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Namath: A Biographyby Mark Kriegel
Synopses & Reviews
The first major biography of the sports hero who embodied the fantasies of a generation.
In between Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan there was Joe Namath, one of the very few sports heroes who transcended their game. The son of a Hungarian immigrant, Namath left the steel country of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, for the Deep South, where he played quarterback for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. Almost four years later, he signed a $427,000 contract with the New York Jets that changed football forever, transforming a crude, violent game into show business. Namath became the most glamorous athlete in America — his fame nurtured by the age of television, the point spread, and the sexual revolution. His hair, his draft deferment, and his white shoes became symbols for a generation. But it was his "guarantee" of victory in Super Bowl III that ensured his legend.
In the tradition of Richard Ben Cramer's Joe DiMaggio, David Maraniss's A Life of Vince Lombardi, and Nick Tosches's Dino, Mark Kriegel details Namath's journey from steeltown pool halls to the upper reaches of American celebrity — and beyond. He renders Namath as an athlete and a man, a brave champion and a wounded soul. Here are Namath's complex relationships with pain and fame plus his appearances in pantyhose ads, on The Simpsons, and Nixon's Enemies List. Namath is not just for football fans, but for any reader interested in the central role of sports in American culture.
"Avoiding the pitfalls of mythology while telling a larger-than-life story is never easy, but Kriegel does it grandly in this landmark portrait of the 1960s icon. From the segregated South to the era of showbiz sports, Namath has a Forrest Gump-like way of being there. All the important athletic moments are here, elegantly told: his hardscrabble western Pennsylvania upbringing; his unlikely pairing with Bear Bryant; his arrival in New York as a hard-partying, money-making star and, of course, the win in Super Bowl III. Namath comes off as both throwback (he played through unbearable pain) and hypermodern (40 years ago, he was already getting paid to wear certain brands of clothing). But to write of the first media-age sports star is to tell not just of an athlete but the changing nature of celebrity and society in the '60s — that is, the story of modern America — and the author manages the elusive trick of illuminating setting as much as subject. He documents how sports became both big business and pop culture through savvy TV deals and the merchandising of stars. If Namath feels like a distant figure, more statue around whom society scrambled to adjust itself than active change seeker, that's because Kriegel convinces us he was — a figure both epic and accidental in a world revolving too fast for one person to control. Kriegel has written a remarkable book: a feel-good sports story still abundant with insight and social commentary. Agent, David Vigliano. (Aug.) Forecast: Football books can be as vulnerable as a quarterback's extremities, but this will cross fluidly into pop culture — as has Namath himself. Expect adulation and sales." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Mark Kriegel doesn't just cover the Namath of mythic memory, he restores to the man his place, his time, and a story so taut and true it pulls at your heart." Richard Ben Cramer, author of Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life and How Israel Lost: The Four Questions
"Meaty biography....Kriegel has...uncovered a lot of terrific backstory from friends and coaches and sportswriters. Namath was no angel, thank goodness, but this evocative portrait shows him at play in the fields of magic." Kirkus Reviews
"The Namath who emerges here is an appealing mix of swagger and insecurity. This is an intelligent, carefully crafted portrait of an American sports icon and an insightful look at how the world of celebrity works." Booklist
"I am the same age as Joe Namath. He has been the alter-ego to all males in our generation since our teens, doing what we would have done if we were rich, famous, could throw a football on a straight line, and knew Ann Margaret personally. To read Mark Kriegel's book is to learn what we would have gained — and, alas, would have lost — if we were wearing Joe Willie's white shoes. Fascinating stuff. Fascinating book." Leigh Montville, author of Ted Williams: Biography of an American Hero
"Mark Kriegel has written an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary American. Here is Joe Namath in roaring stadiums, in sleazy Broadway dives, in the company of many women and a few mob guys, and lighting up every room he enters. We see him become an essential figure in that social revolution called the Sixties, a time of much sex, laughter and booze. But we also see the private Namath, enduring physical pain and, as he ages, much private anguish. The research is deep, the context illuminating. In the end, this is not a sports book at all, but the story of a gifted, reckless American, in a book as layered as any fine novel." Pete Hamill, author of Forever and A Drinking Life
"A fine and rare job of bringing forth the seasons of a man's life." Nick Tosches, author of Dino and The Devil and Sonny Liston
Kriegel details football legend Joe Namath's journey from steeltown pool halls to the upper reaches of American celebrity — and beyond. Namath is not just for football fans, but for any reader interested in the role of sports in American culture.
In between Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan there was Joe Namath, one of the few sports heroes to transcend the game he played. Novelist and former sports-columnist Mark Kriegel’s bestselling biography of the iconic quarterback details his journey from steel-town pool halls to the upper reaches of American celebrity—and beyond. The first of his kind, Namath enabled a nation to see sports as show biz. For an entire generation he became a spectacle of booze and broads, a guy who made bachelorhood seem an almost sacred calling, but it was his audacious “guarantee” of victory in Super Bowl III that ensured his legend. This unforgettable portrait brings readers from the gridiron to the go-go nightclubs as Kriegel uncovers the truth behind Broadway Joe and why his legend has meant so much to so many.
In his "New York Times" bestseller, Kriegel details football legend Joe Namath's journey from steeltown pool halls to the upper reaches of American celebrity--and beyond--and uncovers the truth behind Broadway Joe and why his legend has meant so much to so many.
About the Author
Mark Kriegel is a former sports columnist for the New York Daily News and author of the novel Bless Me, Father.
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