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Beating the Odds

Why the Jets Picked Joe Namath

You can make the case that Super Bowl III, which took place on Jan. 12, 1969, was the single most important sports event in the history of North America.

Without that game, in which the New York Jets defeated the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 16-7, there might not be a Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.

There might not billions of dollars in TV contracts for the NFL. There might not be the economic impact, both for the host city and in countless millions spent on Super Bowl parties. There might not be a cultural impact marking the end of a long winter festival that begins on Thanksgiving and lasts until shortly before baseball’s spring training.

None of that might have happened without a brash quarterback named Joe Namath, who guaranteed a Jets victory. And how did the Jets get Namath? In a story told by New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick — one I had never heard before — Namath came to the Jets because of an umbrella and a rainstorm! Mushnick tells the story as part of his overall point that current Jets Coach Rex Ryan revealed his character in a post-game moment.

Here’s what happened. The Jets held a top draft pick were trying to decide between two impact quarterbacks: Jerry Rhome of Tulsa and Namath of Alabama. Jets owner Sonny Werblin and his wife took Rhome out to dinner. You always learn about people over dinner. But after dinner came a moment that changed history. Rhome dashed for a car in the rain without holding the umbrella for Mrs. Werblin. Right there Werblin decided to draft Namath.

It’s a sports lesson and a life lesson. “It’s nice to be important but it‘s more important to be nice.”

“Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him,” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.

Jets fans can be thankful for the rain that brought Namath.

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