Tuesday, February 27, 2007

S6:11 of "24": All the Kings Horses?

“He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and made my footsteps firm….” These words from Pslam 40 are at the center of a rather complex episode, one with foreshadowing (Jack will violate yet another embassy) as stark as the few seconds after the explosive end of the hour, when Prez Wayne and others lie in the dust after a bomb placed inside the presidential podium goes off and leaves us wondering what will happen next.

Ex-president Charles Logan (seeming more somberly Nixonian than ever before) stares eerily into the mirror, one that no doubt reflects the darkness of a soul that allowed not only the assassination of President David Palmer but also the use of deadly gas to kill thousands of Americans (in Season 5). Here he seems calm, resolved, and willing to make the Lord his guide as he steps ahead.

His willingness to help is seriously questioned by Agent Jack Bauer who bluntly tells him “I don’t trust you.” Of course, you don’t, Jack. He ordered your good friends killed (Tony Almaeida, Michelle Dessler, David Palmer) and was no doubt behind your spending twenty months in a Chinese prison. Still, Jack is going with the plan of having Logan broker some kind of deal with Russian Ambassador Markhov, one that could lead them to rogue General Gredenko and the remaining nuclear suitcases.

Jack goes out to the old retreat (complete with stables where Logan once lived with wife Martha) after coming up empty in the search for Gredenko. As Jack prepares to meet Logan, he says goodbye to sister-in-law (and ex-girlfriend) Marilyn and her son (his nephew) Josh. Repeating an almost funny but extremely sad promise to others (including his daughter Kim, George Mason’s son, and Diane Huxley's son Derrick), Jack vows to sit down with Josh and explain when everything is over.

Of course, as we well know, things are never over for Jack Bauer. The truth is that Jack is always on the clock, even when we don’t see him for a twenty-four hour stretch, and it’s not hard to understand why his marriage to Teri suffered and also how come he has never been able to establish a relationship after losing her. Jack lives his job and, like a captain of a ship, he is married to it and inevitably is willing to go down with it if need be.

We don’t see Milo this week. Presumably, he is exhausted from all the beefcake posing from last episode. It’s hard work taking off one’s shirt. No doubt the guys and gals in CTU Medical are “prepping” him and his booboo will be all better soon. The rest of the CTU gang are prowling around looking lost and lonely. Nadia seems to have nothing much to do except get on Morris (Yul Brenner’s) case. The little power struggle has Chloe getting her back arched up and ready to pounce.

I think why this season seems so morose has to do with these CTU goings on, a real drag on the morale of the viewer. In the past there was a zingy amount of interaction, some of it extremely flirtatious, involving co-workers who gave each other knowing glances and grimaces. Here in Season 6 we are getting mostly grimaces, especially from the beloved but now mostly bedeviled Chloe.

In the past there was good humor between Chloe and Edgar, enough so that there was at least a bit of comic relief to be found. Even way back in Season 1 there was some levity between Tony and Nina that broke the tension, but I find none of this now. The writers have gone completely toward the darker side of things. Even when they have someone who is potentially a contender for the new Edgar (Tom Twitchy Lennox), they have seen fit to make his role totally serious and have deprived us of any possibilities for quirky John Cage like madness.

Twitchy does come through now as a stand-up guy. He has his vested interests, but is obviously completely loyal to Prez Wayne. We discover this truth when Reed (Rob Lowe’s Little Bro) takes the duct tape off Twitchy’s mouth long enough to dress his wounds. Twitchy begs Reed not to go through with the assassination of Prez Wayne, but this big tall dude named (Kit) Carson has other ideas. Kit joins the long list of bad guys on 24 who gets through security despite carrying weapons or bombs. It seems so easy that it is more frightening than laughable at this point.

Kit and Reed take refuge in some dark corner, where they have Twitchy all tied up. Kit extracts liquids from little bottles and suddenly has assembled a bomb inside a tape recorder (which one Secret Service agent checked). The plan is for Reed to place this bomb on the podium and detonate it just as Prez Wayne begins a speech that will also feature former terrorist Assad (Cat Stevens) Al Hamri making nice and saying that all bad guys should move toward the light.

