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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Dreams Coming True

Everyone remembers "The Catch", the late fourth quarter pass that Joe Montana threw to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC championship game against Dallas that put the 49ers into their first Super Bowl (which they won, 26-21 against Ken Anderson, Icky Woods and the Cincinnati Bengals). The Catch came to represent the starting point for the 49er dynasty under Coach Bill Walsh and one of the best QBs of all time, Joe Montana.

Last night, ESPN had a shindig in NYC to celebrate its 25th anniversary. ESPN has had many great accomplishments in the past quarter century, and they also have not been shy about celebrating those accomplishments, talking about their humble origins and now how they probably changed the whole way sports are viewed. I like ESPN, like much of what they do (although their made-for-TV specials so far have been lacking to say the least), and do not necessarily care for some of their self-promotion (even though I will conceded that some of their commercials are hilarious).

But that's not the point of this post, because, as I said, ESPN has done a lot of great stuff. And one of the silver linings of that great stuff came out last night in the limo that Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic were riding in to this blessed event. As you know, the two Mikes host Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio, and if you haven't caught their act, you should, because it's the best sports talk show in the country, bar none (and, yes, when I say bar none I mean including Mike & the Mad Dog in NYC, whose knowledge is first rate, whose guests are excellent, but who have way too many commercials, have become a little too big for their britches, and who sound absolutely idiotic when they talk about anything other than sports, and sometimes their tangents have strayed way far away from sports).

Well, Golic and Greenie are in the limo, and riding along with them was Nancy Kerrigan and her husband and Dwight Clark, whose most recent gig was as GM of the Cleveland Browns. And the story that Mike Golic relayed that Dwight Clark told was a gem.

Apparently, at some point in the early-to-mid 1980's, Dwight Clark was riding around with Joe Montana in Santa Rosa, California, a northern California town south of the wine country whose claim to fame had been as the host of the training camp for the Oakland Raiders. Montana was looking at some property in Santa Rosa, and they happened to drive by an empty lot where kids were playing pick-up football.

Their windows were down, and they witnessed these two kids talking about who would play Montana, who would play Clark, and how they would re-enact The Catch. Montana and Clark watched the kids for a while, and then they decided to get out of the car and say hello.

Of course, the kids easily recognized that the guys who were joining them were actually talking to their 49er heroes, Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. The 49er stars talked with the kids for a while and played catch with them, giving the kids the time of their young lives.

As Mike Golic said so wonderfully and simply in his enthusiastic voice, "How great was that?"

And he's right. Even today, twenty years later, kids still do a few things on the playgrounds and the sandlots, at least when they're not being scheduled for travel games and town leagues and lessons. They pretend to hit the last-second shot, score the game-winning goal, catch the game-winning TD. Or they imitate their favorite stars, who were doing just that in some big game in real life.

But how great is it that when you're an eleven year-old kid, outside with your best friend, in a relatively small town, talking about your hopes and dreams and your favorite teams, that all of a sudden two stars from your favorite team show up at your favorite place to play? No entourages, no agents, no flaks, no security guards. Just them, real people, coming out of their car to toss around the pigskin and to chat about what it's like to be a 49er, what it was like to beat the perceived-to-be-unbeatable Cowboys and then to conquer the Bengals in the Super Bowl. What it's like to play for the beloved hometown team.

Pretty neat stuff, huh? Joe Montana and Dwight Clark made those kids' day, month, year and probably young life.

How many times does that happen?

Probably as often as plays like "The Catch."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minor point but Ickey Woods played for the Bengals in their second Super Bowl appearance, not the first one in Jan 1982.

Charles Alexander and big Pete Johnson were in the backfield in 1982.

2:56 PM  

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