Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stress on Kaepernick doesn't compare to pressure put on other 49ers Super Bowl quarterbacks

By the end of this week in New Orleans, when media access and clown questions are finally cut off, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have addressed  just about every hot topic. From his unique talent in Turlock to his tattoos. From the pistol formation in Reno to the temptations of Bourbon Street. From his biological parents to Beyonce’s lip synching.

Whether Kaepernick cares to admit it, there is pressure surrounding him like beads on the necks of young voluptuous women in the French Quarter. He has won big game after big game in his brief 10-game stewardship in San Francisco and now he faces THE BIGGEST GAME OF THEM ALL!
Yet, the stress on Kaepernick to win the Super Bowl is minuscule compared to a couple of his predecessors. I remember them well. I was there with a pressure gauge.

Steve Young had the pressure of getting a King Kong-XXXL sized primate off his back in Miami to win Super Bowl XXIX.

Joe Montana had the pressure of getting the press off his back, a circumstance so encumbrance that Joe Cool brought down crying in a New Orleans hotel bathroom on the eve of Super Bowl XXIV.

The only pressure the seemingly unflappable Kaepernick is feeling right now is on his very own lips pressing against his biceps.

The last time the 49ers played a Super Bowl in New Orleans, in 1990, it was the media equivalent of Katrina in a pre-TMZ world. First, Montana’s second wife, Cass, sold her juicy story to the National Enquirer, detailing less than flattering details of their three-year marriage, which ended in 1984. She portrayed Montana as unfaithful, a coward and, well, basically what Taylor Swift apparently thinks of any and all of her ex-boyfriends.

Then the Baltimore Sun ran a story about Montana’s high school football coach who claimed that most everyone in Montana’s Pennsylvania hometown of Monongahela “hated him.” Sort of how most of us feel about the Kardashians.

Then, on the Thursday before the Super Bowl, Montana was grilled in a half-hour Rocky Balboa-like press session regarding a television report out of Washington, D.C. hours earlier that said blacks were being targeted more than whites in the NFL drug testing program. The report claimed three “unnamed white quarterbacks” had tested for drugs in the past 10 years.

Without even being named, Montana was being implicated like Al Quada. For years, he had repeatedly denied drug use and, thinking that was all in the past, it reared its ugly head again like Lindsay Lohan on the police blotter. Think of it this now as a media-frenzied fire alarm. Calling Dr. Drew. Calling Dr. Phil. Calling Nancy Grace.

In this day and age Montana would have had no choice but to go on Oprah to be forgiven.
Montana reached a breaking point. Or breakdown point. Accompanied by a 49ers public relations official, Montana ducked into a restroom before the press conference and wept, lamenting why he had to once again offer denials about accusations and rumors from a decade ago.

We, the assembled hand grenade drinking and tossing media horde in the Big Easy, wondered if the circus surrounding Montana in New Orleans would crush him and his inflamed right elbow.

Could Kaepernick handle such a hurricane of negative publicity on the eve of the Super Bowl? Montana sure did. 

Though his former coach Bill Walsh wrote a guest newspaper column predicting an easy victory and Terry Bradshaw, a John Elway-hater, offered an outlandish pre-game prediction of a 55-3, Montana faced this blitz of adversity and met every challenge with a completion.

Montana proceeded to throw a Super Bowl record five touchdown passes in a 55-10 win.

 Young forever lived in Montana’s shadow, like anyone following John Wooden at UCLA. Young could not escape it, even after a victory lap around Candlestick Park following the 49ers’ NFC championship game win over their nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys. Montana was batting 4-for-4 in Super Bowls and Young hadn’t even stepped to the plate.

So when Young arrived in Miami, his resume was stacked next to Montana and the bottom line on Young’s was “Never Could Win The Big One.” As the week wore on, Young heard more references about “Joe” than Penn State. 

Meanwhile, as the pressure was rising so was the betting line in Las Vegas. It opened at 19, grew to 21 and settled at 18 that the 49ers would beat the San Diego Chargers. Tensions mounted. The 49ers were built with Eddie Bartelolo’s money and Carmen Policy’s savvy to win this Super Bowl or else. Jerry Rice confronted hired gun Deion Sanders and accused him of not being serious enough during Super Bowl week. George Seifert was coaching for his job, as Policy crafted a plan to eventually replace him with offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan.

Could Kaepernick handle such massive meteoric expectations, distractions and possible implications on the eve of the Super Bowl? Young sure did.

