I started in the newspaper industry as a sports writer and wrote sports throughout the late 1960s and the 70s. That was the golden era of the Oakland Raiders coached by John Madden. The 49ers had a few bright spots early in the 1970s, but didn’t hit their Super Bowl stride until the 1980s after they hired Bill Walsh away from Stanford. Walsh’s Stanford teams were such fun to watch that I, as a Cal graduate and fan, went to a number of them simply because the football was so good.
Way back in 1972, I was in the press box at Candlestick and watching the TV monitor as the Raiders suffered the last-second loss on the “Immaculate Reception” by Franco Harris. That was 50 years ago and celebrated when the Raiders visited Pittsburgh in December.
The Candlestick game that day pitted Tom Landry’s Cowboys against the 49ers coached by Dick Nolan. The 49ers seemed to have the game well-in-hand until Dallas, quarterbacked by Roger Staubach (who proved to be an even better businessman than quarterback) led an improbable comeback that resulted in both Bay Area teams being eliminated the same day after leading late into the 4th quarter.
Fast forward nine years and I’m now working in news and watching at home in 1981 as the Cowboys meet the ‘Niners in the NFC Championship game at Candlestick. That game, of course, was decided by The Catch when Dwight Clark soared in the end zone to catch Joe Montana’s pass. It’s one of the few football pictures I have in my home to this day. Another one is the 49er defensive line burying Miami quarterback Dan Marino in the Super Bowl win at Stanford Stadium (the only time it was played there).
Incidentally, just like in 1972 there was enough time for Dallas to mount a game-winning drive, but the 49er defense strip-sacked quarterback Danny White and The Catch became history and the path to the first Super Bowl title.
The 1990s brought Jimmy Johnson to Dallas and a refreshed rivalry with Dallas gaining the upper hand until the Steve Young-led 49ers won the 1995 Super Bowl over the then-San Diego Chargers.
Last year, the 49ers defeated Dallas in the wild card game in Jerry World and then beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams in the NFC title game.
Sunday’s game will be the ninth post-season meeting between the franchises and only the third game that wasn’t for the conference championship and a berth in the Super Bowl.
Here’s hoping for one more game and one more victory in 2023. I will be watching, although that was hard in 2020 because we were flying to Houston for a conference while the game was being played so it was catch-as-catch-can on the phone and iPad.
Likely the same next Sunday when we’ll head for that same gathering, this time by car because it’s in Newport Beach.