I generally have loathed the San Francisco Giants, but I have rarely felt the same way about the San Francisco 49ers. It probably has to do with the 49ers generally being bad when I was young and a fan of the Los Angeles Rams. The Niners did me no harm.
If I think about it more, I ought to appreciate (OK, perhaps admire) the 49ers for revolutionizing football back when Bill Walsh was coaching Joe Montana, and they were running the West Coast Offense.
We wrote about this at some length (1,200 words) in The National today. The National of Abu Dhabi, UAE, where football means only soccer. But even here, and particularly among British expats, the 49ers have come cachet, mostly because when the NFL first got busy with trying to bring some international attention to the game, the 49ers were the league’s best team. This would be the 1980s.
Had I never left the U.S., I would not have learned this. But I was assured by a youngish English colleague that the 49ers remained perhaps the most popular NFL team in Britain. He said he had seen their exploits (via NFL Films, the league’s greatest marketing tools) as a kid, and he said one of our India correspondents is a 49ers fan, too.
So, we commissioned a piece by our primary U.S.-based correspondent, and he took it back to Walsh and Montana, and how their preference for high-percentage short passes changed the game, essentially leading it to where it is, even now.
En route, the 49ers won five Super Bowls without a loss, and on Sunday they are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, when Steve Young and George Siefert defeated the San Diego Chargers in Miami, a game I covered. (I still remember being one of the last two guys out of the press box.)
Most people here, frankly, do not care about the game and, in recognition of that, we haven’t run scads of Super Bowl copy this week.
(The rugby Six Nations tournament, unknown in the U.S., is probably bigger among our readers, even taking into account that our Indian and Pakistani readers do not care about rugby, either.)
The game can be seen here, but watching it live requires some schedule flexibility — the kickoff is about 3:30 a.m. UAE time on Monday.
My plan for the game is this: I will late nature decide. If I wake up and the game is still on, I will watch some of it. If I sleep through it, not a problem. (Plus, I would be more alert at work later in the day.)
But we have done our bit to alert people to the game. The cover of our sports section, for Saturday morning, was The Catch — by Dwight Clark, which sent the 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time.
I can’t imagine that anyone in Candlestick Park that day would have thought that, some day, Clark and Everson Walls, in black and white, would be on the cover of an English-language newspaper in the UAE 30 years later.