Best: Jets legend Namath becomes multimedia maven

Joe Namath waves to fans as he is

Joe Namath waves to fans as he is inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor during a preseason game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. (Aug. 16, 2010) (Credit: David Pokress)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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Joe Namath said he plans on living to age 100 or so, which would mean at age 67 he is only in the third quarter of life - no time, as he put it, to be "wallowing around looking for something to do."

"I think, boy, I've got a lot of years ahead of me," he said Thursday from his Florida home. "I want to learn and try to keep up."

Over the past several months Namath has done both by diving headfirst into a world that did not exist when he played pro football from 1965-77.

One of the most iconic sports figures of the 20th century has become a 21st century media maven.

He's on Twitter (as RealJoeNamath), where he discusses University of Alabama and Jets games in real time. He's on Facebook, followed by nearly 19,000 fans.

He appears weekly on Michael Kay's 1050 ESPN radio show and co-hosts his own show with Adam Schein on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

He competes as a featured pro in RapidDraft Fantasy Football. ("I have been looking at statistics more than I ever have in my life," he said.)

And eight weeks ago he launched a website, BroadwayJoe.tv, that ties together much of the rest.

There is a business aspect to all this, of course, but it also has been a way for Namath to keep busy, stay connected and adapt. He said his daughter Jessica, 25, had been pushing him to embrace new media.

"Accepting that change is constant," he said. "We need to understand that and not be surprised or whiny about it and say, 'Oh, I wish it was the way it used to be. We didn't do that. We didn't have that.'

"C'mon, get up to speed!"

One challenge for Namath is one he has struggled with for decades: the transition from active athlete to analyst and critic.

Namath used to get so frustrated with Howard Cosell's criticism of other players in the early years of "Monday Night Football" that he would turn off the sound and listen to music.

Years later, he found himself in the Monday night booth himself; he lasted one season.

When he criticizes a player, coach or team, he said, "I cringe a bit, but then I'm caught quickly and say, 'Wait a minute: That's the way I feel. That's the way it is.' I'm not trying to irritate folks.

"It's taken me a good number of years to try to deal with how it feels when I dish out criticism."

During and after the Jets' opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he criticized their play-calling, lapses in discipline, and lack of a deep threat.

He also wondered whether HBO's "Hard Knocks" had been a distraction. (He appeared on one episode, suggesting a new hand position for Mark Sanchez on center snaps.)

Last week Namath unloaded on the Dallas Cowboys on his satellite show, saying, "Their focus has been horrendous." He also called the Packers' Aaron Rodgers the third-best quarterback in football.

There have been times Namath was unhappy with how journalists conveyed his words and opinions to the public. Now he has direct lines to fans and the credentials to use them.

"I have a football eye and brain so that I can see and feel things that someone who hasn't been around the sport can't," he said.

Then he added, with a laugh, "Off the field I've had some experiences, too, that I can relate."

Namath avidly pursued media opportunities earlier in his life, from commercials to movies to his own TV talk show. But he needed guidance navigating a changing world.

It began with Jessica, then advanced with an idea for a website that partners Angelo Mandarano and Joe Blaney brought to Namath's attorney, Jimmy Walsh, about a year ago.

Blaney said the new media presence has helped "reinvigorate" the Namath brand.

It also has invigorated Namath the man. Is he having fun yet?

"I wouldn't do it if it wasn't fun, buddy," he said. "Of course it's fun."

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