Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Winning like Broadway Joe

It has been said that “It ain’t braggin’ if you do it.” Joe Namath was known for boldly guaranteeing a Jets’ Victory over Don’ Shula’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969. He led the Jets to a 16-7 win. The prediction and the win made him a celebrity, a sports icon and eventually landed him in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.    

I was a teenager when I read the book I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow ... 'Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day by Joe Willie Namath and collaborator Dick Schaap. Namath’s career statistics are not exceptional (career passing percentage 50.1, 50 more interceptions than touchdowns etc. etc. etc) yet he was the game's first true media superstar. When that book was published, Namath was at the height of his popularity and fame. In essence, he was a brand with undeniable attributes. Namath was a non-conformist who donned white shoes, grew shaggy hair and smiled behind a Fu Manchu mustache. He wore mink coats and arrived with a babe on each arm while prowling the New York City night life, showing a side of pro athletes the public had seldom seen. The man who would soon be known as Broadway Joe became an anti-hero to the establishment and the savior of the rebellious American Football League.

Broadway Joe Namath played for the University of Alabama under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and assistant Howard Schnellenberger from 1962-1964. He was well prepared for a professional football career in the 1960s and 1970s. He retired from professional football after playing in 143 career games (68 wins, 71 losses and 4 ties). He threw 173 touchdowns, 220 interceptions, and completed 1,886 passes for 27,663 yards. His career spanned thirteen years in the AFL and NFL.

I was able to purchase a gently used copy of the Namath/Schaap book from recently. As I re-read the book all these years later, I cannot help considering the nature of celebrity, the context of brand building and the pure circumstances of leadership. Your unique brand includes the projection of confidence backed by preparation. You may not be in a position to guarantee victory every time but if can display faith in your strategy and your team, you might just achieve the improbable. It really helps if you believe you can win.

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