It’s the moment that launched 1,000 memes, one that’s widely considered to be one of the creepiest in sports media history: a visibly drunk Joe Namath, during an ESPN-televised NFL game, leaning in to try to kiss reporter Suzy Kolber.
(Fast forward to the 52-second mark to see Namath’s Creepy Drunk Uncle moment.)
A few days after he put Suzy Kolber in that impossible situation in 2003 (a situation she handled remarkably well), Joe Namath called her up.
“He felt humiliated,” Kolber said. “It’s a shame he has to be remembered for that moment.”
For the first time, Kolber talked about the incident in an HBO movie on Namath’s life. Interestingly, she points out that the producers in the truck somehow didn’t notice that Namath was, you know… hammered.
“I felt like, ‘uh-oh,’ Joe is in trouble here and let’s get him out of it,” says Kolber in HBO’s revealing Namath, which debuts Saturday (9 p.m. ET). “Get him off the air as quickly as possible.” Kolber says she hasn’t spoken about the incident “because I knew he wanted it to go away.”
Then, she says, “when we first started talking and he was slow and deliberate and in his speech, what was going through my head was, ‘Maybe it’s just really cold.’ And none of the executives in the truck were alarmed either because nobody said (to) stop. … The direction in my earpiece was, ‘keep going.’ ”
They did keep going, of course. They talked about the Jets. They talked about Chad Pennington. Then, as cameras came back to Namath and Kolber, the NFL legend paused mid-sentence, and told the petite sideline reporter that he wanted to kiss her. He went for it. America groaned.
Kolber did what she had to do, leaning away and laughing it off, although no one would’ve blamed her if she had decked Joe Namath right there.
Said Namath, who will be remembered now for his Super Bowl III win and That Time He Tried To Kiss Suzy Kolber: “I feel awful about what I exposed her to that night.”