Friday, January 11, 2019

Books: Dave Anderson's Defining Book On Super Bowl III

Countdown To Super Bowl: How The 1968-1969 New York Jets Delivered On Joe Namath's Guarantee To Win It All - 50th Anniversary Edition
By Dave Anderson
Sports Publishing; paperback, 248 pages; $16.99

Saturday is the 50th Anniversary of the Jets' stunning victory of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

This is possibly the most consequential Super Bowl of all-time, as the Jets, then of the American Football League, beat the heavily-favored Colts, stalwarts of the National Football League. The two leagues merged soon after, with the NFL absorbing all AFL teams and the structure of the NFL still stands today.

Countdown to Super Bowl, by the longtime New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson, tells the whole story of the game of the century, written by the man who followed every movement of the Jets from the first kick-off of the season, who lived, breathed, and agonized with them for the ten nerve-tingling days before the Colts went down to defeat in the Super Bowl.

Anderson, who passed away this past October, gives the play-by-play, moment-by-moment saga of how Super Joe Namath and the Jets made good on Namath’s famous guarantee that they would humble the NFL and vanquish the invincible Colts.

This book provides all the color, the action, and the behind-the-scenes drama of the greatest upset in football history.

Joe Namath in Super Bowl III,

Anderson writes of Countdown To Super Bowl, "This isn't a book so much as it's an 11-day capsule of how Joe Namath and the New York Jets won Super Bowl III, a stunning 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts half a century ago in an America that was aflame. Protestors of the Vietnam War disrupted the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Before the Jets swept to an 11-3 record in the 1968 season Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, and Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 5. At the Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith, the gold medalist in the 200-meter dash, and John Carlos, the bronze medalist, each raised a black-gloved 'black power' fist as the national anthem played. Richard Nixon was elected president.
"And on the 12th day of 1969, the Jets won the Super Bowl. The Jets from that 'other league,' the nine-year old American Football League that proved it was as good as the champions of the National Football League that had been around for nearly half a century, the Jets with a shaggy-haired quarterback that dared to 'guarantee' a victory.
"That's why Super Bowl III has endured as arguably the most memorable of more than 50 Super Bowls. Old-timers remember Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers winning the first Super Bowl and also the second. Fans of other Super Bowl winners remember those particular games, but just about every pro football fan remembers Joe Namath and the Jets."

This remains the Jets' only Super Bowl victory and appearance, and since then, they have proven to be one of the most tortured franchises in sports, still looking to find the real successor to Broadway Joe.

Namath made his famous guarantee at the Touchdown Club banquet three nights before the game, on Thursday, January 9, stunning the crowd there that night, including some members of the Colts. 

Anderson writes of the next morning when his teammates became aware of Namath's bold move at the hotel the teams were staying at, "In the Galt lobby, Ralph Baker slipped 15 cents into the coin slot of the newspaper rack and took a Miami Herald. Opening it to the first sports page, he was startled by a big headline: NAMATH GUARANTEES JET VICTORY. Below it was the report of the quarterback's speech at the Touchdown Club banquet.
"Baker read it quickly. When he looked up, Bill Hampton was about to join him for breakfast.
"'You've got to read this,' Baker said to the equipment manager. 'You've just got to read this.'
"Namath's guarantee perhaps had more of an impact on Ralph Baker than on any of the other Jets because the 26-year old left linebacker would never think of being that boastful. Though a brawny 235 pounds, he's more bashful than brazen. In his second season, he had to be chastised by (Jets coach) Weeb Ewbank for gently shoving Jack Kemp, the Buffalo Bills' quarterback, out of bounds.
"'You're too nice to everybody,' the coach snapped. 'You have to be tough, or people will take advantage of you.'
"In his fifth season, the Penn State alumnus no longer was too nice, but he was inconspicuous. Baker has been described by (Jets assistant coach) Walt Michaels as 'steady, dependable, he doesn't make many mistakes.' Neither does he make many spectacular plays. For a linebacker to be noticed, he must make an occasional spectacular play...
"But his life now revolved around what would happen on Sunday as he finished his breakfast with Bill Hampton and discussed Joe Namath's guarantee. 
"'I've got a theory,' he said.
"'What's that?' Hampton asked.
"'I think Joe's trying to add to the pressure on himself. He's at his best when the pressure is on. Like in the (AFL) championship game (against Oakland) when we were behind in the last quarter, and like in Houston when we were behind with four minutes to go and he took the offense 80 yards for the winning touchdown. He thrives on pressure and I thin he's creating this pressure on purpose.'
"'You might be right,' Hampton said. Not all the members of the Jet group looked as optimistically on Joe Namath's guarantee. Among the dissenters was George Sauer, Sr., the director of player personnel, and he approached Gerry Philbin in the lobby.
"'This is really going to stir up the Colts,' Sauer said.
"'When all this talk started, I thought the same thing,' the defensive end replied. 'But now I'm beginning to think it's good. One of the troubles with the other two AFL teams in the Super Bowl was that they kept saying how great the Packers were, so as not to get the Packers mad. But the trouble was, the AFL players began to believe it themselves.'
"'Well,' Sauer said, 'you might have something there.'"

Countdown To Super Bowl is the perfect book to relive the stories and moments that led up to the miraculous Jets Super Bowl win.

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