I grew up in northern California. My Dad inherited an auto repair/tire store from his dad in a little place called Redwood City. My Dad taught me to love tires and the San Francisco 49ers. Before they were a famous franchise, the practices were in Redwood City. As a child, my Dad would take me to watch. There were no crowds, no security, not even a fence. Our coach was Nolan and my players guys like Brodie and Washington and we played at a little place called The ‘Stick. (I may have been to a game at Kezar too, but being only 7 yo I don’t exactly remember).
I learned how the game worked. I learned to appreciate the talent on all the teams. Football was as much a part of our family gatherings as Grama’s Beans. However, we were what they termed “49er Faithful.” They were our #1 team and we supported them no matter how they performed. As a young teenager, I never had much hope that we would ever be better than mediocre and that was ok. I still loved them. I love the game, but I had a personal affinity for the 49ers. I think it started as a bonding thing with my Dad, but the love affair continued.
I moved to Utah. Continued to be a fanatic. It was my link to home. My Dad and I would call each other after plays and say did you see that? I had kids. I raised them to be fans, serious fans. We had outfits. I dressed them as babies in 49er fan clothing. During big games we made giant posters and painted our faces. We were an odd group in the middle of nowhere Utah, surrounded by people who believed Sunday was strictly for church. Here we were decorating, dancing, hooting and hollering. They weren’t just games, they were bonding experiences.
Bill Walsh came. Now I am not a big expert on the complexities of the game. I am pretty sure my son can explain all the plays and what went wrong or right, I just watch and scream and yell. But I knew right away, Walsh was different. We didn’t just watch Niner football, we watched as much football as we could and he was doing stuff no one had ever seen. And the team improved. It was a joy to watch and somehow karmic payback that the team we had always supported when others had fled, was now a good team, in fact became an amazing team! I can’t explain it like the sports experts, but know this….the man was genius.
As the years progressed, we had wonderful years and rebuilding years. I am sure that without players like Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Dwight Hicks and Carlton Williamson the dynasty may not have been possible. But I know that without Bill Walsh it definitely would not have been possible.
Niner football isn’t just a sporting event to my family, its a tradition. It is when we all get together and eat good food. We visit and have fun. I have wonderful memories of our Sunday’s together from when the kids were small to young adults. My youngest daughter’s first steps are recorded in front of a Niner game on the TV while she wears her brother’s Niner jersey. Thus this loss is like an extended member of the family has passed. My family is saddened by the loss of this great man. Our condolences to his family and to all who knew him. I am sure he was as great a person as he was a coach.