So I tell Broadway Joe Namath that everyone these days talks about how cool Joe Burrow is off the field.
“Oh. … That’s a stretch, you know? He’s got a way to go to catch up to me about being slick, man,” Broadway Joe said, and laughed.
Namath has never met Joe Burrow, but there can be no argument there. Broadway Joe was a first-ballot Cool Hall of Fame enshrinee. I grew a Fu Manchu because of him, wore white shoes in winter because of him, wore funny bell bottoms because of him. He was sporting fur coats in the 1960s. Burrow has had everyone raving about his fashion style when he trotted out his own fur coat.
“You know what? I haven’t seen it yet,” Broadway Joe said. “If I did, it was not a good picture, it didn’t do the coat justice. And that was only today. I got a flash of it, maybe he was walking somewhere, but I really didn’t get a good look at it.”
What was his favorite fur coat?
“Oh boy,” Broadway Joe began. “I have a few favorites. My long black mink, knee-length mink with the nice collar on it, boy. … I’ve had a blackglama mink made for me at one time, with vertical stripes — it was black and then vertical stripes with a nice brown kind of color — and I had a flight jacket that was mink that I wore, and I liked that flight jacket kind of thing. … There were a couple of fox coats that were cool, they were in all mink.”
Broadway Joe has never met Joe Burrow. I wanted to know how he felt Burrow would look in a Fu Manchu. Broadway Joe paused.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “You’d have to like it on you. A guy has to like that, because when I see Fu Manchus I immediately think of sinister bad captains or some kind of bad dude, you know? In a western facing Clint Eastwood or something, one of those cats that had the Fu Manchu. But even Chinese with a Fu Manchu, they weren’t always the nice guy.”
What made him grow one?
“I felt that way,” Broadway Joe said, and laughed. “I had thrown five interceptions against Denver, and we lost the game, and I was pissed off. … I decided I wasn’t gonna shave until we clinched the championship. A couple of the teammates in the shower when I was talking about it: ‘I’m not shaving either, dammit.’ More than a handful of guys decided not to shave until we clinched the [AFL] championship. And we actually got a letter from the commissioner that Weeb [Ewbank, coach] didn’t show us. It got all the way to December whenever we clinched our championship before the Super Bowl that Weeb put that letter up on the bulletin board that he received in October, I guess. It was after our third, fourth game. See, Weeb knew his team. He knew if he put that up there that we would just be pissed off at him.”
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Burrow’s postgame cigars? Yawn.
“We did that in college!” Broadway Joe said. “[Alabama] Coach [Bear] Bryant used to give us a cigar every time we beat Tennessee. It was tradition. We weren’t allowed to smoke off the field or anywhere, it wasn’t condoned, and to get a cigar, man, and be able to pull on it, yeah, that was pretty cool.”
Now, what if Burrow asked Broadway Joe if he should do a pantyhose commercial?
“I gotta believe there’d be a lot of people out there willing to look at it,” he said. “If it’s worth your while and you get a kick out of it, go ahead, sure.”
Broadway Joe — starring in a new DraftKings Super Bowl commercial offering over 10,000 customers a free bet to be placed on the game — enjoyed his movie roles. But who wouldn’t opposite Ann-Margret (C.C. and Company) anyway?
“They are such a part of my life, good memories and all. … They were great adventures for me, and I met nothing but good people, wonderful people,” he said.
There is no mistaking that Burrow had the IT factor as well. Asked what the IT factor is, Broadway Joe said, “You gotta run into it, I guess. I can feel it if I run into a lady that I feel good about, or just being in a person who has the energy and the vibes, the feelings. … This is kind of corny, but the IT factor is also somebody that respects the other people, too. You know how to deal with people. You treat ’em right. That is a big part of maintaining the IT factor.”
The Bengals are closing in on their first Super Bowl championship, just as Broadway Joe’s Jets were in Super Bowl III. Burrow is 25, just as Broadway Joe was. What if Burrow called him to ask if he should make a guarantee?
Broadway Joe laughed: “Well, I’d probably say, ‘Joe, you do what you want, man. Just continue to make sure you’re ready when it’s game time and throughout the game.’ ”
Burrow has drawn on-field comparisons to the young Namath.
“I’m flattered ’cause he’s better than I ever was,” Broadway Joe said.
He explains: “You know, I think 99 percent of the guys playing today are better than the guys were in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s — better athletes, better … physically, all that stuff, you know? I know he’s in better shape than I ever was physically.”
“You look at basketball. Did [James] Naismith ever envision the game being played above the rim? You watch these guys playing today, you’re gonna tell me Bob Cousy’s gonna say, ‘I’m better than that guy?’ Whoa! Bill Russell, a man who won all those championships, man, yeah, the animals out there playing today are faster, bigger, stronger, that’s what I’m talking about. Not the mindset, necessarily. I’m talking about the physical specimens, and how they work at it year-round, man, year-round. They eat, drink and sleep it — some of ’em party — but they work at it year-round.”
Burrow makes his teammates believe the way Broadway Joe made his teammates believe.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Broadway Joe said. “I gotta believe the way I conducted myself with my teammates on the practice field, in the meetings and all, they were convinced that they could win with me.”
Broadway Joe is fond of Matthew Stafford, but as an old AFL guy, he will be pulling for Burrow and the Bengals.
“When I look at quarterbacks, I look at their physical movement, I look at their head movement, their eyes, I look at their delivery, the passing, I look at the speed of the balls they throw,” he said. “If you put some air under it, you gotta change the speed sometimes, the trajectory sometimes. You can see if his first receiver’s covered, second receiver, third receiver, I can see him going from place to place and even looking off the defenders. … There’s no doubt that the team has an opportunity with him at the helm, that some other teams might not possess that kind of player.”
Of course there will always remain the question of how Broadway Joe might have been able to handle the Cincinnati nightlife when he played.
“It would have been a bigger challenge than Manhattan, I promise ya that,” he said.
And how might Joe Burrow have handled Broadway?
“I think he’s a been in good shape, man,” Broadway Joe said. “First of all, he’s focused on the job, and the respect he has for other people, how he carries himself with his teammates, I’ve never heard anything otherwise about him. He’d get along anywhere. He’s a winner.”
He’s Riverfront Joe. Only one Broadway Joe.