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Humanity and Joe Namath

Joe Namath and Suzy Kolber

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to watch a fascinating documentary on Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath. It shows on HBO and prominently includes interviews with Namath, teammates, journalists, and Beaver Falls, PA residents.

One of the things that most impacted me was the incident that occurred between Namath and ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber during a 2003 prime time game between the Jets and Miami Dolphins.

Namath was honored along with his teammates from the 1969 Super Bowl team. Namath admitted that he had been drinking heavily all day. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, he was completely intoxicated. Kolber was charged with interviewing Broadway Joe. In the beginning, it was apparent that Namath was having some issues talking, but they had no idea what was about to happen in front of the entire prime time audience. Namath eschewed Kolber’s question about Chad Pennington and several times told her he wanted to kiss her. ESPN scrambled to get out of it, but the damage was done.

Namath admits he was humiliated. In fact, that set the stage for him to reform his life to where it is today. But, I digress. The thing that resonated with me was the response by Suzy Kolber.

She was interviewed for this documentary and clearly recounted the event, with assistance from the footage. She recounted how Namath called her the next day to apologize. She said it took him 5 minutes to apologize and she accepted. She then spent 45 more minutes on the phone with him talking football and life. Here’s what she said that so intrigued me. She said, “What I saw was a really good guy who was in trouble.” She felt bad for him, didn’t judge him, and saw him not as some drunk who couldn’t control himself, but as a regular guy who needed help.

In the world of sports, we are very quick to pass judgement. We often look for and hope that successful people fail (see Tim Tebow). We automatically jump to the conclusion that someone is damaged. I loved that Suzy Kolber looked deeper. She really exuded a perspective that thinks of the human being first. Often, journalists are the most cynical. Kolber showed humanity.

I’m as guilty as most of us. It’s easy to throw guys under the bus; make fun of them; and not worry about consequences to their lives. Suzy Kolber gave me perspective and one that I hope I can keep the next time my QB throws an interception or one of my sports “heroes” falls.

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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