Joe Namath is a legend for so many reasons. From his national championship-winning ways at the University of Alabama to his Super Bowl-capturing time in the NFL with the New York Jets, “Broadway Joe” became something of a sex symbol at the height of his career.
We’re talking about a guy who once let Farrah Fawcett shave his face in a commercial, wore a pair of pantyhose for an advertisement and made that large fur coat his signature look. Plus, he once coached a bunch of college kids in a beer-chugging competition on TV. Talk about an icon.
The 77-year-old’s life has been full of memorable on-field experiences. Former Jets quarterback Joe Namath once memorably won Super Bowl III after guaranteeing he’d beat Don Shula‘s Baltimore Colts. One he may never live down was his unforgettable drunk sideline interview with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber.
Joe Namath Drunkenly Hits on ESPN’s Suzy Kolber
Namath returned to MetLife Stadium in what was supposed to be a beautiful gathering of the Jets’ All-Time team during a game between the Jets and New England Patriots on December 20, 2003. He had been drinking since 3 or 4 p.m. that day.
As ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber recalls, the team’s staff ushered him down on field just before halftime for a live interview. She remembers thinking something was wrong with the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, but had no clue he was drunk off his ass.
“I remember that before he came on-air, he didn’t stand still. So I had to grab him by the arm. He was not jittery. There was no immediate visible indication that he was drinking. He talked slowly and I remember thinking that maybe he’s cold. Did something happen to him? Was there something wrong? I didn’t think he was he drunk. He spoke very deliberately but answered the first question about the Jets quarterback Chad Pennington. The truck told me to continue,” she told the Sports Broadcast Journal.Advertisement
Then, she asked a simple question that produced an answer she and the rest of the country will never forget.
“What does it mean to you now that the team is struggling?”
“I wanna kiss you. I could’t care less about the team strugg-a-ling,” Namath said while slurring and gazing into Kolber’s eyes.
If she was uncomfortable, you couldn’t tell. Kolber handled it like a complete professional. Then again, maybe she was truly flattered at the time.
Her response: “Thanks, Joe. I’ll take that as a huge compliment.”
Suzy Kolber Interview Helped Namath Stop Drinking
Namath revealed in his new book, “All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters,” that the incident helped him get his life back on track. His alcohol addiction “nearly killed him” and led to a divorce from his ex-wife, Deborah, but that embarrassing interview was the last straw.
“I saw it as a blessing in disguise,” Namath, wrote in the new autobiography. “I had embarrassed my friends and family and could not escape that feeling. I haven’t had a drink since.
“That shame is where I found my strength to deal with the addiction. With the help of my recovery, I learned that I had used my divorce as an excuse to go back to drinking. That knowledge made me a stronger individual.”Advertisement
You can read more about the Alabama and NFL legend’s struggles by grabbing his book on Amazon below.
Kolber didn’t speak about the incident publicly until some nine years later in 2012 for an HBO documentary. She didn’t want that interview did be how either of them were remembered.
While Namath took a ton of heat for his comments, Kolber said he apologized.
“Joe and I spoke shortly after the incident and he apologized. There’s always a silver lining. Joe had hit rock bottom with his drinking on national TV, which was unfortunate. Yet, it changed the course of his life. He got help and regained custody of his kids. He’s a good person,” she told the Sports Broadcast Journal.
Namath appears to have his drinking under control now, but never forget the time it produced one of the wildest moments on an NFL sideline.