Back at CTU we get Chloe chasing Yul into the bathroom after she finds out his AA sponsor hasn’t spoken to him in three years. This is the first time we have ever seen a CTU character on the bowl, but Yul doesn’t even flush as he rushes out of the stall and argues with Chloe (he has a new sponsor, by the way). None of this is remotely funny and maybe it should be, especially because we have been waiting for years to know if anyone at CTU ever goes potty. I am relieved to discover that Yul washes his hands afterwards (even uses soap like a good boy). At least they’ve got hygiene down right at CTU.

Out in some airfield Gredenko receives a shipment of two US drones that can fly bombs and drop them. One has to wonder how the Russian got a hold of these babies (Logan flashes in my mind immediately, making me think he is still not done nor has he really found the Lord). Gredenko tells Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed on the phone that it will take a few hours longer than anticipated. Clean is not pleased, but Gredenko blows him off and seems to be working for someone else. Could it be perhaps the Russian President himself, whose motorcade was once target by President Logan’s thugs?

Jack is last seen wearing a suit (since he ambled off that Chinese plane in the first hour he has changed clothes three times now) and reading the highlighted words in the Bible (see above). These words are as applicable to Jack as they are to Logan, and now as Jack prepares to venture into yet another embassy, we all should yell in a collective scream to shake him silly: Jack, what the hell are you doing? You’re going to violate another embassy? A Russian one? If he thought fortune cookies were bad, he’s not to like the borscht they serve up in Siberia.

The rising action moves precipitously towards the second mini-climax of Season 6. Reed has placed the bomb at the podium, and Cat is going over his speech as Prez Wayne stands closely by. Little Bro extricates himself from a conversation with Prez (Wayne is still looking for Twitchy), goes outside the door, and sets the bomb. Cat sees something dripping on the podium and, thanks to his bomb-making experience as a former terrorist, Cat rushes to save Wayne yelling, “Bomb!”

There is an explosion followed by screams, and as Secret Service and soldiers rush into the room, Cat and Wayne are lying there along with others. Little Bro has done his duty, and man the stink is going to last long after this episode. Waiting in the wings is VP Noah (Jim Jones) Daniels, who will assume authority and start a plan in motion to change things in the country. Who can stand in the way of any of this? Cananyone stop those nukes from being dropped from the drones?

Did I hear you say “Jack Bauer”? I thought so.

Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

S6:10 of 24: How Could I Have Been So Stupid?

After learning that his father is really behind the terrible events of this day, Jack Bauer utters the line, “How could I have been so stupid?” Actually, it is a relief to hear him say this because, for a moment, it does seem like Jack is coming unraveled and not seeing things clearly at all. When his ex-girlfriend Marilyn (now his brother’s widow) informs him of this horror, Jack shakes with the realization and then becomes resolute about dealing with things. It’s about time!

The 24 writers have really thrown a neat little curve with this introduction of the Bauer clan. As any Star Wars fan can attest, it is difficult not to like the twist that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, but it is also annoying because in the context of the original film there is not even an inkling of this.

Fans of 24 might feel similarly shortchanged by the notion that Graem, an evil character from Season 5, suddenly becomes a Bauer this year and the whole motivation for the series becomes questionable. If Graem and Phillip Bauer (the old man admitted being behind the events of Season 5 last night) were truly orchestrating that, could it be feasible that they have been behind the scenes all along? What if Nina Meyers was really working for the Bauer Boys back in Season 1? If you recall, she spoke German at that critical moment when Jack‘s wife Teri overheard her (which costs Teri her life), and Bauer is a German name. Hmmm?

