This one's dedicated to one SEC quarterback under fire for his hard-partying ways, and one Jets QB struggling to balance his on-field and off-the-field activities: It could be so much worse. It could be like Joe Namath, who 46 years (and one day) ago broke training camp curfew, got hammered at a bar, and allegedly pummeled the crap out of a reporter.
On Aug. 4, 1967, the Jets had a preseason game in Bridgeport, Conn., against the Boston Patriots. The curfew the night before at Jets camp in Peekskill, N.Y., was 11 p.m. But Namath, about to enter his third season with the Jets, wasn't much for curfews. He left camp, drove down to New York City, and popped into the Open End bar, near his apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Around 3 a.m., Charles Parmiter, the sports editor of Time magazine, walked into the bar and spotted Namath. From Parmiter's affidavit, as described by the New York Times:
The affidavit states that Mr. Parmiter walked into the Open End, saw Mr. Namath at the bar and offered to shake hands. "Without any warning or provocation," the affidavit continues," Mr. Namath grabbed Mr. Parmiter, slammed his head over a cigarette machine and held him for "the next 10 or 15 minutes."
Mr. Namath and another man believed to be a boxer named Mickey [Kearney, a low-rent criminal of all trades] then joined in striking Mr. Parmiter in the face, the affidavit states. A second man hovered around the two attackers, preventing other persons in the bar from interceding, the complaint charges.
"During this coordinated, vicious and cowardly gang attack," the papers continue, "Namath, who was highly intoxicated, made it clear that he was attacking Mr. Parmiter because of his dislike for the press."
The complain says also that "Joe Namath made statements such as, 'I don't need any of you $100-a-week creeps to go around writing about me.'"
That's Parmiter's version. The actual story remains lost to history. Parmiter sued, but wasn't able to depose Kearney. Namath countersued for defamation, but wasn't able to depose Parmiter. The suits bounced through the court system for almost two years before being officially discontinued.
The morning after the fight (and no one denied that some kind of fight had taken place), word was already starting to leak out. Namath played the first quarter of the Jets' exhibition game that night, and later called a team meeting to address the allegations. He apologized for skipping camp and missing curfew, though he did not go into specifics.
It came time for discipline. According to Mark Kriegel's 2005 biography of Namath, Jets owner Sonny Werblin went to bat for him.
But Sonny was already campaigning for his star's inalienable right to be a star. "You can't treat him the same as anyone else because he's not the same," argued Sonny. "He's a superstar You have to compare him with the DiMaggios, the Mantles and the Ruths."
Werblin had a point, but this wasn't the kind of logic that made the Matt Snells and Gerry Philbins very happy. "A lot of players resented the way Sonny treated Joe," says Snell. "But what were you going to do?" Says Philbin: "There were two sets of rules: one for all the other Jets, and one for Joe Namath. Because of Sonny Werblin, Weeb [Ewbank] was afraid to discipline him."
Namath was fined somewhere south of $500. Later that month he signed a new contract that included $185,000 in bonus money.
If there's a lesson here (and I'm not sure there is; I'm just quite taken with the mental image of Joe Namath holding a reporter down and whomping on him for 10 minutes), it's that there's a certain point in your career when you can get away with just about anything. Johnny Manziel: just wait another year. Mark Sanchez: be a better quarterback. It'll all be gravy.