Saturday, January 31, 2009

Football Heroes and the Super Bowl

I don't really care that much about sports, but back around 1980 when the 49ers were winning Super Bowls, I did care. As a Bay Area guy I had been rooting for the Niners for many fruitless and frustrating years. Super Bowl 16 was, for me, the greatest of all time.

In 1987 I was invited to attend a Charity dinner in San Francisco to hear a speech by Bill Ring, a 49er who had succeeded against the odds due to his size -- he was shorter and lighter than most professional football players. He was a nice guy and I chatted with him. Also at the dinner were several current 49ers. Leo the Lion Nomellini was there, too, a 49er from the old days. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. I shook his hand and said hello. He has since passed on.

The thing that really impressed me was how big these guys were. That and the size of their necks. How do you get a neck that big? They looked like tree stumps with a head on them. And what size collar do you wear? A 28? Just guessing.

They held an auction of a bunch of stuff, including a case of champagne, and the Niner guys were really hoping to win. When they didn't, they threw their tickets down in disgust.

I didn't want the champagne, I wanted the team-autographed white and brown football. It had the signatures of Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young, as well as the rest of the team. I didn't have any cash so my business partner bought a row of tickets for me when he bought his own. He handed me the wrong batch, because in that batch was the ticket that won the football. I happily repaid the $10 on Monday. I'll bet he's still pissed off, all these years later.

I really wanted that football. The funny thing was that, when the MC stuck his hand in the fish bowl filled with tickets and drew one out, I knew it was mine. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. I had a strange kind of tickly feeling in my chest. When they called my number I wasn't surprised but I was very excited. I got a feeling that something was going on that was beyond ordinary experience but I didn't know what. If only I could duplicate it and control it, I'd go to Vegas. Alas, that was the only time it ever happened.

I still have the football in a plastic case in my den. It was my lucky night. The next drawing was for a pair of tickets to a 49ers game and I won that too. I'll bet half the people in the room thought the auction was fixed for me to win. Who the hell is that schmuck, they must have been asking.

I don't know what happened. There must have been a 49er fan turned angel who was looking out for me that night.

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