Rock bottom for Joe Namath came as so much of his life in football did: with a national TV audience watching.
It happened during a 2003 interview with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber during a game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots, when a clearly drunk Namath leaned in and told her, “I want to kiss you.” Kolber, ever the trouper, tried to steer the interview back onto the game, but Namath added that he “couldn’t care less” about what was going on out on the field. Namath, whose boozing and carousing ways were the stuff of legend when he played for the Jets, suddenly was ridiculed, the interview becoming a meme-worthy national story, an embarrassment for a then-60-year-old father of two.
“I saw it as a blessing in disguise,” Namath writes in a new book, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters. “I had embarrassed my friends and family and could not escape that feeling. I haven’t had a drink since.
“That shame is where I found my strength to deal with the addiction. With the help of my recovery, I learned that I had used my divorce as an excuse to go back to drinking. That knowledge made me a stronger individual.”
Namath had been urged to seek help during his marriage, which ended in 2000. He saw a psychologist in California, but would purchase a pint of vodka on the way home from the sessions. “I thought I could get away with that, but she (his ex, Deborah) could smell it,” he writes, adding that “the drinking was what would kick my butt for a long time. I believe any of us can be brought to our knees whether from physical or emotional pain. Over the years, I learned how fragile we humans can be. Emotionally, I used that as an excuse to start drinking again … I would drink all day sometimes.”
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The breaking point, he writes, was the Kolber interview. Namath called Kolber to apologize and sought treatment. “I think the way I felt about it at the time,” she said in an HBO documentary on Namath, “was that he’s a really good guy having a bad moment that happened to be captured on national television.”
Namath said he felt “awful about what I exposed her to that night.” Now 15 years sober, Namath refers to alcohol as “Slick” and refers to it as a companion whose company he still must resist.
“Every now and then Slick whispers, but having a name for him makes me listen to him differently,” Namath writes. “And, health-wise, I’d probably be dead by now if I hadn’t stopped drinking.”
Published at Wed, 08 May 2019 16:28:31 +0000