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Joe Namath signs an autograph for Pfc. Henry Lock at the U.S. Army Hospital on Camp Oji, Japan, in January, 1969.
Joe Namath signs an autograph for Pfc. Henry Lock at the U.S. Army Hospital on Camp Oji, Japan, in January, 1969. (James Olmstead/Stars and Stripes)

TOKYO — "Broadway Joe" Namath, the toast of the sports world, doesn't mind being thrust into the role of spokesman for a generation — "in fact it's real flattering."

Namath, whose Super Bowl heroics recently pulled his New York Jets past the 19-point favorite Baltimore Colts to a 16-7 upset, made the observation soon after arriving Monday for a 17-day USO trip on which he will visit servicemen in Japan, Guam, Okinawa, the Philippines and Hawaii.

"It's not only flattering, it's been real beneficial for me financially," he said over orange juice, eggs and home-fried potatoes at the Sanno Hotel in midtown Tokyo.

Namath is joined on the tour by Jim Otto of the Oakland Raiders, Steve Wright of the New York Giants, Marv Fleming of the Green Bay Packers and NBC sportscaster Charlie Jones. They arrived Sunday.

"I don't mind the name `Broadway Joe,' or any of those others. A name's a name, the way I see it. Besides, I have a restaurant in Miami called `Broadway Joe's' so by all means say it," he laughed. He also is a partner in a New York City nite spot, Bachelors Three.

At a recent celebration honoring the Jets before New York's City Hall, Namath was cheered so loudly he often couldn't be heard. At the time he said the youngsters before him "typify this generation."

"I realize I'm in the spotlight. If I am kind of a spokesman for people my age and if I do have responsibilities because of this, I'm not ducking them," 25-yearold Joe said softly.

Namath was told there had been speculation that his verbal tiff with Lou Michaels of the Colts before the Super Bowl was all part of his game plan — that he did it to make the Colts key on him and forget their own assignments.

"That was just a friendly argument," he smiled. "I even drove him home."

As to his celebrated legs, "I've had arthritis in the right one for three years and now I have bursitis in the left. Next season? I wish I could say I'm optimistic, but I'm not. Pro football means a lot to me. When the time comes to quit — whenever it is — I'll be very sorry. Very sorry."

What did he feel the Super Bowl proved?

"There are good teams in both leagues. That's mainly what it proved," he said.

What team gives him the most trouble? "The Buffalo Bills. I really have a rough time reading their defenses. The record may not show that, but it's true."

What about an acting career?

"There's been several offers. Nothing definite. We're working on it. A book on my life? That's being talked about right now, too."

What about marriage? Any one girl on the immediate horizon?

"No. Definitely not. Not even on the distant horizon," he smiled.

Namath, who was credited with being the spark, as well as the calming influence guiding the Jets to the football upset of the decade, was asked if his team was keyed up against the Colts.

"I didn't think so. I thought everybody was real loose." With that he turned to a waiter and asked, "Could I have another glass of orange juice please?"

Earlier, the four others in the USO troupe gave their opinions on the significance of the Super Bowl outcome during an informal interview at the Sanno.

"I think it means that on a given day the Jets were better than the Colts. I think that's all it means," said Wright.

Quipped Otto, "I resent that. I think it means the quality of the AFL has begun to show itself. You can't say the AFL is better than the NFL — on a par, yes. But not better."

Jones, who broadcast the game over NBC radio, said, "The Jets really had the incentive. Before the game I was in their locker room. One of the Jets said, 'Imagine — we're worse than the College All-Stars! Or so the oddsmakers have it.'

"He was referring to the point spread. Earlier, at the beginning of the season, the All-Stars were 14-point underdogs when they played Green Bay, at that time the pro football champions.

"Now, here were the Jets going against the Colts — the best in the NFL — and they were rated 19-point underdogs, five points lower than the collegians. You can realize what that did for the Jets' incentive. They were fired up. All of them."

Said Fleming, "I think the Super Bowl outcome means the AFL is here. Really here."

"Marv, I'm getting to like you better every second," said Otto, slapping Fleming on the shoulder.

A waiter served them four beers, Japanese beers.

"Hey, that tastes good," said Otto, smacking his lips.

"Sure does," said Wright, as Jones nodded.

The talk shifted to Namath, at that moment winging toward Japan, and the verbal lashing he had given several Colts, telling them the Jets would smear the NFL kings. Was it a psychological ploy, engineered purposely to get the Colts angry, to take their concentration off the game and make them focus on Namath rather than on their individual assignments?

"Whether or not it was a ploy," said Wright," it shouldn't have had any effect on the Colts. That's not the way to play championship — or any other kind of — football. The idea of the game is to do your own individual assignment. Get the man you're supposed to and then move on to your next assignment. The idea is to stay cool and not lose your head."

The others nodded. Otto raised his arm, caught the waiter's eye. "Another beer, please," the Raider star said.

What will the departure of head coach Johnny Rauch, newly-named field boss of the Buffalo Bills, mean to Oakland?

"That's hard to say," said Otto. "Right now the search for his successor has narrowed down to four candidates. I think we'll do all right next season."

What about Otto taking over as coach?

"Not now anyway. After I retire as a player I'd like to wait a few years before getting into coaching, get myself set up in business first. I'm a partner in developing golf courses. We've got two 18-hole courses near Sunol, Calif."

The talk shifted to the Giants and quarterback "Scrambling Fran" Tarkenton. What is the difference between scrambling and running for your life?

"It's the same thing, of course," Wright said.

What would the Giants do next season?

Before Wright could answer, Fleming blurted, "make money doing TV commercials. What else?"

"The big city. The big city," Otto playfully needled, then raised his arm. "Another beer please. This Japanese beer is good, but they make the bottles too small."

What were the differences between the coaching techniques of Packer coach Phil Bengtson and former coach — now general manager — Vince Lombardi?

"Bengtson tells you what you should do, but Lombardi tells you what you're going to do, said Fleming.

What did the loss of Lombardi as head coach mean to the Packers?

"The loss of about $300,000," said Fleming.

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