Last night’s action was solid as usual. Milo (Computer Geek turned Gladiator) has grown a pair and is dragging Marilyn (Graem’s Trophy Wife) around trying to keep her safe. He gets her into a precarious and seemingly fatal situation soon enough, but hey, he’s a

only an administrator and not a field operative (as he reminds us). Okay, but he cann’t even fire a gun half as well as Chloe. This is proof of what I’ve been saying all along: we need more Chloe!

Just as the terrorists are going to make Milo toast, Jack comes in and blows two of them away, saving the third as go between with the bad guys. When he learns that the bad guys include his father, Jack is more angry with himself. Stupid? Perhaps, but it seems more that Jack has a blind spot when it comes to dear old Darth Bauer. There is some residual guilt about leaving the silver spoon behind, but we’ve all got baggage to deal with in one form or another.

Jack has the captured terrorist call Darth and then make it seem as if Marilyn won’t giveup the info unless she sees her son Josh. Josh is trapped in a hotel room with Darth, and he now knows that Grandpa is not such a nice guy after all. Down the road, it would be great for him to give Jack’s daughter Kim a call. As first cousins, they could commiserate on the slings and arrows of being Bauer.

The rendezvous at the hotel is arranged, and Jack and Marilyn have a moment. There have been a few previous ones, but this is rather tender especially considering Jack earlier grabbed Marilyn by the neck and slammed her against a wall (reminding loyal viewers of what he has done previously to Audrey). He gives her a bulletproof vest to wear under her clothes, providing a convenient moment for Marilyn to partially disrobe and Jack to gallantly turn away (hey, presumably he’s seen the goods previously). Jack does touch her face softly and Marilyn once again reminds he that she only stayed with Graem for her son. If there were even just a few minutes, these two could get busy, but Jack is always on the clock and there isn’t a moment to spare.

Meanwhile, back at the underground bunker Tom (Twitchy) Lennox has another meeting with Reed (Rob Lowe’s Little Bro). It becomes clear to Twitchy that Little Bro is setting up the assassination of Prez Wayne. Twitchy is not comfortable with this, and after a meeting with Prez confirms Wayne’s respect and trust in Twitchy, the latter goes back to meet with Little Bro and obfuscates matters briefly. After Little Bro leaves, Twitchy tries to set up a meeting with the Secret Service (where’s Aaron Pierce when we need him most?), but Little Bro is back with a convenient truncheon in hand, whacking the crap out of Twitchy.

At CTU there is more drama concerning Milo-Morris-Chloe, with Nadia seemingly less important as Chloe rises to the occasion. Milo gets to take his shirt off to get his wound bandaged, making him the second character of the night to show skin. Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian has just had a moment of crisis. In a convenience store he sees the horror unfolding on TV and gets a bottle of booze and a box of Altoids (the breakfast of chumps?) because he continues to blame himself for arming the nukes. Outside, he tries to drink the booze but spits it up right away.

Back at CTU Yul comes in and sees the shirtless Milo looking rather heroic. Yul goes into the medical unit (just stepping in there seems risky since it‘s the place many have perished) and congratulates Milo on growing a pair (insinuating that Yul is emasculated by his experience with Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed. Unfortunately, the Altoids don‘t mask the booze and both Chloe and Milo smell it on Yul, but he swears he is sober as a judge and gets back to work.

Jack finally makes his way to the hotel room but it is empty, proving he is an apple that hasn’t fallen too far from the old man’s tree. Darth has Josh across the way on the roof, so Jack has to agree to once again (for the record, I don’t know how many times Jack has “sacrificed” himself, but it’s getting redundant at this point) exchange himself for a hostage. Jack goes unarmed to the other building and Josh gets to run free and escape.

It would seem that Darth Bauer is ready to kill his second son that day. Jack kneels down and the moment is reminiscent of when Jack had to execute Chappelle in Season 3. The difference is Jack is not afraid. Despite the aforementioned redundancy, it is possible that this moment is fleshing out his character, for Jack’s mea culpa to his father is rather heartfelt. He explains that he was sorry for leaving but that he had to go his own way. Darth Bauer doesn’t pull the trigger or even ask Jack to join the dark side; instead, he runs off and leaves his PDA behind.

