The Rams and 49ers. For it all. Or an all-expense trip to New Orleans, at least.
Who will win? Well, let's see. The 49ers might be the way to bet. Except that:
--George Seifert is not Bill Walsh.
--Joe Montana is not God.
--Roger Craig is not Red Grange.
--Jerry Rice is not two guys on roller skates.
I don't think.
OK, you say, take the points. Go with the Rams.
On the other hand, first consider:
--John Robinson is not Knute Rockne.
--Jim Everett is not Joe Montana.
--Greg Bell is not Eric Dickerson.
--Flipper Anderson is not invisible.
Which leaves us with--what? Pick 'em?
I don't know about you, but I've always had trouble taking the 49ers seriously. They always struck me as a team that didn't like to get dirty. If they were a baseball team, they wouldn't slide. In basketball, they'd be outside shooters; tennis, they'd stay at the baseline.
They always seemed to roll up 28 quick points, then sit back and dare you to catch up to them. If you did, they just shrugged and went and had a drink.
I always figured a game at Candlestick--and Kezar before that--was just a kind of complicated cocktail party, anyway. The whole town should have an olive in it.
I was prepared to accept the 49ers as bona fide title types when they had Bill Walsh. He was perfect for San Francisco. The game was cerebral with him, sort of like grand opera in cleats. On the other hand, he wasn't entirely carefree. Somebody broke that nose.
San Francisco itself seemed to epitomize the old English canon, "No gentleman ever plays a game too well."
I would have thought San Francisco would have been mortified to find itself in the (ugh!) Super Bowl. I mean, a Super Bowl was for ruffians such as the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants or teams known as the Steel Curtain or the Monsters of the Midway. The 49ers preferred to engage you at long range. In case you didn't wear your Brut.
I'm not surprised they got rid of Bill Walsh. He seemed to be missing the point. The last thing--good heavens!--San Francisco wanted was a dynasty. I mean, good Lord, what are they--the Gas House Gang or Murderers' Row or something common like that?!
Hardly. San Francisco leaves vulgarities such as those to places such as Los Angeles, where they have sayings like, "Winning is the only thing." Winning comes way down the ladder in San Francisco. Way behind looking good losing, as a matter of fact.
Bay Area teams don't particularly want to even go to the Rose Bowl. Screws up New Year's Eve at the country club, for one thing. They leave that to tacky types such as USC; they rely on Stanford and Cal to keep them home on New Year's.
San Francisco views L.A. through a lorgnette, anyway. As if it were someone who made noise eating soup, and left the spoon in and their hats on drinking coffee. Totally unsuitable for polite company, people who got rich through a flaw in the system.
But now it finds itself with the best football team on the planet. And getting better. It's embarrassing. I mean, what is San Francisco? Green Bay or something? L.A.? You think San Francisco wants to be known as Titletown USA?
San Francisco used to have exactly the kind of teams it wanted. Good, but not too. There were the John Brodie years, the Y.A. Tittle seasons. The Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, Frankie Albert eras. They won just enough to keep the tradesmen in their place. They lost with grace. They were like the Austrian cavalry. Too pretty to send to war.
That was their role. But Joe Montana can't seem to get it through his thick head that winning not only isn't the only thing in San Francisco, it isn't anything. Doesn't he read Herb Caen, for cryin' out loud?
San Francisco was happier with someone such as Steve DeBerg. Steve DeBerg was perfect for San Francisco. Win a few, lose a few. Or lose a lot. Ciao . Let's go have a drink.
Winning is for peasants. Or Southern Californians, which is the same thing.
What does San Francisco need with a Super Bowl? It's got The Bridge. The Golden Gate. They make movies about San Francisco. Anybody ever make a movie about Duluth? Anybody ever leave his heart in Indianapolis?
But here, they got a pretty dilemma. San Francisco probably doesn't really want to go to another Super Bowl. It's getting to be a bore. It comes too close on the heels of the golf at Pebble Beach.
On the other hand, do they want those vulgarians from the south to have it? The place where the hills get brown in the summer and the most appalling people go around having lunch with each other, dressed up like farm hands?
The 49ers may be the only team in America that has more fans outside its hometown than in. It's not that the 49ers are America's Team, it's just that they're not particularly San Francisco's team, either.
If the 49ers were from Green Bay or Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Dallas, there wouldn't be much doubt they were a juggernaut, a dynasty, a team for the ages. But, you notice, none of the coaches ever complains about the noise from the fans in Candlestick. That's because there isn't any. They're too busy unwrapping the quiche and uncorking the Chardonnay. The team is on its own in San Francisco. The audience watches as if it were "Swan Lake."
San Franciscans are probably not real clear on where Anaheim is, anyway. That's because when they do find themselves driving through Southern California, they close their eyes or have the chauffeur draw the drapes.
If it were anybody else besides the Rams on the other side of the line of scrimmage today, I'd say take the spread and bet the house. But the Rams annoy San Francisco. They look like people who might eat the salad before the entree. They should be taught manners, put in their place.
On the other hand, if the 49ers go to the Super Bowl again, there is a chance the city might ask them politely if they've given any thought to moving to Sacramento. The Super Bowl has ceased to be amusing.