This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Larry’s story: For the next 13 years I was the starting linebacker for the New York Jets. We drank a lot of whiskey and beer. If we weren’t playing football, we were drinking-that was our second job. In 1961 I got a phone call and my Dad had passed away at the age of fifty. When I got home, all I heard was how great a man my Dad was. How he had taken care of other people, and how he knew no racial boundaries when that was not normal in Mississippi. On the plane back to New York, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want anything to do with the God he worshiped. I went on about my life without any belief whatsoever in God or any Higher Power. I don’t need to tell you what happened—most of you already know.
I went about my business and my business was playing football and drinking. In 1963 just before Thanksgiving, I flew my mother to New York. Up north people make white bread dressing, but south of the Mason Dixon line we like cornbread dressing and my wife wasn’t very good at making dressing, so I decided to fly my mother up here. Mother got off the airplane with a big pan; she was going to make cornbread dressing for the whole football team. By then my drinking had escalated and I decided I should talk to my mother about it. We had a beer company for a sponsor and one thing they told us was never run out of beer and if you need any just call us and we’ll send it out to your house. Anyway, I told my mother that I was the lightest linebacker in both football leagues and the team suggested that I should drink more beer to keep my weight up-I told my Mother that I was drinking beer to gain weight.
My mother didn’t say much and we drove to my apartment out on Long Island and while we were gone the beer distributor had delivered 16 cases of beer and set them in my foyer. When we got home my mother looked at that beer and asked, “Son, how much weight do they want you to gain?” She thought I wanted to be the biggest linebacker in both leagues.
The American Football League and the National Football League fought each other all of the time. They were always trying to get the players to jump from one league to another and it was like a war. Finally in 1967 both leagues got smart and decided to get together and play one game for the world championship-somebody coined the phrase “Super Bowl”. On January of 1967 the very first Super Bowl was held. The Kansas City Chief’s won the AFL that year and the Green Bay Packers won the NFL and they played each other. That first Super Bowl game was played in the coliseum at Los Angeles, CA-Green Bay beat the tar out of the Kansas City Chiefs. On January of 1968 the second Super Bowl was held and once again, Green Bay won the NFL but the Oakland Raiders won the AFL-they played down in Miami. The NFL champions, once again, beat the tar out of the AFL champions.
The AFL’s Super Bowl record was two losses and zero wins. Pro football fans began to believe the NFL league was much stronger than the AFL. In December of 1968 the New York Jets played the Oakland Raiders in a real tough game and we beat the Raiders 27-23 and won the right to play in Super Bowl III. In the NFL, Baltimore beat Cleveland 34-0 and so the stage was set, The New York Jets would play Baltimore in Super Bowl III. Because of the AFL’s past Super Bowl records and the fact that Baltimore pounded Cleveland, the smart money was down on Baltimore and they were a 19 ½ point favorite over the Jets. At a banquet held on the Tuesday before Super Bowl III a young quarterback named Joe Namath was speaking at a banquet when a heckler said, “Namath, why don’t you sit down and shut up! Baltimore is going to kick your butt on Sunday!” Namath said, “Partner, you’ve got it all wrong. I guarantee the New York Jets are going to win the game!” Super Bowl III became known as the game that Joe Namath guaranteed. We beat the Colts 16-7, and became the first AFL team to ever win a Super Bowl.
To be continued.