Now Jack is a bit bewildered (and man, that Darth can run fast for an old codger), but the PDA has a number on it for Jack to call. Jack calls it and what to our wondering eyes should appear, but a blast from the past: disgraced former President Charles Logan. Logan has sprouted a beard and looks longingly at a picture of his ex-wife (Lady MacDeath) and tells Jack that they need to meet.

This last scene provides an incredibly nice jolt and sets up what should be a rather interesting sit-down between Jack and his former tormenter. Will Jack get the full story, not just behind last season, but all the years of torture that he has endured?

Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

S6: 8 & 9 of "24": The Good, the Bald, and the Ugly

After stepping off a Chinese transport plane nine hours ago, Jack Bauer’s life has gone from terrible to horrendous. Think about what he has experienced: being placed in a hostage situation in which he would be tortured and killed, having to save a known terrorist and then having to kill a colleague in order to save said terrorist, finding out his brother orchestrated the assassinations of his good friends, and watching a nuclear device explode and kill thousands of people. This heavy load borders on the most horrific and truly cruel moments a television character has ever had to endure, and that is just this season. The increasing toll is evident in Jack’s demeanor and he seems to be pushing the limits this season, almost as if it is a struggle to make it through every agonizing minute.

Still, for someone like Jack Bauer, days are not meant to be categorized in the casual terminology of “have a nice day” or anything close to it. Jack has been trained to endure suffering, take the pain, and achieve the objective. In last night’s double episodes, Jack‘s life is once again on the line. It does not matter how many times he has given; he still has to find a way to do it again. Admittedly, this is hard for 24 fans who are waiting for the opportunity to see Jack eventually enjoy something (even a ham sandwich for what it’s worth). We also know that Jack is up to the challenge because he cannot conceive of not being there. Even his earlier attempt to quit this season fizzled in the heat of the extraordinary events that propelled him forward. Jack soldiers on to fight not for just a cause or the country but more the concept of why people climb mountains: because it is there.

A good deal happened in the two hours seen last night, but I am not going to do a recap each episode. Instead, I’d like to review the sum of the parts, which are fascinating shards of the shattered glass of the plotline. The writers have been playing it tough this year, making us work for the pleasure of viewing the nuclear carnage and the race to stop more of it from happening. It is a perverse pleasure to be sure, enjoying the charnel house atmosphere while at the same time hoping that there will be a way to stop the death and destruction. Oh, Jack Bauer is on the scene , so we know everything will be okay. Or do we?

Last night another nuclear suitcase almost detonated. Only due to Jack’s grit and determination did the bomb not go off, but watching him defuse the damn thing was nerve wracking to say the least. His fingers are no longer steady (thanks to the Chinese torture that is evident from the scarred skin on his hands). Jack is following Chloe’s instructions to stop the bomb, but he can barely steady the screwdriver to click off the right tabs inside the housing to disrupt the trigger. He does finally get it right, but for a moment it really seems that he will not.

We got a good deal more of Chloe last night. She does a good job of worrying about her ex-husband Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian, who is being drilled in the back by Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed who wants him to set the triggers to detonate the nukes. It’s a surreal scene watching one bald guy torturing another. It could start an entire new reality series if anyone can find enough bald guys: Torturing with the Bald Stars or something along that nature. Morris succumbs to the torture when he sees Meter Maid Rita get blown away because she doesn’t want the $7 million dollar finder's fee. Meter got all brave and shot Charley McCarthy when she thought she could get rich quick but, after watching Clean filet Yul with a drill as long as a yard stick, Meter just wants to get the flock out of there. Clean kills her and Yul decides that there will be no “etcetera, etcetera” for him and agrees to program the triggers.

