The Comeback King of San Francisco

Behind the scenes just before half-time at Candlestick Park in 2004

Behind the scenes just before half-time at Candlestick Park in 2004

Here’s a preview of the current prologue of Going Pro!

Full disclosure: I have fact-checked none (that’s right, NONE) of the details of this 49er Game or the post-game interview. As such, it’s undoubtedly a mash-up of the last ten seconds of every Niner game I watched in my rabidly red-and-gold childhood. Will a fact-checked version of this story make the final cut for the memoir? Do you think it should?

Regardless: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Tom Rathman, Brent Jones and all the rest of the late-80s-early-90s 49ers…I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you. Because you made comebacks look like the best sort of glory.

By the way, the last sentence below is a FACT.


His piercing blue eyes darted left and right, seeing the defense. I held my breath. At 4th and 9 it was game over, season over if they didn’t make it past the mark. There were only seconds left on the game clock.

The 49ers had just chewed through 60 yards of the field in four passes, running the hurry-up offense. They needed a touchdown. Please please please.

The camera switched to a wide shot of the field. Jerry Rice lined up left. Brent Jones on the right side of the line. Moving, they were moving.

My left hand went over my face, and I peered between two fingers, moaning, “Ohhh…..god, I can’t watch…”

The defensive line crumpled on the right with Brent headed down field, and I leapt from the couch. “MOVE!” I yelled.

Joe Montana heard me and ran to the left, and the ball was in the air half an instant before he was slammed to the ground. Hail mary. Oh my God. No one was open, the ball was up for grabs.

“Ohhhh…..please please please….” I begged.

The camera and the ball converged in the back corner of the end zone. And there was Jerry, surrounded, leaping, one hand out, two fingers snagged the ball, and as the defense pushed him out the back end.

“Everytime!!” I shouted at my brother, elation and adrenaline coursing through my body.

“How does he do that EVERYTIME?!?!”

“The officials are going to review this for sure,” Al Michaels was saying.

“No no no no. He was totally in.” I looked at my brother. “Right?”

“He was totally in,” Bro said. But he was perched on the edge of the couch, and didn’t take his eyes from the slo-mo instant replay.

“Look….look, one foot one foot…..,” I jabbed my finger on the tv screen. “Aaaaand….ha! Two!”

I ran to the back door of the living room, “Dad! DAD!!!! They WON!!!”

My dad came around the corner of the house, stomped clods of dirt off his shoes, and pulled off his work gloves.

“Wow. They were down at halftime.”

My dad rarely could sit still long enough to watch the whole game with us.

“Yup, look at that. That was close,” he said watching the 5th or 6th replay of Jerry’s second foot slowly, gently touching down on lovely green grass.

I flopped back down on the couch and let out a sigh.

What must it be like to Joe Montana, the Comeback King?

The post-game scene in the locker room was pandemonium. Gary Radnich, the reporter who was always there interviewing the guys, he was so lucky. He was part of the celebration! Gary put the microphone into Joe’s face.

“How do you do this, game after game? You guys were down at halftime.”

“To be honest, I don’t know,” said Joe. His eyes crinkled into a big smile.

The 49ers were on their way to their fifth superbowl.

And I wanted to be Joe Montana.

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