Football great Joe Namath is also one of the sport's biggest fans. Here, the legendary Jets quarterback — who was recently named "ambassador" to his former team — weighs in on his favorite players, female commentators and his new clothing line.
TV Guide Online: Broadway Joe! You made the quarterback one of the most glamorous icons of pop culture. How does that make you feel?
Namath: First of all, I'm a Gemini, so I have a serious football side and a mischievous side — but friends told me I'd have to stop using that excuse years ago. (Laughs) I'm from western Pennsylvania, and I have three older brothers, so I was never one to step forward and put on a fur coat. But I did. Those things happened because of where I was, the people I was around and because I was game. It was because of New York, not because of old Joe. If I couldn't play, it would have been a problem.
TVGO: What were your most memorable moments when you were playing?
Namath: During training camp in my rookie year, we had some misunderstandings between the veterans and the rookies, and we tried to clear the air. There were some veterans who didn't understand the change in football, as far as the financial stuff was concerned. Getting the word across that we were there to play football was important. That sticks out in my mind, because it was the first time I got to talk to the entire team. It was a time of transition. Life is a team game and without good people around, you can really run into some big problems. Other than that meeting and the championship, being elected offensive captain was the highlight of my professional life. That was a shocker to me.
TVGO: Did you have a pregame superstition or ritual?
Namath: Yes. When I was a senior in college, I forgot to tape my shoes in the fourth game of the season. And I didn't have my shoes laced right over left because I was in a hurry. Well, that game was the first time I tore ligaments in my right knee. From that day on, I insisted my shoes be laced right over left. I taped my shoes most of the time, but I endorsed some [Puma] shoes, and things got so commercial that I couldn't. The company wasn't keen on that.
TVGO: Tell me about your new clothing line.
Namath: I'm doing a "Broadway Joe" line with Moonlight Graham, the same company that worked with Dr. J years ago. We're going to be doing some throwback kind of jackets and shirts, in lots of great colors and the number 12 for the fall. It's great stuff.
TVGO: What's the craziest thing a fan ever asked you to do?
Namath: Oh, man. In signing things for people, I've been asked to sign in a lot of places, but I always try to be a gentleman.
TVGO: How has TV changed in how it covers the game?
Namath: The announcing and color part of it has taken on more of an entertainment role. It is a show. They've finally given in to the fact that it is entertainment. There was a time when the people that ran things didn't accept the idea of catering to the fan, but excuse me, that's how this game has become so colossal. I'm afraid it's gotten a little too much. Some of it is sensationalized more than it should be. But nothing is perfect. I think it's the best it's ever been.
TVGO: What do think about female commentators?
Namath: I can remember a girl asking me for an interview outside of the locker room in Boston. She wanted to come in. I said, "No way. I respect you and all that, but you can't come in here." This was back in the early '70s, and it was the first time I had seen a lady around sports. I like it now. It's only a positive. Not only does it include more of a female fan base, but now, as a father, I know my girls are into sports. If you don't agree with it, that's just what life's about.
TVGO: Who's the best quarterback in the NFL right now?
Namath: I've always felt that for a guy to perform at his best, he's got to have a well-oiled team. If not, you're going to struggle to make things happen. You can take Rich Gannon, who was all-pro last year and justifiably so, but you put him with the Cincinnati Bengals and he's not going to be all-pro. You take Dan Marino, who never won a championship when he was playing, and put him on the 49ers, and they'd still win. It's a team game. I couldn't tell you who the best quarterback is today. I think Peyton Manning is absolutely outstanding. I think Chad Pennington shocked the football world with his abilities last year. Some people would take Donovan McNabb over everybody. Hey, I like [Miami Dolphin] Jay Fiedler. People down here in South Florida have been trying to get rid of him. Look what they did to Brian Griese in Denver. There's too many good ones to pick one. It comes down to a personal thing. Numbers lie. To each his own.