At the White House Tom (Twitchy) Lennox is ready to throw in the towel. His “agenda” has been completely rejected by Prez Wayne, so Twitchy figures he should get out and go far away. There to stop him is Reed (Rob Lowe’s little bro) who bends with the winds of change as the situation dictates. Little Bro calls some guy with slick black hair (who obviously has taken on Graem’s role as puppet master this season), and later on we see Black Hair talking to the Russian general Gredenko. We become aware that this conspiracy goes at least into the White House and perhaps to the VP (Jim Jones) himself.

Jack’s father Phillip is doing his best Darth Bauer moves as he basically kidnaps his grandson Josh and drags him off to a hotel. As I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be nothing stopping anyone from driving all over the city in the wake of a nuclear blast. It would seem to make sense that some kind of curfew was in place, but right now the roads are free and clear.

Darth calls Marilyn (Graem’s Trophy Wife) and tells her that if she gives up anything, Josh (looking a lot like a young Luke Skywalker) is dead. She thought she remembered the place where Gredenko is staying, but Trophy knows that Darth killed his son and can easily kill his grandson too. The ramifications of such ruthlessness are obvious in that they are no doubt the motivation of Jack’s subconscious desire to purge his guilt through incessantly offering up his own life in order to pay for the sins of the father. Jack knows without knowing, or perhaps he knows much more than he's willing toeven admit to himself.

After Jack rescues Yul from the thugs, he returns to CTU and goes to the medical unit (fans of the show know this is more dangerous than jumping from a plane without a parachute). Yul gets patched up and Chloe tries to give him support, but Yul feels he broke and is disgusted with himself. Of course, any normal guy would have broken the second Clean pressed that power drill into his shoulder, so Yul really has nothing to be ashamed of. Certainly Jack would have withstood it, and we know that Yul knows that (hang in with me here) Chloe knows that. It’s tough being in Jack’s shadow.

The end of the second episode of the night leaves us with some interesting conflicts and dynamics. The old Russian general is not caught and musing about the Arabs getting the blame for his actions. Jack has been told by Trophy that she was trying to leave Graem and thinking about him (okay, Jack, the girl is throwing herself at you now). Darth has Luke and is ready to kill him, and Yul is nursing his Swiss cheese shoulder and wounded ego (hey, last year he was a shoe salesman). Most of all, we have Clean running around with three nukes and now he has the triggers. It would seem with all these subplots converging that we are moving toward the next mini-climax very shortly, and I for one cannot wait.   

Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

S6:7 of "24": The Bauer Bunch

What has been obvious this season is the pains the writers and directors have been taking with character development. Certain ones like Karen (Hillary) Hayes, Tom (Cheney) Lennox, Walid (Walla Walla) have been especially well fleshed out, allowing us to see not only good acting but the importance of their involvement in the plotline. Most of all, our hero Jack Bauer has been given a chance to shine, and the background being provided about his phantom family is giving actor Kiefer Sutherland a way to display a depth of emotions and flashes of anger and frustration that are welcome and quite commendable.

The key to all these things coming together is that the history of the Bauer Bunch (here’s the story/of a man named Bauer/who was bringing up too wild and wacky boys?) is more than relevant in Season 6; it is a window into the entire narrative arc of the last five seasons of 24. By exploring these murky paternal and fraternal waters, we are coming to understand what pushed Jack into loving his wife and child so much, why fighting to keep them alive and together was so important and, in the aftermath of Teri’s (his wife) death at the end of Season 1, how Jack fell deeper and deeper into a dark chasm away from a normal life.

Last night’s episode focused on fraternal and filial relationships: Morris (Yul Brenner) O’Brian and his brother (not seen and not likely to be) Timothy, Jack and Graem (Grim), and of course the complicated dynamic between Jack, Graem, and their father Phillip (Stretch Cunningham from the old comedy classic All in the Family). There is also another crucial fraternal interaction happening between Prez Wayne Palmer and his deceased brother David. Prez Wayne seems to be getting a backbone (at least judging from last night’s episode) that is remarkably like his brother’s, making him able to withstand the slings and arrows of Cheney, the heretofore unseen VP (Jim Jones), and others in his Cabinet. This is a welcome move for the character as he stands up for what is right despite so much pressure to embrace what seems inherently wrong (and un-American) in order to save the country.

