A longtime fan of the New York Jets debuts with a meticulous analysis of the Jets’ personnel who, on Jan. 12, 1969, defeated the highly favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Lederer doesn’t ignore the actual game—he has an early chapter about it and a nine-page play-by-play account in the backmatter, and he and various Jets from the era rehearse key moments—but his focus remains on the team. With a true fan’s passion (that day, according to the author bio, “was the most exciting sports day in his life”), he employs scores of interviews and other necessary research to tell the stories of those who brought about the victory. Not wishing to write yet another tribute to Jets’ star quarterback Joe Namath, Lederer devotes several pages to each individual involved, dividing his chapters into traditional team divisions—coaches, offensive line, defensive line, etc. Although there are names that will resonate with many general sports fans—e.g., Namath, Weeb Ewbank, Don Maynard, Matt Snell—there are many others whom the author rescues from the virtual anonymity that awaits a nonheadliner upon retirement. We learn how each player or coach got to the Jets, what head coach Ewbank thought of them (he kept notes), how they performed in the AFL championship game and the Super Bowl, and what happened to them afterward. More than a few are no longer living, and some died from brain deterioration now recognized as a dire side effect of a career spent in football. Lederer doesn’t conceal the injury situation; neither does he condemn it at length. The text is a little too littered with clichés (“kept his eye on the prize,” “blowing his own horn”), and though he alludes about a dozen times to the “Heidi game,” he leaves its explanation to a writer of one of the forewords.
A fan’s notes, meticulous and proudly partisan, for Jets fans and devotees of the early NFL.