Where did the baby name Namath come from in 1978?

Joe Namath in the TV show "The Waverly Wonders" (1978).
Joe Namath

Quarterback Joe Namath played professional football from 1965 to 1977, mostly for the New York Jets. The Associated Press voted him AFL MVP twice: in 1968 and 1969.

But Namath didn’t pop up as a baby name in the U.S. data until 1978. And it dropped out of the data the very next year.

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: unlisted
  • 1978: 5 baby boys named Namath [debut]
  • 1977: unlisted
  • 1976: unlisted

So what made “Namath” a one-hit wonder baby name long after Joe’s prime, and just after his playing career had ended?

Television!

Namath starred in a short-lived sitcom called The Waverly Wonders in 1978. His character was a retired pro-basketball player who now coached basketball at a fictional high school in Wisconsin. The show was heavily promoted by NBC, but ratings were poor, and only four episodes aired (three in September, one in October).

Joe’s family name, originally spelled Németh, is of Hungarian origin and means “German.”

Sources:

  • Joe Namath – Wikipedia
  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

P.S. Before going pro, Joe Namath played for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team from 1962 and 1964.

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