At the start of the episode, Cheney is excited about his victory over Hillary. She is reluctantly leaving and returning to husband Bill Buchanan (uh, Hillary and Bill?) in LA. The quick cell phone call between the two shows who wears the pants in that family, and then we see the ever-stoic Bill dealing with the ever expanding crisis at hand in CTU.

This week the Milo-Nadia-Morris triumvirate thing seemed to take the back burner to the team actually doing some work. Chloe was a bit more involved in this episode, trying to find a way to tell Morris that his brother was hurt in the nuclear blast and is in the hospital. Morris is trying to crack the riddle of just whom (Charley) McCarthy is setting up to help Abu (Mr. Clean) Fayed arm his remaining nukes. Nadia is briefly seen walking around with files. Nothing against the gal, but I miss Michelle Dessler walking around with files in her arms and glancing at Tony.

Meanwhile, Graem has his father and brother driven to yet another abandoned construction site where it seems they are about to take a bath in concrete. Jack doesn’t waste any time taking out one of the thugs, and Stretch is right behind him. For good measure Stretch shoots the guy Jack has disarmed, and this annoys the son because he wanted to question said thug (at least we got to hear Jack say “Dammit” afterwards; all you gamers drink up).

Soon another CTU Tac team assembles at Graem’s mansion. Once inside, Jack gets Graem to drop a weapon and then calls in the always reliable interrogator (and torture expert) Burke. Good old Burke comes prepared with his little silver box of coaxing tools and we know Graem is in for a bad time of it. As Burke administers fluid into the drip, we can see Jack is not pleased with torturing his brother. Jack is torn apart inside, but he also must persevere just as he has done so many times before (hey, he even slammed Audrey up against a wall one time when trying to get information).

Finally, Jack does get a brief moment to talk to his former flame, Graem’s wife Marilyn. Much to her surprise, all of this rigmarole has nothing to do with them (the girl even looks slightly disappointed). She looks lovely and frustrated and, yet when pressed, seems fully aware of just what kinds of evil things her husband is capable of doing. Jack allows Marilyn and son Josh (gee, that kid is awfully tall to be Graem’s son or did he just inherit his height from Stretch?). As Marilyn and Josh leave the house, Josh runs up to Stretch and gets a hug. Marilyn warns the old guy not to let Josh be dragged into this. Hmmm.

As the incredible torture session gets into full swing, Jack wants information about Charley and the nukes, but Graem starts letting it go about last season’s events (which the viewer well knows he orchestrated). He admits being behind the conspiracy to kill David Palmer, Tony, and Michelle. Jack is almost not certain how to handle this; it comes as a surprise and yet not as much as he (or the viewer) might think. It is obvious that Graem has always been capable of despicable things (which he alludes to trying to get Jack to do as a kid to no avail).

Back at CTU, Yul has done his job and now wants to go visit his brother. Unfortunately, just after Morris leaves the office, face of the target programmer for the nuke triggers comes up on the screen. Chloe is surprised to see that it is Morris. They try to reach him, but Charley has already abducted Morris at gunpoint and is bringing him to Mr. Clean to do the dirty work. Nice twist. Can’t wait to have those two bald guys in the same room.

Burke is packing up his goody bag and ready to leave. Jack sits with his father and Stretch apologizes to him. Jack doesn’t deserve this family. Jack, it seems, was the chosen one but left to free himself of the Bauer Bunch, thus making it necessary for Stretch to turn things over to Number Two Son. Jack and Stretch have their moment, and then Jack is off to CTU. Stretch asks for a few minutes alone with Grim and closes the door softly.