At the age of 33 and with his best  -- and it turns out last  – chance to win the biggest game of all, Young proceeded to top Montana’s Super Bowl record, throwing six touchdown passes in a 46-26 victory.

 As the final seconds counted down, 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer feinted pulling an invisible proverbial monkey off Young’s back at Young’s request and he gleefully reacted as if the weight of the world had been lifted. 

Later, when Young accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, he put such a bear hug on it that it was as if he was a kid finally getting the Christmas gift he didn’t get on Christmas morning  … on the Fourth of July. 

Since that glorious day, the 49ers have started 15 different quarterbacks and Kaepernick is the first one to lead them to the Super Bowl.

Pressure?  The pressure Kaepernick is feeling for Super Bowl XLVII doesn’t compare to Montana and Young in their last Super Bowls. But the results will be similar.

49ers 31, Ravens 14. Apply lips to biceps.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Harlem Globetrotters never get old

Parking: $25.

Game program: $10

Tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters play: Priceless and timeless.

Thanks to Tammy “T Time” Brawner, a Dominican University of California MBA graduate in Global Management and the 10th female to play for the Globetrotters in their 88-year history, I had the opportunity with my youngest teenage son to se  the Globetrotters – an America original -- play in person the other night at Oracle Arena in Oakland for the first time in decades.  As a kid we were introduced to the Globetrotters on Saturday afternoons via ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
They still enter to Sweet Georgia Brown and execute their famous Magic Circle at midcourt through there are a few more players throwing the basketball between their legs, behind the backs and over their shoulders with no-look passes now. And a couple of the gags that we grew up on – the confetti in the water bucket and the ball with the string attached – are still evident and it’s still the most comical basketball played this side of the Sacramento Kings.
But this is a new age and new area and some things have changed. Meadowlark Lemon is now a cereal (Special K) and the Washington Generals are now called the Global Select and Curly Neal dribbling trick is executed by someone with hair. Long hair. Female hair.
Tammy Brawner played two seasons for the women’s basketball team at Dominican but, in that time, she developed a flair for the game. Her rise from the Lady Penguins to the Harlem Globetrotters is a remarkable story and it reached a Cinderella-like moment in Oakland, her hometown. She came home to play with the Globetrotters on the same floor as the one she first saw the Globetrotters at the age of nine.
But it’s a different game now. The Globetrotters have as many different mascots as they do sponsors. They do more than interact with the crowd now. They are interactive. Fans at the game, with their smart phones, can text and vote for different rules to be implemented.  Fans do more than laugh and smile now.
For example, in the first quarter, fans voted for a four-point play to be used. Players were awarded four points for any shot they made from a “nut cracking” target about 35 feet from the hoop. In the second quarter, fans voted for points to be double. A field goal was worth four points and a 3-point shot was worth six.
At halftime the Globetrotters led Global Select 97-82.
All and all it was family entertainment. A referee with a belly as big as the basketball was the natural lightning rod for insults and gags.  Picking on the ref never gets old.  What stands out, though, is the smiles and joy and entertaining the Globetrotters do.  They appear to love their jobs, though on their current North American Tour they probably wake up in a different city every day with their schedule.
I asked my 15-year-old what he liked best. He loved the time when one of the Globetrotters literally jumped and grabbed the hoop and lifted himself up so that he could stand on the backend of the rim and kick a shot by Global Select. It took goal-tending to a new level. He also loved the sight of a 7-foot-8 Globetrotter named “Tiny.” He looked like a freak in a circus which is what the Globetrotters. Every night they play it’s like you’re under the Big Top and your eyes don’t know what to follow except to know that it leads to something that makes you smile.
As we rode home after the Globetrotters’ 145-114 victory, my son validated what I have always longed to believe about the Globetrotters.
You have to see them at least once in your life.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A way to make the Red Sox sexier

Breaking news out of Boston: The Red Sox this season will place Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” with LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” at Fenway Park.

Just kidding. I think. But if you read and heard about excerpts from Terry Francona’s new book “The Red Sox Years” you know it did not cast Red Sox owners/management in a nice light.  They appeared to care more about the image of the Red Sox on NESN instead of the AL East, desiring a sexier team to improve sinking television ratings.

Well, I have the solution: Since the Red Sox don’t have a reliable pitcher in their starting rotation last I looked, they ought to trade for Tom Brady. I mean, he can pitch. And when they introduce his wife, Gisele Bundchen,  at the introductory press conference they can hand her a pink hat.