In 2018, football is king. For better or worse, the National Football League has become the most popular sporting entity in the United States, and it’s not even close. That being said, while the NFL would prefer the black & white memories of leatherhead coal miners pioneering the game into an instant national pastime, pro football owes more reflection to the actions of men still living on this earth. Still able to capture the voices and experiences of the men who lived it, American Pro-Football didn’t truly come of age until 1968. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl III, Bob Lederer’s latest book “Beyond Broadway Joe” provides an in-depth retrospective on one of the most important football teams in history. The New York Jets shocked the world with their guarantee and victory over the favored Baltimore Colts, and the charismatic Joe Namath captured America’s heart. Something to appreciate in the five decades since, is that there’s more to remember beyond the handsome gunslinger pointing his finger in victory towards gridiron immortality.
Before the Super Bowl became the unofficial national holiday it is today, the dual-league championship was envisioned more as a business venture between the slowly merging American and National Football Leagues. While still conducting games and seasons separately to close out the 1960s, a final contest between each league’s champions to cap off the season was the much less catchy named “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” While the book does a great job explaining this environment of pro-football at the time, the main-course here is Super Bowl III itself. Most of us know the basics: Joe Namath, handsome and cool as can be, guarantees a Jets victory and masterfully earns MVP honors in one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Thankfully however, nothing in Beyond Broadway Joe feels like a rehash. Want to know more about the “guarantee” and the steep odds? Great, watch any of the 10,000 hours of NFL Films on the subject. For the rest of us higher life forms, we’re treated to a full exposition on every player and coach on the 1968 New York Jets, and I do mean EVERY player.
I don’t care if you’re the biggest sports fan in the world, you WILL learn something from this book. Lederer’s research and personal knowledge runs deep and there is extra special care in displaying the intricate roles each person had in winning Super Bowl III. As a Baltimore fan, born some 20 years after this game was played, the lack of preparation of the Colts’ game-plan discussed in Beyond Broadway Joe drives me up a wall, and I feel like driving down to Florida to kick Don Shula right in the sack once and for all! Ok ok, I’m kidding, but even five decades later the calm, improvisational “modern offense” of the AFL Champion Jets over the old guard Colts has to be one of the most skewed in history.
As we close in on the 2018 NFL playoffs, this season has been struggling for an identity. We’ve seen several 75-100+ total points games, and just as many combined in the single digits. With several young gunslingers making dazzling moves, and old master craftsmen defying time itself, the NFL is due for another changing of the guard…and we may not be prepared for the result. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to draw comparisons to the teams of Super Bowl III to the Rams or Patriots among others of 2018. Fifty Super Bowls later, and we might just learn the same lesson all over again.
Rating: Beyond Broadway Joe will be a pleasure to read for any die-hard football fan, regardless of the era of your fandom. Need a last minute Christmas gift for dad? Well get ready to be the new family favorite. Exploring every facet of the roster, and the recounting tales of players, schemes and ideas otherwise forgotten is worth the price of admission alone.