It is the most infamous incident in the history of sideline interviews. It turned a legendary quarterback into a national punchline, embarrassed the NFL, spawned a hilarious website, and is the biggest moment in the career of a certain ESPN sideline reporter. Several years later, the name of Suzy Kolber can’t be mentioned without the name of Joe Namath following close behind. Usually that’s followed by either “I want to kiss you” or “I couldn’t care less about the team strug-g-ling.” Let’s take a brief stumble down memory lane, shall we?
Looking back as it happened live, it’s a bit disturbing how easily the broadcast booth laughed off Namath’s mystifying behavior. More than eight years later, Kolber spoke for the first time about interviewing a hammered Joe Namath live on national television as a part of the HBO special Namath, airing this Sunday night. Here’s some of her quotes as reported by USA Today:
“I felt like, ‘uh-oh,’ Joe is in trouble here and let’s get him out of it… Get him off the air as quickly as possible.” Kolber says she hasn’t spoken about the incident “because I knew he wanted it to go away.”
“when we first started talking and he was slow and deliberate and in his speech, what was going through my head was, ‘Maybe it’s just really cold.’ And none of the executives in the truck were alarmed either because nobody said (to) stop. … The direction in my earpiece was, ‘keep going.’ ”
“I think the way I felt about it at the time was that he’s a really good guy having a bad moment that happened to be captured on national television.”
For his part, drunkenly hitting on a sideline reporter gave Joe Namath a serious wake up call to turn his life around in the aftermath. Given the history and quality of HBO Sports, the documentary should provide a compelling look at the life of Joe Namath. But how much attention will be payed to the one moment that has defined him as a creepy drunk guy to a new generation of NFL fans?
For her part, it’s amazing how much grace Suzy Kolber has shown about the incident with Joe Namath after all these years. A moment like that which lives in infamy can’t be easy to deal with when remaining in that same role at ESPN. It’s a shame the Joe Namath interview will always follow Suzy Kolber’s career like a shadow, but she’s been able to move beyond that as a solid NFL reporter for ESPN.