Opinion » John Rember

Joe Namath for President!

Hyperbaric hindsight

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No question about the Republican nominee coming out of this July’s national convention in Ferguson, Mo.: Joe Namath, the guy who beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Superbowl III, the fur coat wearing former University of Alabama quarterback who claimed to have slept with 300 women before he even joined the Jets, which is perhaps why Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh called him a “stylish passer with the quickest release I’ve ever seen.”

Joe’s a seasoned businessman, having run his own nightclub. He’s got a college degree, finishing up in 2007 after having started in 1962. In a historically pre-presidential move, he’s quit drinking after decades as a drunk. He’s guest-starred on The Simpsons and has had his own late-night talk show.

And smart? Another Hall of Fame coach, Don Shula, called him “one of the three smartest quarterbacks of all time,” and as soon as I find out who the other two are, I’m going to suggest he select them as his vice-president and secretary of defense.

But the main reason Joe should accept the Republican nomination in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho this summer is because he’s come out and said that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t play football.

“None of the [human] body was designed to play football,” is the way he’s put it. “The brain isn’t designed for the kind of contact or physical abuse that your body gets playing this sport.”

Namath has undergone 120 hyperbaric treatments to counteract the effects of concussions during his career as a quarterback. He says some brain cells that he’d given up for dead have come back to life. After a lifetime of endorsing athletic shoes, barbeque grills, cologne, popcorn poppers and pantyhose, he’s now endorsing the “Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at the Jupiter Medical Clinic in beautiful South Florida for victims of Traumatic Brain Injuries.” He says he doesn’t blame parents for not wanting their kids to play football, and has said there are better ways of learning the teamwork and athletic skills that football teaches.

Predictably, there’s been pushback. Skeptics have looked at Joe’s success with women, his lifetime of partying, his $18 million in the bank—which makes those pantyhose and popcorn popper endorsements look less embarrassing—and have stated that no sane person would trade any of them for a functioning brain in old age.

Bob’s Blitz sportsblog puts it plain: “Mr. Namath, don’t tell me that you would give that all up because you had your bell rung a few times in your life. Because I think I can speak for most of us when I say that we would trade our lives for yours in a New York minute.”

None of Namath’s detractors have spent much time thinking about how hellish the future might look if you’re facing it with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease that results from concussion and looks a lot like Alzheimer’s.

But I believe Joe when he says he wouldn’t do it again if he knew now what he knew then, which is why the Republicans will nominate him for president this July in riot-torn Baltimore, Md. He won’t have trouble with the question so many candidates have been foundering on, which is, “If you knew then what you know now, would you have taken the country into the Iraq War?”

“No way,” is what Joe will say. “None of the human body is designed for war. The brain isn’t designed for the kind of abuse it gets from an IED. I don’t blame parents for not wanting their children to go to war, especially if that war is justified by cynically manufactured intelligence and based on estimates of the oil reserves of the country you’re going to invade.”

The best thing about Joe Namath being nominated for president in two months at the Republican National Convention in Benghazi, Libya, is that he’s going to tell Americans that our past isn’t where our future lies.

“You have to live each day as it comes,” he’ll say. “Getting into the Hall of Fame isn’t going to bring those brain cells back. For that you need a pressurized oxygen chamber, and something to get rid of all that beta-amyloid plaque. We’ve got a whole country that has experienced a series of small concussions. They’re starting to add up. If America is going to have a non-demented old age, we need to start doing things differently. We can begin by not sending our kids off to be killed or maimed in optional wars. In fact, when you’ve got an optional war, your only option is not to have it.”

For those folks who think that Joe lacks the qualifications to be president, I can only offer this: He’s familiar with the owners of NFL franchises. He’ll see every summit of world leaders and every joint session of Congress as an NFL Owner’s meeting. He’ll know that many congressmen and prime ministers and presidents are nothing more than geriatric ego-driven sociopaths perfectly willing to sacrifice the health of their players for the fading thrills of profit and victory.

“People,” he will say to them, “it’s only a game. Winning isn’t victory if you destroy your team in the process. Sooner or later the Player’s Union is going to win a class-action suit that will hand you your ass on a platter.” And because he’s Joe Namath, and because he’s been known to give out free passes for hyperbaric oxygen treatments at the Jupiter Medical Clinic in beautiful South Florida, they’ll listen.