Tremendous Bowl III re-visited, 50 years later


The New York Jets surprised the Baltimore Colts in Tremendous Bowl III. Fifty years later, the sport resonates as a tipping level in professional soccer historical past. Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the historic recreation on the Orange Bowl.

Within the 5 ensuing a long time, nothing concerning the New York Jets’ momentous upset of the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in Tremendous Bowl III has waned by way of its which means and lasting significance.

It’s nonetheless maybe probably the most iconic and ground-shifting three hours of professional soccer ever performed as the sport nears its 100th anniversary. In some ways it represented the spotlight of the sport’s new and wildly fashionable full-color period on tv. Concurrently, it helped to forge the intersection of sports activities and celeb tradition, due to its predominant protagonist, Jets quarterback turned prognosticator Joe Namath.

With the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ landmark 16-7 win falling on Saturday of this week, we glance again at that epic Jan. 12, 1969 recreation in Miami’s since torn-down Orange Bowl, when the underdog American Soccer League got here of age and validated its price in its decade-long quest for equality with the more-established NFL.

Listed here are some entertaining and enlightening vignettes and observations gathered from interviews I’ve performed in each latest years and in latest days from among the precept figures in and round Tremendous Bowl III, remembering the day the Jets and the AFL surprised the Baltimore Colts and the soccer world:

MIAMI, FL – JANUARY 12, 1969: Quarterback Joe Namath

Joe Namath

The quarterback brashly and boldly “assured’’ a New York victory three nights earlier than the sport throughout a banquet on the Miami Landing Membership. A jeering Colts fan and a bit of Johnnie Walker Purple gave Namath the braveness to proclaim his assure although the 15-1 Colts have been an 18-point favourite. That recreation secured soccer immortality and superstardom for Namath, making him the easily-identifiable father of the now-cliched sports activities assure and a respectable popular culture icon. However the intention behind his prediction, he says, was to not be provocative, as a lot because it was to strike a blow for the AFL’s under-appreciated model of soccer:

“You recognize what, I didn’t even go there earlier than I went there (on the banquet). I simply sincere to God felt good about our group and received uninterested in being instructed how we have been going to lose the sport. I imply the entire nation … aside from the Jets’ loyal followers, I don’t assume anybody believed we may win. I’m grateful to this present day that it occurred. I see that image of me going off the sector and elevating that hand in a No. 1, and that was our league, man. We did it. We did it.

“I simply know that after I was operating off that discipline after the sport, I swear I noticed these AFL folks up there within the stands, and so they have been so blissful. And it was simply the finality of it. It appeared like a wrestle, such a wrestle for we as people and groups within the AFL. Our league had all the time been thought-about by the opposite league and their gamers as a second-rate league. All of us felt that and knew that after the primary two (AFL-NFL) championship video games, with Inexperienced Bay successful each, yeah, there was a way of urgency. We knew we needed to win that third recreation. You’ll be able to’t lose three in a row to them. We needed to get it accomplished.’’

New York Jets large receiver Don Maynard.

Don Maynard

The Jets main receiver and future Corridor of Famer by no means thought the supposed expertise hole between his group and the mighty Colts ever actually existed. It was a case of notion versus actuality, and received represented by a point-spread and pre-game storylines that have been conjured up based mostly on outdated data and viewpoints.

“That was simply the media’s opinion of the sport and all. We knew we had two high operating backs, nearly as good a passing recreation as had ever been in soccer, and the No. 1 protection in the whole AFL. The opposite factor was we had an excellent discipline aim kicker in Jim Turner. We may play with anyone. They might solely put 11 males on the market towards us.

“It simply goes again to how outsiders checked out us. We weren’t cocky by any means, we have been simply assured. We stated the identical factor Joe stated, we simply stated it in our locker room as guys mentioned issues in conferences. The defensive guys stated, ‘You recognize, we could shut them out.’ And the offense stated, with our operating backs, Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer, we’re going to attain some. We began saying, ‘We’re going to win the Tremendous Bowl. We’re going to beat the Colts.’ One of the best ways to place it’s that we have been utterly assured that we may play with anyone.’’

“Naturally something Joe stated made information. But it surely was simply unparalleled at the moment, for somebody to return out and discuss like that and make these sort of feedback.’’

MIAMI – JANUARY 12: Tom Matte of the Baltimore Colts is tackled by a New York Jet throughout Tremendous Bowl III on the Orange Bowl on January 12, 1969 in Miami, Florida. The Jets defeated the Colts 16-7. (Picture by Focus On Sport/Getty Pictures)

Tom Matte

The Colts’ high operating again remembers being shocked at Namath’s bravado. Matte was by far the brightest of Baltimore’s stars in Tremendous Bowl III. Had historical past turned out in another way, he doubtless would have been named the sport’s MVP, quite than Namath, who turned in a quite unspectacular 17-of-28 passing day, for 206 yards and no touchdowns. Matte rushed for 116 yards on 11 carries towards the Jets, turning into the primary 100-yard rusher in Tremendous Bowl historical past. He had a Tremendous Bowl-record 58-yard run, and chipped in one other 30 yards on receptions, albeit committing one expensive fumble. However he doesn’t dwell on the might-have-beens all that always any extra.

