Legendary Football Hero Joe Namath The Big Game

by Margaret Bastick Luce

Legendary NFL quarterback Joe Namath defines charisma. Not only is he responsible for leading the 1969 New York Jets to an upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl, but he has a unique and rare quality of being able to truly engage with the people around him and make them feel seen in his presence. When I knew I’d be talking with Joe, I couldn’t help but smile. Joe Namath is positive. He is gifted. He’s had an amazing career with so many accomplishments, within and outside the realm of sports. Nicknamed “Broadway Joe,” he was also a well recognized actor in his day. I couldn’t wait to catch his energy even for a few minutes.

Joe attributes his success to more than just his talent. “Lady luck played a major role!” he told me with a laugh. It almost seems he was destined to be a superstar with his skill and his allure, but he shared with me that he started out simply wanting to excel and gain the admiration of his family. “Sports is what I could do best and had the most fun with. And if your big brother said ‘Nice going,’ man, that was something. If your sister said, ‘Hey, that’s good, buddy.’ Wow.” I could hear the smile on his face as he reflected. It was obvious he came from a positive home environment and values it greatly.

Joe Namath had a religious upbringing. “God’s always been in my family and in my heart.” He admits he’s had experiences in his life where he’s felt alone. “Even when the bright lights were on, there were times when I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and I got closer

Joe Namath

to God then.” One thing that is especially apparent when speaking with Joe is the inner light he has and the gratitude he carries with him. “I’m thankful every day; every day I thank God several times.”

Once when he was a young man, his instructor in an acting class left a great impression on him with one particular lesson. “She spoke about our instrument, meaning the body and the mind. No one can take care of it for you on a daily basis. I had never thought of it that way. We are responsible individually to pay more attention to the instrument that we are. You’re the only one who can really take care of your instrument.”

Joe Namath took matters of his health into his own hands years ago when he began using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to reverse some effects his football career had had on his brain. Overall, he underwent 140 HBOT treatments, effectively reversing the damage detected when his brain was first scanned. Joe explained, “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, pure oxygen under pressure, is healthy for every cell in the body. I wish someday that the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy will be recognized for more illnesses. It was a tremendous help for me.”

Joe continues to care for his instrument. At age 78, he looks fantastic, and it’s obvious that his health and wellness are priorities in his life. When he retired from pro football in 1977, he took a proactive approach and

sat down with his doctor to make a plan for his health. To this day, he trains using a low impact cardiovascular program and breathing work. “I’ve maintained close to 70% of my days working out. I mark it in my calendar so I can look at it and count the days and see what I’ve done.” This kind of dedicated approach to wellness would be a benefit to everyone. “I try to be thankful everyday that there is a today. Too many people take good health for granted. Don’t do that. You need to take care of the instrument.” People recognize Joe every day and want to talk to him and just be around him for a few minutes. I asked him if it was tiring to be approached so often, and he was quick to answer no. He truly enjoys the encounters and believes we can have meaningful and positive interactions with those around us. It’s all about respect. Joe’s respect for other people began, like most things, at home. “My father and mother were respectful of other people. When I was a kid walking with my mother uptown, people would pass by and say, ‘Hello Rose.’ And she’d spend a few minutes talking. I learned that you should treat people the way you want them to treat your family, your children, your friends: with respect. It started at home and it’s the way I am today.”

It’s always been important to Joe to leave people better than when he first meets them, an ideology I absolutely relate to. He recalled an incident that happened over 50 years ago at an airport. He came upon a group of boy

Charlie Modica and Joe Namath at Topisde at the Beacon

scouts who recognized him and wanted to stop and ask him questions. He stayed and talked with them for as long as he could, but he couldn’t take the time to answer all of their questions; he had to get to his gate. “I felt awful. The kids’ faces dropped. It wasn’t a good separation. I felt like I let them down somehow.” I could hear the regret in his voice as he shared the experience with me. It left him with a resolve to make positive interactions a priority. “So everytime— whether at the gas station, a restaurant here in town, a corridor in the airport—if we make contact, I want it to feel good for both of us. I don’t like the idea of having met someone and not leaving a positive vibe.” That resolve has truly impacted him and the lives of those who have encountered him. He has a charm like none other that leaves those who interact with him feeling warm and uplifted. Imagine what our lives would be like if everyone we came in contact with thought the way Joe does.

Joe’s love of philanthropy was also instilled at an early age. As a boy, he helped to collect dimes for the March of Dimes, which funded Dr. Jonas Salk’s Polio vaccine. “That was the beginning,” he said. During his pro football career, he met many family members of teammates that had physical challenges, and this left an impression on him and helped him realize his capacity to help others. “I was in my early to mid 20s, and I was asked to help out during those years, and I’ve stayed with it all my life.”

“Helping people is in the heart, it’s from the heart. It’s the spirituality of it, knowing that I was lucky personally, being dealt what I call a full deck. I’m in a humble position to help, and I’m fortunate to be able to.”

The Joe Namath foundation has benefitted so many worthy causes. It is led by an incredible group of people. Joe shared, “It’s humbling to hear ‘Oh look what you’ve done, Joe.’ But it’s not me. I’m part of a team that’s working to help other people. I’m a part of a group, and we give our individual effort together and reach out to help where we can.”

A longtime resident of Jupiter, Florida, Joe keeps busy with his new waterfront restaurant venture, an array of restaurants and bars including Lucky Shuck, Beacon, and Topside. The idyllic Jupiter Lighthouse and Loxahatchee River are the backdrop for the dining spot, which is now, like Joe, a delightful gem in the community.

Joe Namath and his famous fur coat on the field with Phil Simms

When he’s not occupied with the restaurant business, Joe spends much of his time with his family. “I’m on my feet a lot at the playground!” he shared. Joe has two daughters and six beloved grandchildren. I could hear in his voice how much he cherishes them as he told me a little about each of them. When I asked him if there were any athletes in the family, he responded, “I hope so. I know that sports are a great education. You learn the peaks and valleys. You learn the valleys first, I believe; at least I did,” he added with a charming laugh. “You learn what’s important, especially teamwork.” Joe is quick to convey the value of a team, in all aspects of life. “Sports teaches us that you don’t do much on your own. It’s not about the individual. It’s not about old Joe. It’s about us. Life is a team effort. Life’s the big game. People are always talking about the big game coming up. And I say, ‘Man, the big game is life!’”

Joe Namath’s charisma, discipline, and grit have led him to make the most of the big game of life. He has humility, gratitude, and a great love for his family. These values have certainly served him well throughout his life, and he has made a lasting and positive impression on those who have had the pleasure to know him.

Joe Namath’s charisma

Joe Namath’s charisma, discipline, and grit have led him to make the most of the big game of life. He has humility, gratitude, and a great love for his family. These values have certainly served him well throughout his life, and he has made a lasting and positive impression on those who have had the pleasure to know him. Hair and Makeup: Peggy Mackey Photos: Ian Jacob Photography

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