Ever heard of the phrase "don't make bets you can't cash"?
Marcia Brady learned this lesson when she boasted that she could get Davy Jones to perform in the Fillmore Junior High's school dance. While it took a lot of trouble to organize, in the end, all's well that ends well, and Davy performed at the dance.
However, her little brother, Bobby, being just 10 at the time, didn't pay much attention to the backstory and missed the idea, which would find him in dire straits two years later, when he really needed his "Mail-Order Hero".
An avid dreamer as usual, 12-year old Bobby dreams that the Brady backyard is a football field, with just him and Joe Namath, as part of the New York Jets, playing against a six-man football team, really needing a big win. And with Bobby making a huge jump in the air and catching the ball thrown by Namath, they are able to pull it off.
(*DUN DUN DUN*) Back to real life, when the next morning, Bobby and his friends are practicing football in the backyard. However, when they take a break, Bobby's friends start bragging about famous sports stars their family members have met. They even think that Bobby doesn't know anyone important. Not wanting to be teased by his peers for that, he hastily creates a lie that he knows Joe Namath, and that Broadway Joe is such a good friend of the family that he always has dinner with them when he's in town.
(*DUN DUN DUN*) Very bad move, Bobby. Because just next week, Joe will be in town, for the exhibition game. And his friends already are ready to meet him, and already rush off to tell their families. He goes to consult his brothers. Greg tells him that he can either present them Joe Namath, or tell the truth before it gets out of hand, with Peter agreeing: "Honesty is the best policy, especially, when nothing else works."
So, thinking he might still get slightly teased, but not laughed at, Bobby decides to go downstairs and phone his friends.
Too late... Cindy is talking on the phone. And when she sees Bobby coming down the stairs, she hangs up and tells him that his innocent bragging has really snowballed into an avalanche - his friends have already told their friends that Joe Namath is coming to dinner at the Brady house. As Bobby says: "My entire life's ruined, and I'm not even in high school yet."
Bobby, trying to salvage his reputation, then attempts to call Namath at the stadium, and when he isn't in at the moment, asks the manager to leave Namath a note to call him, for it's very important. Except that just in the evening, one of his friends has heard on the radio that Joe has just arrived in town.
Near-bedtime, when the girls are in their room, Marcia reads from the newspaper that Mike Connors, who played on Mannix at the time, had taken off his time to visit a sick little girl in hospital 1200 miles away for five minutes, who really wanted to meet him. This gives Cindy an idea, and in the night, when everyone are sleeping, she gets up and begins to write to Joe, claiming to be Bobby Brady, being "very sick", and wanting to meet him more than anything in the whole world.
Comes the big day, when Bobby in the morning actually fakes sickness, claiming to have a slight case of malaria, not to meet Joe, but to stay home from school, so that he wouldn't have to tell his friends the big truth. Only that Mike sees through his plan and won't let him stay home.
While the kids are at school, Joe has now received both Bobby's original message to call him, and Cindy's fake telegram, and with his manager, Herb, they decide to go over to the Brady house after practice.
Just then, Bobby and Cindy arrive home from school, and while Alice has made them brownies, Bobby turns them down and heads straight up to his room, as his friends were already anticipating to meet Joe, and gave him such a bad time at school that he couldn't tell the truth. Just then, Herb's call comes in, which Cindy answers, hearing that Joe and Herb will come and visit Bobby at 5.30. Which gives her time to get Bobby in on the truth, as now he just has to pretend he's sick.
The big moment arrives, when Alice answers the door, and the much-anticipated Jets star quarterback is there. Not knowing anything about Bobby's supposed condition, she very enthusiastically leads Joe and Herb up to the boys' room, where Bobby now has to get in bed, and almost gives away the truth. Just then, Alice gets a call from Mike, as he had now found someone, who knew someone, who knew Joe Namath. However, upon hearing that Joe still just came in through the door, Mike quickly rushes home.
Now, Bobby attempts to make good on his claim, and asks Joe if he can come over for dinner one afternoon. However, as Joe has to catch a plane just after the game, he can't, but he can sign an autographed poster for him, where Bobby asks him to write that he's sorry he couldn't stay for dinner this time and meet Bobby's friends. Just then, they prepare to leave, only for Mike to come in. Except that none of the family knows about the big hoax about Bobby being sick, as they all respond to him very enthusiastically, as Joe even points out to Mike that he doesn't seem to take Bobby's "sickness" very seriously, to which Mike responds that "when you have six kids, it would be bound to happen to one of them." (Oddly, he forgot about about Marcia's episode with Davy Jones). However, just then, Mike and Carol receive the letter Joe got, and read what Cindy had falsely claimed in the letter, even finding out that it was actually Cindy's handwriting, and admit that Bobby's not really sick, but might be when they get through talking to him. Also, Alice, Marcia and Jan confess to Joe the whole truth behind the lie - Bobby just happened to have bit of a big mouth at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Just then, Bobby and Cindy come downstairs, having decided that Bobby should tell the truth to Joe, which they do, and even offer Joe the autographed picture back. Except that Joe's just glad Bobby's actually not sick, as Bobby actually looked really healthy when he saw him, and is rather flattered that someone would want to see him as badly as Bobby did. And he still lets him keep the picture, even agreeing to stay for a while and throw some passes with him.
Bobby then calls his friends over, and they, with the whole family, are next seen in the backyard, watching Bobby and Joe throw the passes. Just after Joe leaves, Bobby confesses to his friends that he actually never met Joe Namath before that day, only that now they are having a hard time believing it.
And, in the tag scene, it's revealed that Joe even sent the whole family tickets to the game, except that Mike gave his and Carol's tickets to Bobby's friends instead, as he didn't feel like fighting a thousand cars for a parking space, standing in line for hot dogs and pushing his way through the crowd, and instead he and Carol could be alone with all the kids out of the house, even joking that now, "when the game comes in on television, they won't have any interruptions", which earns him a pillow to the face by Carol.
Tropes present in this episode:
- The Celebrity Lie: Bobby claims to be good pals with Joe Namath to impress his friends.
- A Lady on Each Arm: Barry Williams recounted, in his autobiography "Growing Up Brady," about how the cast anticipated Namath a bachelor at the time would show up on the set with several women on each arm and several others following close behind. The image of Namath being a ladies' man was averted, however, as "Broadway Joe" was in intense pain after years of playing football, and that his entourage was quite small his agent and just a few others.
- Playing Sick: By proxy; Cindy fakes a letter to Namath from Bobby, claiming he's "very very sick".
- Shout-Out: To Mike Connors, who played the lead role in Series/Mannix at the time. Like Brady Bunch, Mannix was also produced by Paramount at the time. Also, Robert Reed also had a recurring role in "Mannix" at the time; Chris Knight and Eve Plumb each had appeared in one episode of the show before Brady Bunch, and the Brady house interior was also used in Mannix twice.
- Special Guest: Joe Namath. Of all the athletes who guested on The Brady Bunch, "Broadway Joe" was the only one not based on the West Coast at the time of production; he was with the New York Jets, while Don Drysdale, Wes Parker and Deacon Jones (all from earlier) were all Los Angeles-based.