagels that have been legal since 2009. It took legislation back then to make the bagels legal.
NCAA officials caved on the bagels four years ago but couldn’t bring themselves to make the drastic move of allowing condiments. They kept the rule on the books that made the offering of complimentary jam or butter packets a minor violation for three more years.
Yep, institutions of higher learning.