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7:35PM

Dwight Clark wanted to see Niner mates ‘one more time’

By Art Spander

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The game was forgettable. As opposed to the halftime ceremony. That is something we must never forget, an emotional tribute — realistically, and how awful it is saying this — a farewell.

The 2018 49ers played awful Sunday. “There’s a very fine line between winning and getting your butts kicked,” said first-year coach Kyle Shanahan. They got their butts kicked.

They were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys, 40-10, at Levi’s Stadium. The team and the rookie head coach are 0-7. And while NFL teams rarely win them all or lose them all — yes, the exception is the 2008 Detroit Lions, 0-16— the possibility of the Niners going without a victory this fall is growing.

Depressing for Niners fans. As, in a way, was the halftime program. Depressing and at the same time uplifting, because it reminded us of better days, for the franchise and for the man being honored and remembered, Dwight Clark.

Clark has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a horrible, cruel ailment that traps a person in his own body, stealing life a day at a time. “A few months ago,” remembered the kind man who operates the press elevator at Levi’s, “I saw Dwight and he was joking, laughing.”

But time moves quickly with ALS. A healthy, robust individual is conquered by an ailment for which there is no cure. Clark made it to midfield Sunday at halftime, but when he spoke there was hesitancy in his words, as if he were fighting to get them out and barely succeeding.

Clark is best known for The Catch, and while surely no explanation need be required, not if you know football, not if you know Northern California, not if you know the 49ers, one will be given.

It was Henry Ford who said, “History is bunk.” What he meant was don’t look back when you should, look ahead. Yet all of sport is wrapped in history, and when the first pro franchise created in San Francisco has gone year after year without the championship and then in a moment of timing and brilliance it is transformed because of one play, The Catch, then the past must be cherished.

Early January 1982, Candlestick Park, the NFC Championship game for 1981, Niners and Cowboys, and once again it seems Dallas will win. But Joe Montana, Super Joe, avoids the leaping pass rush of Ed “Too Tall” Jones and flings ball to heaven knows where. To a desperately leaping Dwight Clark, that’s where. Touchdown, and after a brief defensive stand, Super Bowl, the start of a dynasty.

Montana was part of the ceremony on Sunday. Of course. So were as many teammates of those 1981 49ers as could be located and, through the passion and generosity of former owner Ed DeBartolo Jr., brought to the stadium.

Each wore a red 49er jersey with Clark’s number, 87. History. Memories. Sadness.

“I just want to see my teammates one more time,” Clark said he told DeBartolo. “And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in so I could see ‘em one more time.”

DeBartolo wiped away a tear. Perhaps others did as well.

Montana reminded us that he and Clark were rookies and roommates in the summer of ’79, a friendship still strong. You watched, you listened, you shook your head in disbelief. Clark is 60, so young.

I’ve known others with ALS, including Bruce Edwards, who for quite a while was the caddy of champion golfer Tom Watson. What causes the disease? Why does it strike so many football players and golfers or caddies? Is it something on the grass? Something in the air?

Clark said DeBartolo flew him to Japan, hoping a researcher would have an answer, have a cure. “Thanks, Eddie,” said Clark. “You’ve been my friend since 1979.”

Then, after a few seconds, he said, “It’s been a tough year.”

12:07PM

SF Examiner: Affair with Giants is hot, but 49ers still San Francisco's true love

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner


Brian Sabean, the man who helped build the Giants into champions, said San Francisco has become a baseball city. Unquestionably. Yet, it is no less a football city, as we were reminded the other evening.

Read the full story here.


Copyright 2011 SF Newspaper Company