When growing up in a major sports market, like New York City, it’s easy to idolize certain sports personalities in your area. And, to find aspirational qualities through them.
In today’s climate of 24/7 cable sports coverage and social media, it’s hard to remember just how sparse the communication world was, 40 years ago. In the late 1960′s, the NFL was completing a merger with the AFL, and the transition was not all that smooth. Joe Namath was signed to the Jets for a contracted that included a $400,000 signing bonus. Not even all his new teammates were happy about it.
Sports marketing was in its infancy, and Joe Namath became the brand, not just the person. His quick release of the football and his good-natured disposition made him a New York favorite. Joe grew a fu manchu moustache. I grew a fu manchu moustache.
Last night I watched a documentary on HBO, Namath. It instantly beamed me back in time, to experience the electricity of the person and the personality. The headlines were refreshed in my mind. The specific replays from games were recalled from the recesses of my brain.
It has always struck me that exceptional people often suffer from a certain imbalance. His athletic prowess, toughness, personality, and marketability were counter-balanced with challenges of alcohol addiction mostly prompted by the attempt to mask severe pain, from many injuries.
For those not familiar with Namath, the documentary is well-worth watching. It’s a glimpse into the birth of personality-branding and star-appeal that covers today’s landscape of endorsements and reality television.
First-Generation New Yorker