At the age of 8-years-old, I was on my first football team. The local team had trouble filling all the positions so they opened it up to eight year olds and up. Needless to say I jumped at the chance. That was 1983. I didn’t understand football, and knew that I needed to try and figure out what I was doing.
My dad was never much of a sports fan and neither was my mom. The only person that I knew of in my family that enjoyed football, besides my older brother, was my grandfather and he was a Cowboys fan. So I said "why not," and started watching the Cowboys games. It was cool at first but I found myself drawn to the other team. It was a team in red and gold with an SF on the side of the helmet. Calling the shots was some guy named Joe Montana with the number 16 stitched on his white jersey. My attention was peaked, but at eight how long can your attention truly be held?
The next year I wasn’t allowed to play football. Apparently there was plenty of 10 and older boys who could play, so I was told no. Oh well, I was nine and still had other things I could do. Not playing though, caused my interest in football to fade. The next year I was 10-years-old and I was ready to take on the big kids. I was also kinda ready to watch football again. My brother had established himself as a fan of the Miami Dolphins, and I still kinda liked that one team in red and gold.
I flittered with watching football until I noticed that my brother had become really interested in a game late in January. So I decided to watch. Now I should say that my brother was not always the nicest to me, although we are very close now. He was bigger and tougher than I was, and frequently made me the target of his aggression. Needless to say this forced me to try and find other ways to get back at him. As a result, when I noticed that he was cheering for the Dolphins to win this game called the "Super Bowl", well I cheered for the other team. I was firmly introduced to my first love.
I remember getting excited as I watched the 49ers win the game. How great it was for me that my new favorite team had just beaten the team that the object of my fear rooted for. How sweet it was. I then took it upon myself to become a young super fan. I had t-shirts, pants, shoes, socks, posters, jackets, cards, posters and so much more. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people in Fairbanks, thought of me as the crazy kid that likes the 49ers.
Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig and Tom Rathman. These were the names of my childhood heroes. The leader of the giants on my field was none other than "The Genius" Bill Walsh. He took this team and made them into greatness. Successfully guiding and building players like Montana and Rice. When Walsh left the coaching field for the 49ers, he finished with a record of 102-63-1. He won ten out of 14 post season games, six division titles and master minded three Super Bowl wins. After leaving the team that I loved, he was replaced by George Seiffert, a man every bit as important as Walsh.
Looking through my e-mails here at work today, I was stopped cold and a lump formed in my throat. Bill Walsh, the man who led and created my heroes was dead. At the age of 75, leukemia had finally taken him. Long since retired are my heroes of the gridiron. Although they still walk among us as normal people, they now have to do it without their coach.
Good-bye Bill, may you rest in peace.