SI Cover Tournament: Super Bowl Hero Joe Namath vs. Who's No. 1?

Christopher Walsh

This is a special-edition pairing in the Alabama SI Cover Tournament for two reasons. 

1) It'll be held over a holiday weekend, through Memorial Day. 

2) It's one of a couple of dual-cover entires.

Twice during the Bear Bryant years, Alabama was at least part of a cover that referenced which team should be No. 1 in the polls. So we're combining them into one entry. 

They have a tough opponent, the Joe Namath cover after the New York Jets won Super Bowl III. 

The pairing is the initial first-round matchup in the final regional, titled All Things Bama, of a  48-field single-elimination bracket to determine the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover.

Vote on Twitter (@BamaCentral) or Facebook (@AlabamaonSI). The voting goes 24 hours for each matchup and the result added to the original post on BamaCentral.

First round

All Things Bama Regional

Game 13: Super Hero, Super Joe vs. Who's No. 1?

Joe Namath, Sports Illustrated cover, Jan. 20, 1969

Story headline: Say It's So, Joe 

Subhead: And say it Joe did, boasting over and over again that his Jets would whip the mighty Colts in the Super Bowl. Then came Sunday—and Joe Namath quit talking and began to throw. Just like he said...

Excerpt (by Tex Maule): Broadway Joe Namath is the folk hero of the new generation. He is long hair, a Fu Manchu mustache worth $10,000 to shave off, swinging nights in the live spots of the big city, the dream lover of the stewardi—all that spells insouciant youth in the Jet Age.

Besides all that, Namath is a superb quarterback who in the Super Bowl last week proved that his talent is as big as his mouth—which makes it a very big talent, indeed. He went from Broadway Joe to Super Joe on a cloud-covered afternoon in Miami, whipping the Baltimore Colts, champions of the National Football League, 16-7 in the process.

Almost no one thought the New York Jets could penetrate the fine Baltimore defense, but Namath was sure of it and said so. "We're a better team than Baltimore," he said before the game. He was lying by the pool at the Gait Ocean Mile Hotel, where the Jets stayed, tanned and oiled against the sun. Namath reminds you a bit of Dean Martin in his relaxed confidence and in the droop of his heavy-lidded eyes. He is a man of immense self-assurance and, as he showed early in the week, a man of startling honesty.

"Earl Morrall would be third-string quarterback on the Jets," he said. "There are maybe five or six better quarterbacks than Morrall in the AFL."

It was called loudmouthing, bragging, but as it turned out, Super Joe told it the way it was. 

Sports Illustrated cover Dec. 3, 1973, Bear Bryant

Story headline: Bama Takes Charge 

Subhead: The Crimson Tide has moved ahead in the race for the national championship, thanks to the Ohio State-Michigan tie, but one false step and Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Penn State are poised to pounce

Excerpt: When Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge last week, the mist had not settled on the bayous before he and LSU's Charlie McClendon were bragging on one another again. It is a gracious Southern ritual that has been going on since McClendon, who is not only a fellow traveler from Arkansas but played and coached under Bryant, took over LSU in 1962.

According to the script, Bryant puts on his most venerable face and then will say as he did last week, "Cholly Mac and I are good friends, as everyone knows, and I hope he'll be kind to his old coach." Then, after Bryant's boys waylay McClendon's, as they have done seven times in nine meetings, Cholly Mac will drawl, "Somehow, I don't think Bear taught me all he knows."

There were hints of that last week when Bryant rightly prophesied that "mistakes will decide this game." ABC made the first one when it scheduled the game for prime time only to find that it would be bucking heads with NBC's offering of My Fair Lady. So, pulling strings again, ABC rescheduled the kickoff for the odd hour of 5:35 p.m. "As cute as Bear Bryant is," said one ABC operative, "he can't match Audrey Hepburn."

Bonus cover: There's a Red Alert

By Douglas S. Looney: In the debate over who's on top—Alabama, Nebraska, USC, Ohio State, Houston or Florida State—one point is clear: No. 1 wears red

Sports Illustrated cover, Nov. 12, 1979, Steadman Shealy