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Joe Namath passed on a talk-show career

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In the '90s, seemingly everyone and his brother and sister have their own talk shows. And the ones who don't are trying to get one.

But nearly 30 years ago, Joe Namath had his own talk show - and he didn't want it. Back in 1969, the then-Jets quarterback did a New York-based show that was syndicated in more than 60 markets across the country, and he walked away from it."Looking back on it, the one thing I do remember is I didn't want to do it back then," Namath told television critics. "I hated going into the studio."

"The Joe Namath Show" featured Namath and Dick Schaap chatting with a variety of guests in a New York studio. There were sports figures like Tom Seaver, Muhammad Ali, Walt Frasier, Peggy Fleming and Rocky Graziano, but there were also other celebrities like Claire Bloom, Jimmy Breslin, Truman Capote, Ann-Margret, Michael York, Sally Kirkland, Maximilian Schell, Tiny Tim - even Woody Allen.

"I was trying to get some tips from Woody," Namath said. "Wood was pretty man-about-the-town then, and I was trying to be."

Watching the show is like peeking at a time capsule to see all these people in that period - which is why cable's Classic Sports Network will soon begin airing the 15 episodes of "The Joe Namath Show."

(The Classic Sports Network is not available on most local cable systems, but it is available to many homes equipped with satellite dishes.)

To watch the show, you do have to get past the awful clothes and the worse haircuts. Even Namath admits he was "pretty much shocked" the first time he saw it again recently.

The show wasn't wildly successful, but it did have a shot. However, Namath didn't care about taking that shot.

"He didn't want to work," Schaap joked.

"It was my only day off in the week, and here we were going to work," Namath explained. "Dick had a tough time getting me fired up, ready to go."

This was also the first time that Schaap, up until then a sportswriter, worked in television.

"We were the ultimate amateurs," he said.

But the show worked well enough to impress the sponsor.

"At the end of the run of the show, the sponsor - Bristol-Meyers - offered to take the show network and to buy the time and space for it," Schaap said. "And Joe said, `I need some time off before football season.'

"I was on my knees begging him to keep doing the show, because I was starting to learn something at that point."

While Schaap's TV career has since flourished, Namath's has never really taken off. (Remember the awful, short-lived NBC sitcom "The Waverly Wonders"?)

"It was a shame," Namath said of his missed opportunity. "I wish I had had enough good sense at the time to know how important it could be or how much fun it could be."