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Vintage Namath surfaces in talk show rebroadcast

Joe Namath August 28, 1997
Web posted at: 3:48 p.m. EDT (1948 GMT)

From Correspondent Paul Vercammen

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- In his heydey, they called him Broadway Joe -- or, as Howard Cosell would say, "Willie Namath." Joe Namath is, of course, best known as the quarterback of the New York Jets.

But it turns out that Namath also hosted a rather intriguing talk show that is opening eyes these days. In 1969, when Namath was winning football games and popularity contests alike, he hosted a live, local talk show with sportscaster Dick Schaap called "The Joe Namath Show."

These days, Schaap is one of the best-known sports commentators in the United States. He makes regular appearances on ABC and ESPN, and is the sports editor for Parade magazine.

His reputation as a sportscaster, he implies, could not possibly have benefited from his early performance on "Namath."

Namath show

"Neither Joe or I had the slightest idea of what we were doing," Schapp says. "We were both total amateurs."

Now, with the rebroadcast of 15 vintage Namath shows on the Classic Sports Network, memories of a learning experience are flooding back.

Namath easily makes fun of his lackluster delivery while watching old tapes of his show -- "What? Speak up, be prepared, ask proper questions," he says to his taped image. "I'm not prepared there, what am I doing?"

"There are some things," he admits, "you only learn through experience."

Even in 1969, they knew the show was far from a polished production, and admitted as much on the air. "What are we going to do today, Dick?" Namath asked his counterpart in one episode. "You know the critics have been saying the appeal of this show has been its amateurism."

Scene from "The Joe Namath Show"
video icon 1.4M/34 sec. QuickTime movie

"We had this woman on the show who was called our mail girl," Schapp recalls. "She would read the mail each week ... and she was supposed to be the prototypical dumb blonde, and she played the role to perfection.

"Now either she's a great, great actress, or somebody great went out and found her," he said.

You never knew who might pop up on the set of the Joe Namath show -- Ann Margret appeared once in the audience, and Woody Allen was interviewed once -- Namath asking the director whether rumors that he was an outstanding stickball player were true.

"That's true. I was a phenomenal athlete, I was a great stickball player. I could do it all," Allen answered.

Another show paired up boxer Rocky Graziano and Truman Capote.

Namath says that even now, he likes the show's format as much as he did then. "We had an athlete from some part of the world of sports, and someone that was not necessarily a sportsman," he said.

So watch for the Joe Namath show, amateur headaches and all.

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