Every sports fan has a favourite specific season. The lineup of their favourite team from that year holds a special place in their heart. For me, it will always be the Ireland team that went to USA ’94 with the Ajax team of that generation running them close.
For Bob Lederer, the 1968-69 New York Jets have held that special place in his heart for nearly 50 years. On January 12, 1969, the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts to win Super Bowl III. As for many great NFL teams, the quarterback, in this case the legendary Joe Namath, is celebrated as the central character in the victory. His talent, his charisma and his charm gave him the nickname ‘Broadway Joe’ and guaranteed A list celebrity status. For Lederer however, the rest of the Jets were a team, not a supporting cast, and he clearly has a burning desire to ensure that all of the players get their due recognition.
Beyond Broadway Joe is a must for any diehard Jets fan. It is also a comprehensive look at one of the most famous games in football history. Lederer had exclusive access to coach Weeb Ewbank’s playbooks and game plan for Superbowl III. Together with interviews with a huge range of people all seemingly delighted to reminisce, the book is a fascinating study of a 50 year old game that helped establish the credibility of the American Football League.
The book is a real labour of love and the joy Lederer felt in researching and writing it shines through every page. It is an unusual layout with the main story beats recounted in the first 50 pages before each team member is given a chapter to tell their own story.
It’s also an interesting read for anyone interested in the origins and evolution of the NFL, the Superbowl and the professional game more generally. There seems to been a spate of books on American Football’s origin in recent years and this is a interesting, if narrowly focused, addition that growing body of work.