“You! You! You! You!” I pointed my finger at the Zenith in our family room, taunting Bengals Head Coach Forrest Gregg for having just lost the Super Bowl to the 49ers. “Tootsie!” my Mom yelled at me. “You don’t do that!”
“Why not?” I asked. We had just won the Super Bowl. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Didn’t we just earn that right? Maybe I was being a poor sport, but I was 8. It was my first foray into trash-talking and it felt oh-so-right. Just two years earlier the 49ers were the laughing stock of the league and now WE could finally dish it out.
Anyone alive during the ’81-’82 season remembers just what a magical run it was. Dwight Hicks and the Hot Licks, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds, Fred Dean smoking Kools at halftime, the Sod Squad, Eddie DeBartolo smoking and pacing the sideline during the NFC championship game, “The Catch”… it’s all delightfully retold in “49er Fever!” a detailed account of the 49ers championship season by Leonard Koppett, executive sports editor for The Peninsula Times Tribune. With an original foreword by the Genius himself, Bill Walsh, and chapters titled “Joe Montana”, “Bill Walsh” and “The Super Bowl Game” this is a must-read for 49ers Fans and Gold Blooded Book Clubs everywhere. It even includes a statistical summary of every game of the season and a complete play-by-play of the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XVI. (Montana dived high over center and right guard for a one-yard touchdown and a first down.)
The Super Bowl itself was won with small plays, squib kicks, a big flea flicker and of course a legendary goal line stand. No Niner fan can forget Dan Bunz’ TD-saving tackle, Keena Turner missing his call to get on the field, or that emphatic TD spike by #49 himself, Earl Cooper. Or how we fumbled the opening kickoff, put together the longest scoring drive in Super Bowl history, or Ray Wersching’s MVP-worthy kicking performance.
It’s true, we never forget our first time, but this nostalgic read is filled with nuggets of gold that have long since been buried under the franchise’s overflowing trophy case. There’s the synchronistic alignment of the date January 24, the day gold was first and struck at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 and then struck again by the 49ers in Pontiac, Michigan. There was the freezing but fortuitous 16-degree temperature outside the Silverdome, and the tale of Bill Walsh dressed as a bellhop at the 49ers’ hotel. And there are even references to Joe Montana’s first wife Cass, and the Kenny Loggins hit that would become the team rallying cry: “This is It!”
If you can find this gem on eBay or in a used bookstore, I highly recommend picking it up. It immediately brought me back to being an 8-year-old in my family room, and the special feeling that came with being crowned champions for the first time. It’s when I first caught 49er Fever. I hope I never find a cure.