“Some people don’t like this image I got myself, bein’ a swinger,” Namath was saying. “They see me with a girl instead of being home like other athletes. But I’m not institutional. I swing. If it’s good or bad, I don’t know, but I know it’s what I like. It hasn’t hurt my friends or my family and it hasn’t hurt me. So why hide it? It’s the truth. It’s what the___ we are.
“During the season, Hudson and I were drinking a lot and he said to me one day, ‘Hey, Joe, we gotta stop all this drinkin’.’ And I said, ‘Jeez, yes. We’ll stop drinking. Let’s just drink wine.’ Hudson said, no, we had to stop all the way. Well we did. So we don’t drink and we go up to Buffalo and we lose, 37–35, and I got five interceptions. I go right into the dressing room and I tell Hudson, ‘Jeez, let’s not hear any more about not drinking.’ Then before the Denver game, I had the flu and I didn’t drink. Five interceptions.
“So we’re in the sauna before the Oakland game, the first day we were working for the game and I’m saying, ‘All right, fellas, this is the big one. Gotta win. Our whole season depends on it. Thinking about not drinking myself.’ And Dave Herman yells, ‘Jeez, don’t do that. Do anything but don’t you stop drinking. If you don’t drink, I’ll grab you and pour it down your throat.’”
Sonny Werblin, who had been on the phone, came back to the bar. He had been taking notes on a small pad. He showed the notes to Namath and spoke to him in a low voice. Sonny Werblin was the head of the Music Corporation of America and he was one of the five or six most important people in show business. He retired from MCA and bought into the New York Jets. In what clearly is the best move made in sports in my time, Werblin decided to base his entire operation on getting Joe Namath and making him a star. Last year, Werblin sold his part of the team. But Joe Namath still calls him “Mr. Werblin” and never “Sonny” and when something comes up in Joe’s life, he asks Sonny Werblin about it.
Now, Namath sat and listened to Werblin.
“How much?” Namath asked.
Werblin said something and Namath nodded and they went back to their drinks.
A few minutes later, when everybody else was busy talking about something, Sonny Werblin said, “This thing I was showing him, it’s about the movies. You see, I know he’s a natural star. I mean, look at him. He’s got the face and the eyes. Women’ll tell you, bedroom eyes. He’s got that animal sex appeal. I knew he was a star the minute I saw him. We’d been going around looking at All-American quarterbacks. They had one at Tulsa. Jerry Rhone. He came into the room, a little, introverted guy. I said, nah, I don’t want him. Never mind how good he is, I need to build a franchise with somebody who can do more than play. So we went down to Birmingham and the minute Joe walked into the room, I knew. I said, ‘Here we go.’ So what I’m doing now. I’ve got picture offers for him, but I don’t want any freaky thing just to cash in on him being a football player. I want to build a broad base for him. I heard about something just now. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are doing a film. We’ll pay to get into it. We’ll pay for the chance. I want him in with good actors, where he can look good. I don’t want him over his head the first time with something we’re doing just for the money. I couldn’t care about money. I wouldn’t touch a cent of anything I get for him. I just want to do it right for him.”
We had to leave the golf club and drive over to a place called the Jockey Club. Before leaving, Namath ordered a round of drinks in plastic cups and everybody got into the car with the drinks. Joe Hirsch, the writer for the Morning Telegraph, was driving.
“I’m going up to Pensacola tonight,” Namath said.
“Seeing Suzy?” somebody said.
“Yeah, I’ll see her,” he said.
“She is a lovely, very smart girl,” somebody said.
“Is she your girl?” Joe was asked.
“I like her,” he said. “She goes to college in Pensacola.”
“Jeez, ah, Northern Florida something or other. It’s a new college up there.”
“Is she a senior?”