Beyond Broadway Joe: The Super Bowl TEAM That Changed Football, by Bob Lederer [Review]

Every Jets fan needs to own this book. For the current generation, it’s the scripture of the ancient roots of the franchise and the team that achieved the holy grail. For fans who remember Super Bowl III, it’s a marvelous trip down memory lane combined with a treasure trove of insight and information we never knew and can now be forever grateful to Bob Lederer for giving to us. It’s a gift – the greatest gift any long-suffering Jets fan can get. It belongs on the bookshelf of every green-and-white mancave.

The author provides the obvious and well-known history of the team, the transformation from the Titans to the Jets, the efforts of the original owner, Sonny Werblin, the hiring of Weeb Ewbank and his five-year plan for success, and a detailed account of the drafting and wooing of a franchise quarterback named Namath. He gives us the lead-up to the ’68 season along with the AFL championship game, Namath’s “guarantee” of victory (including some elements of that story that I’d never read before), and the game itself. This alone is an enjoyable remembrance. (At the end of the book, the author gives a play-by-play recounting of Super Bowl III including notes from the involved players.) But that’s just the introduction.

Two things makes this book special – and unique. First, the author puts that Jets team in perspective within the history of the NFL (and the AFL) and how that game and that team changed football. The behind-the-scenes business elements of the league are fascinating and the contextual understanding is mesmerizing. Second – and this is the real meat of the book – the author gives us an up-close and personal look at each member of the team. Not just the stars, but the entire roster. He interviewed thirty-five members of the squad and each player from the offensive linemen to the special teams grunts gets his place in the sun here. It’s not a biography of each person, but it’s a lovingly told biopic of each player’s contribution to the team and to the Super Bowl win. Never before (and certainly never again) will a book about the Jets give us this kind of deep look into everyone involved and show us how each small cog contributed to the ultimate victory.

This is not a book that you sit down and read in one night. You know the outcome. It’s a reference guide – a book you go back to again and again. It’s an inspiration for every player who toiled in obscurity as part of a winning team. It’s a master class in the full scope of teamwork needed to succeed. You can read one story every week for a year and then repeat the cycle again with the expectation that it will be just as meaningful the second time.

Bob Lederer has given us all a gift. Pass it on to the next generation of Jets fans while we all wait for the next Super Bowl victory.

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