Did you know that Joe Namath, just like George Washington, cannot tell a lie? Of such tales are American legends made, and such tales abound in the pages of Namath: My Son Joe (Oxmoor House, $7.95).
The book is the work of Rose Namath Szolnoki (I confess to some wonderment at the phenomenon of a divorced woman using her first husband's name as her middle name) and Bill Kushner, a whilom quarterback who once spent enough time in the Jets' camp to get the proverbial cup of coffee. It ain't great literature, but it sure does tug the old heart.
We learn here, for example, the source of Namath's famous sunny disposition. It seems that as a wee lad he refused his bottle, but Mom came to the rescue: "Finally, I heated up some milk and put a secret ingredient in it, and from that time on he was a precious little angel. No, no matter what Joey says now, that secret ingredient wasn't Johnny Walker Red, it was just plain sugar."
That's a pretty good example of the Szolnoki-Kushner prose style, which fairly oozes maternal devotion; the book would, perhaps, be most enjoyably read if accompanied by a nice hot bowl of chicken soup. To wit, this description of Bear Bryant: "He certainly had a forceful personality, but after I got over my nervousness, I saw a little twinkle in his eye and I suspected that deep down inside he was really just a Teddy bear."
November 17, 1975
But when the Jets won the Super Bowl Mom outdid herself. For Joey's triumphant return to Beaver Falls, she prepared a special greeting: "I had spent several days making a beautiful sign to put up across the front porch railing, and as I walked into the front yard I couldn't help but admire my handiwork. In New York Jets green I had painted a literary masterpiece: 'Welcome Home Mommie's Hero!' "
If you haven't dissolved by now into a puddle of satisfied sentiment, be advised that there's more, lots more. In Namath: My Son Joe, you can read all about Our Hero's cute boyhood escapades, his rapid leap to high-school football stardom, his courtship by hordes of college recruiters. Oh, Joey does a naughty thing from time to time, but usually he ends up promising Mom he won't do it again—"and Joe never lies."
What I wonder is: If Joe was so embarrassed by Mom's Super Bowl sign that he hid it in the garage, what's he going to do with all the copies of this book?