Chiefs-49ers is the stuff of TV talk shows

ON THE NFL

September 11, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

It's a tale of a dysfunctional family that belongs on Oprah or Phil.

There was the bitter divorce. The relatives have taken sides. Things will be tense at a family reunion today.

That's the scenario in Kansas City, Mo., today when the Chiefs play host to the San Francisco 49ers.

It's Joe Montana vs. the man who replaced him in San Francisco, Steve Young. Today's game is about more than football. It's about emotion and feelings.

Even the fans are involved. Many of the 49ers fans haven't forgiven Young for not being Montana. Especially since Young hasn't won a Super Bowl. But there are fans who think Montana should have been a mentor for Young.

A season-ticket holder named Dennis Opatrny, a metro reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote last week that Montana was "selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent."

The two principals haven't done much to fuel the fire, although Montana has given a few hints about his feelings. Three years ago, Montana said, "He's on my team, but as far as I'm concerned, he's part of the opposition."

Earlier this year, when Roger Craig re-signed with the 49ers and then retired, Montana said, "If I wanted to retire from the 49ers, I could have."

He also said he hasn't spoken to Young since he left.

Young has never fired back. "You don't fight with God," said his agent, Leigh Steinberg. Young even said they did speak earlier this year at Steve Bono's going-away party.

"We speak," he said. "We've never had any harsh words or arguments."

He also said that once the game starts, "It's really just playing

football." This time, though, it's a bit more.

The tube tale

There's so much interest in the Chiefs-49ers game that they're replacing the seats in the press box in Kansas City with folding chairs to squeeze in more reporters.

Only one thing is missing. It's not on national TV.

It would be a natural for a Monday night game, but Fox wanted it, and when you pay $1.58 billion, you get some perks.

The game couldn't be on opening week because Fox wanted the Dallas Cowboys for that slot. Yet it had to be early because they feared Montana might get hurt.

The result was that it wound up in a 1 p.m. slot in the second week when Fox could only show one game. Only 60 percent to 65 percent of the country will get it.

The league did schedule the Giants on Sunday night and the Eagles-Bears on Monday night to clear the New York, Philadelphia and Chicago markets, and the NFL says it's satisfied with the exposure.

"This is where it fits the best," said Val Pinchbeck, the league's director of broadcasting. "It works well for Fox."

It doesn't work well for the fans in cities, including Baltimore, that won't see it.

The distraction

Even though the Los Angeles Rams won their opener last week, coach Chuck Knox said all the talk about a possible move is distracting the team. "Let's face it, you're only human," Knox said. "You go home and your wife asks you, 'Where are we going to be living next year?' The kids want to know where they'll be going to school. You try to seal it out, but it's a tough thing to do. It preys on people's minds. You can tell them not to think about it, but it's tough to put out of your mind."

Of course, it's not yet certain the Rams will move, but the sparse crowd of 32,969 for the home opener did nothing to persuade team officials to stay.

The guarantee

When Bill Tobin was hired as the director of football operations for the Indianapolis Colts and he hired his brother, Vince Tobin, to be defensive coordinator, it started speculation that Tobin will replace coach Ted Marchibroda sometime this year.

But, because the Colts won their opener, it's likely to cost owner Bob Irsay a lot of money to fire him. If Marchibroda wins two more games to increase his three-year victory total to 16, his 1995 contract for $500,000 will be guaranteed.

"I don't react to that anymore," Marchibroda said.

Meanwhile, the Colts get no respect, even though they seem to be improved with running back Marshall Faulk. Their home crowd of 47,372 was second lowest in the league last week, and they're 1 1/2 -point underdogs at Tampa Bay today. Meanwhile, Vince Tobin said his brother's criticism of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is responsible for the team's aggressive play on defense.

"It signaled the Colts are no longer a team to be walked on," Vince Tobin said.

Bill Tobin knocked Kiper after Kiper criticized the Colts for taking linebacker Trev Alberts, who's out for the year with an injury, instead of quarterback Trent Dilfer.

Baltimore bashing

The NFL's relentless anti-Baltimore campaign is getting sympathetic treatment in some quarters.

A week after the NFL failed to invite any of the four former Baltimore Colts named to the 75th Anniversary team to a news conference in New York, USA Today ran a headline: "Unitas gets NFL snub" and ran a subhead, "Baltimore Colts-era greats ignored at gala." And it ran a two-column picture of John Unitas.

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