“I did have recreation, however you don’t consider it that method. When it comes all the way down to it, it’s a group recreation. It was a group failure so far as I’m involved. We got here up on the brief finish of the stick and people guys got here out smelling like roses. But it surely was bittersweet, let me let you know. Individuals nonetheless come as much as me and say, ‘In the event you’d received that recreation you’d most likely been MVP,’ and I say that doesn’t imply s–t.’

“It’s a disgrace, and it was a disgrace. I feel we have been a bit of bit out-coached on that day, too. We had some guys damage and that basically killed us, and Namath did an excellent job. Joe shot his mouth off quite a bit, however the factor was, he backed it up. They received the sport, so you need to have numerous respect for him.’’

NBC NEWS — Pictured: Coach Don Shula, a spokesman for NutriSystem, speaks with NBC’s Kerry Sanders at residence in Miami, Florida on the subject of males and weight-reduction plan on June 21, 2007 (Picture by Stephanie Himango/NBC/NBCU Picture Financial institution by way of Getty Pictures)

Don Shula

Early in his profession, the then-Colts head coach wore the label of not having the ability to win the large one largely because of the ignominy of the Tremendous Bowl loss to the Jets. Paradoxically Shula would go on to win lasting fame along with his teaching work within the Orange Bowl with the Dolphins, whom he led for 26 years, reaching 5 Tremendous Bowls. However he didn’t win something however distress on Jan. 12, 1969:

“The factor that individuals don’t notice is the Jets have been fairly good, and Joe Namath was fairly good. And he boldly made the prediction that they have been going to win the sport, then they received the sport. Namath had been the Jets quarterback for 4 years and we had Earl Morrall, who was our quarterback that 12 months, for 4 months. Namath simply had an enormous day, the Jets had an enormous day, their coach (Weeb Ewbank) had an enormous day and we didn’t.

“Tremendous Bowl III was simply such a disappointment, being so closely favored and seemingly every part was pointed in our route, after which to fail. And that failure stored getting introduced up and it wouldn’t go away. There have been numerous New York folks that basically loved that. It’s only a unhealthy reminiscence. So I needed to study to reside with it and I couldn’t do something about it till we did one thing about it.’’

NOV 1971, APR 4 1972 Dawson, Len (Ind.) Kansas Metropolis Chiefs Len Dawson Ok.C. quarterback due again once more this 12 months. Credit score: Denver Put up (Denver Put up by way of Getty Pictures)

Len Dawson

The longer term Corridor of Fame quarterback from the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs wasn’t taking part in that day and didn’t win his personal Tremendous Bowl ring till the next 12 months. However Dawson was there at Tremendous Bowl III with a contingent of AFL and NFL gamers who have been in attendance as friends of American Specific. Dawson sat quietly within the stands for many of the recreation, realizing he was within the minority as an AFL fan. However because the Jets’ upset crept nearer to turning into actuality, Dawson couldn’t chew his tongue any longer, maybe impressed by Namath’s huge discuss and even larger actions.

“I’m conserving my mouth shut till I couldn’t stand it any longer. Sooner or later within the fourth quarter, after I knew the Jets have been going to win, I spoke up and stated, ‘How does that awful American Soccer League look now?’ I simply needed to stick it in, as a result of I had been holding it in all day.”

Joe Browne

Browne spent 50 years working within the NFL workplace, ending his historic profession as its longest-serving worker ever. By January 1969, he had already hung out working for the league as an intern, and obtained a brief go away from the Marines with the intention to attend Tremendous Bowl III in Miami. As an NFL man by and thru, his reminiscences of that day are nonetheless contemporary, and nonetheless a tad bitter.

“I suffered, like numerous NFL sorts suffered, when that freakin’ Joe Namath beat the Colts. Everyone was down that day. We went out to Golden Seashore, the place (then-Colts proprietor) Carroll Rosenbloom had a celebration scheduled that evening, and to his credit score he stored the occasion on. However we received there and it was a wake, it wasn’t a celebration.’’

At the least one party-goer that evening appeared previous the momentary gloom and doom of defeat and presciently noticed the bigger victory within the Jets’ upset. For the NFL, which was scheduled to merge with the AFL in 1970, the end result of Tremendous Bowl III was nothing however a optimistic, predicted NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

“I’ll give Rozelle credit score. He stated: ‘Hey, that is the perfect factor that would occur to us. As a result of it exhibits that it’s not the superior league versus the inferior league. We’ve received to promote this darn factor in lower than a 12 months to the general public and to the (TV) networks and now we now have actual competitors.’

“However that was small comfort that evening and the subsequent morning to us junior staffers. Particularly having to return to the league workplace in New York. However he noticed the large image. He could have smoked a pair further cigarettes that evening, however that’s all.’’

Joe Namath

Namath has famously stated in later years that if the Colts and Jets had performed 10 instances that season, quite than simply as soon as, who is aware of, Baltimore might need even received a kind of video games. He was that satisfied that New York belonged, even given the NFL’s supposed aura of superiority.

“Was I 100 % positive we’d win? I felt assured in our group and what we had accomplished. However till you win, you don’t know something 100 % positive. And the Colts have been only a hell of a soccer group. God, they beat the Browns 34-Zero within the NFL championship recreation to get to the Tremendous Bowl. They have been environment friendly. So we knew what we have been up towards.

“However we have been assured in how we have been taking part in, and I believed we had the perfect group. I feel our protection was the best-kept secret within the recreation. However we nonetheless needed to go on the market and do it. And we did. We ended up having the perfect group that day. It was an exquisite afternoon.’’


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