NY Sports Day

Football’s favorite soap opera, “As The Jets World Turns’’ spun again the other day when ownership decided it had enough of general manager Mike Maccagnan and fired him.

This was three weeks after Maccagnan presided over the Jets’ draft choices and reconstructed the roster.

Wait. What?

It was another example of an often dysfunctional team that frequently leaves fans howling in frustration. It was not, however, always thus. There was 1969, Broadway Joe Namath, and the Super Bowl championship that still resonates a half century later.

This was a team with humble beginnings. Originally named the Titans, the franchise was owned by blowhard broadcaster Harry Wismer whose ego and mouth were considerably larger than his wallet. The team’s ticket office was located in his bedroom because, frankly, there weren’t that many tickets to distribute. Sports writer Warren Pack once covered a game and reported the announced attendance of 28,000 , adding, “most came disguised as empty seats.

The team played in a dilapidated ballpark named the Polo Grounds. Jets’ place kicker Jim Turner recalled playing a college bowl game there when “there were more pigeons than people.’’

And then things changed, The team was renamed the Jets and moved into brand new Shea Stadium. Entrepreneur David Werblin led a new fleet of owners that purchased the franchise and drafted quarterback Joe Namath, who arrived with a fancy contract and the kind of pizzazz that energized the team.

And then the Jets proceeded to weave some magic.

 There to watch the transformation was teen-aged Bob Lederer, who followed the franchise from the frustrating early days to the Super Bowl victory that stunned football.

Super Bowl III was a pivotal game because Green Bay’s championship teams had embarrassed the AFL’s Kansas City and Oakland  teams in the first two games and another blowout might have left fans convinced that the young league was no match for the older one. Instead the impetuous Jets pulled off an improbable, stunning victory.

Now, Lederer has written a fascinating account of that Jets team, tracked down 36 surviving players for a fun trip through the season and the championship game. Those Jets were far more than Joe Namath and his outrageous guarantee that they would beat the 17-point favorite Baltimore Colts. In “Beyond Broadway Joe,’’  Lederer tells their story with behind the scenes anecdotes that take the reader inside the locker room to examine the personalities that delivered football’s greatest upset.

Equipped with forewords by running back Matt Snell, who should have been the MVP of that Super Bowl, for the offense, and defensive end Gerry Philbin, who ought to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,  for the defense, the book delivers on a number of levels. There are inside football x’s and o’ s from coach Weeb Ewbank’s playbook and there are inside football stories and laughs that only players can supply.

This book is a tribute to a team that changed football and convinced fans everywhere that the game is unpredictable, that anything can happen and when it does, the memory lasts a lifetime.

 Just ask Bob Lederer.

Hal Bock