“Broadway Joe” Namath – An idol from my past

We all have our childhood memories, both good and bad. Who knows why we hang onto certain ones.

I have vivid memories of our family sitting around the dinner table and my father ranting about pro football quarterback, Joe Namath. He didn’t rant on just one occasion, but MANY times. Ugh! It was torturous. Namath had led the Crimson Tide of Alabama to a 29-4 record in three seasons and a national championship in 1964 and was highly prized by both the National Football League and the American Football League (the two leagues would eventually merge in 1970), not only for his athletic prowess but also for his Beaver Falls, PA charisma. Namath chose to sign with the New York Jets of the AFL for $142,000 per year. Such an amount is “chump change” in professional sports these days, but back in 1965 it was unheard of. I believe Namath may have been the first athlete to earn over $100K per year.

My Dad was absolutely incredulous! The average American salary was only around $5000 per year in 1965 and my Dad probably didn’t make much more than that. He wanted to know how some “dumb football player” could earn $142K per year when the President of the United States was paid a yearly salary of only $100K. We heard Dad’s rant over, and over, and over again for at least a couple of years. Unlike today, kids back  in those days were not allowed to say, “Yeah, Dad, you made your point. Time to move on.”

The reason I bring all this up is I came across a video of Joe Namath on You Tube yesterday waxing nostalgic over his career. We have our sports celebrities today, but Joe was a “cultural phenomenon” back in the late 60s and early 70s. Not only was he a good quarterback who led the Jets to victory in the 1969 Super Bowl, he also stoked his off-the-field persona as a high-living ladies’ man, the toast of Gotham City, “Broadway Joe.” Joe was a rebel with his long hair, Fu Manchu mustache, and [gasp!] white cleats. Joe was cool. Boys wanted to grow up and be the next Joe Willie Namath while men dreamed of being Joe for just one day. My best friend was a Jets fan with posters of Namath on his bedroom wall. As a San Diego Chargers fan, I couldn’t go that far, but I also thought Namath was very cool.

But the marketing image never reflects reality. Joe has struggled throughout his adult life with painful injuries from football. He worked hard to find his occupational niche after retiring from football in 1977, but nothing would come as easily to him as calling plays in the huddle. The country’s most famous bachelor finally married in 1984, but would divorce 16-years later. Joe also battled alcohol addiction for decades. We envy celebrities their lifestyle, but their headaches are often much bigger than the “average” person’s. Joe’s now 74-years-old. How much longer does he have to live?

We humans like to idolize celebrities. That’s our nature. We have a vacuum in our soul and we need to fill it with something or somebody. And consumer marketing exploits our penchant to idolize sports heroes and movie stars. The Jets were willing to pay Joe Namath $140K per year fifty years ago because they knew he could fill all the empty seats in their stadium and raise television ratings dramatically.

Who do you idolize? Who do you “worship” with your time and attention? Nobody is worthy of that kind of devotion. No one “has it all together.” It’s all a marketing façade. But there is one Person who is worth following. He walked the streets of Palestine 2000 years ago, but He and His message are as important now as back then. He had no failings. No skeletons in His closet. No false facades. And He offers you the gift of eternal salvation and fellowship with God.

You’re a sinner. He was not. God the Son came down from Heaven, put on flesh, lived a perfect life, and paid the penalty for sin on the cross of Calvary. But He beat sin and death when He rose from the grave. He’s reaching out to you now. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Follow Him. He is a firm foundation who will never fail you. He’s not a false idol. He’s absolutely worthy of all of our worship.

Why are there so many tragedies among celebrities?

7 thoughts on ““Broadway Joe” Namath – An idol from my past

  1. Calvin certainly got it right here “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” I struggle not to give a higher place to my husband and daughter than I should. Especially for my husband, who then feels the need to fulfill that way to high bar I set for him when I put him in the place of savior. I was so blessed by your post today, brother! God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”

      Yes, I can personally vouch for that. Thanks so much, sister, for the encouragement and God bless you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

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