We’re not certain at this point whether or not Stretch is bad, but we quickly realize that Grim has been doing Daddy’s dirty work. Grim claims to have withstood Jack’s best, giving only up the information about last season’s plot and nothing more. Stretch (obviously thirsty and wanting to go down to Kelsey’s Bar for a beer with Arch) is not buying it. He claims plans change and pumps some juice into the drip, causing Grim to shake violently and fall limp (one day Daddy had more than a hunch/so he killed his older son Graem/now there’s one less in the Bauer Bunch). Way to go, Stretch.

Until next week, Klaatu barada nikto!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Joe Namath Best Quarterback Ever?

As a lifetime New York Jets fan, I would be be pretty surprised by Namath's ever being designated as "best" quarterback ever. I would love to see it, but there are too many odds against him. Not that I don't think Broadway Joe wasn't one of the greats, because he most definitely was, but I would be rather shocked that he would make it considering the competition and overall bias against New York sports teams (no doubt inspired by the often lubricious Yankee "legacy").

There was a golden age of sorts in football during a different time in sports (and American life in general). These were the sort of innocent (or perhaps naive) days of the 1970s. I can recall debates with friends about the best teams and best quarterbacks. It always seemed incongruous that my good friends (and fellow New York Mets fans) didn't like the same football team as I did. They were Cowboys, Steelers, and Vikings fans for the most part (the successful teams of that era), and only those teams had the quarterbacks that seemed to be held in highest regard.

First there was Roger Staubach, gunning the ball out of the "shotgun" like nobody's business. Along with Steelers' Terry Bradshaw (having the good fortune to have someone like Franco Harris as a halfback) and Fran Tarkenton of the Vikings (probably the best running quarterback I have ever seen), these were the formidable "stars" on the 70s, leading their teams and seemingly always garnering the spotlight.

Before them came Johnny Unitas, still talked about as the greatest by many fans, and since that time no doubt guys like Joe Montana, Bret Favre, and Dan Marino are held in the highest esteem. Still, yesterday Joe Namath wasted no time in mentioning the guy he thought was the best ever: Peyton Manning. In a self-deprecating (and refreshingly sober) manner, Joe forgot his glory days (and his inglorious days of asking ESPN's Suzy Kolber for a kiss) and just spoke from his heart about Manning's skills and grace. Okay, Joe, now you are acting like a real Hall of Famer and all around class act.

In his time, Broadway Joe "Willie" Namath had his share of the glory. Playing in the windswept confines of Shea Stadium (I still think games there were infinitely better and more enjoyable than at the current Jets' home at the Meadowlands in New Jersey), Joe defied the laws of nature and brought his Jets all the way. His off the field antics were as exciting (if not more so than) as when he was in uniform, and what young kid would not have been enamored of this glamorous, hotshot QB who seemed to get the girls, party all the time, and trip the light fantastic all over New York City?

What probably qualifies Joe as big-time most of all was his "guarantee" of victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Sort of like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield and hitting a homerun, Joe's boastful promise was realized and fulfilled the dream of young fans like me (starting off the best year of my young life at the time, for the Mets would win the World Series that October). Joe's skills were there for sure, but more important than anything was his inherent guts and ability to play through pain to get one for the team. People always admired that about Joe and no doubt still do.

Is Joe Namath the best quarterback ever? He doesn't think so. He believes it's a young man who just might go out and win it all for a very different Colts team. Still, in my humble opinion, Joe rises to the top because he played with a rough and tumble mentality. Though not a native New Yorker (he hailed from western Pennsylvania), Joe was truly all Broadway and probably became the game's first modern superstar (due to the easy access to media coverage of his exploits here in New York).

So, here's my vote to Joe Willie Namath as the best-damned quarterback who ever (and probably no QB will ever again) played home games for the <i>real </i>New York football team based in Queens. Thanks for the antics, the bravado, and the victory that made 1969 a year that New Yorkers and all sports fans will always remember as the time of miracles, the year when the mighty Colts and Orioles of Baltimore would learn a lesson from the upstart teams from Queens, New York.