America's team is going to win the Super Bowl Sunday. The bellhop will be anointed a genius. Ricky Ricardo and his band will do a game-long cha-cha-cha all over the Silverdome, 38-24. If.
We'll get to that if after some introductions, this being the first National Football League championship in which most of the fans know very little about most of the players. Or can you name three Bengal linebackers? Or two 49er offensive linemen? Or one reason why any patriotic American should root for Cincinnati?
Beating the Dallas Cowboys two times this season does not make the San Francisco 49ers America's team. They should have that distinction because the country's economy almost always improves after an NFC team wins the Super Bowl. The statistical basis for that was last seen fluttering beyond a snow drift here, in the general direction of Siberia, but you could look it up.
You need look no farther than Bill Walsh for verification of Bill Walsh being a unique football coach. He's special, and anyone who waits as long as he has for this moment, anyone who has been passed over for so many NFL head coaching jobs insiders knew went to lesser men, has the right to strut in public now and then.
Walsh made both quarterbacks in Sunday's showdown, his Joe Montana and Cincinnati's Ken Anderson. Having done that, Walsh just might be able to break down his first creation, Anderson, once more. That sort of happened earlier this season, when the 49ers beat Cincinnati at home, 21-3, although Anderson missed much of the game with an injury.
If the 49er coach admires his flair for offensive football, he does not take himself too seriously. Or get wound too taut before the game of his life. Some coaches--and George Allen was one of them--break a bit under Super Bowl pressure. Last Sunday, Walsh broke everybody here up.
From Washington, Walsh arrived at the 49er headquarters before his team. Long enough to dress up as a bellhop and greet most of the official party as it walked off the airport bus.
"Take your bag, sir?" the distinguished looking flunkie would say to a player. Most were too travel-weary or too nervous with anticipation to recognize their boss.
San Francisco is saying the fellow who became Ricky Ricardo Patton because his mother loved "I Love Lucy" will be able to return to running-back duty against the Bengals. That will be useful, because Patton is the only tank in the 49er arsenal, their leading rusher this season with 543 yards.
Without Patton, the 49ers still beat the Cowboys for the NFC title two weeks ago. Without Freddie Solomon, they will be hard pressed to beat the Bengals Sunday. That is the critical if, whether that gifted wide receiver has mended enough from a practice fall Thursday to be at full speed Sunday.
With 59 catches and eight touchdowns in the regular season, Solomon was the 49ers' big-play receiver. He also returned 29 punts, although Dwight Hicks had a slightly better average. The 49ers said today they expect him to start.
Both teams have defied the NFL Rule of Progression. They have arrived at the Super Bowl much earlier than expected, long before lots of us bothered to get fully acquainted with them. Most teams, after all, at least are good the year before they play for the league title. Each of these teams was 6-10 last season.
There is the suspicion here that one of them, the Bengals, might spoil the anticipated pass party by going conservative, by recalling that six turnovers did them in against the 49ers during the regular season and sending 250-pound fullback Pete Johnson behind 280-pound tackle Anthony Munoz more than usual. Cincinnati does seem the more well-rounded team.
The 49ers have been underrated most of the season. But they won more games than anyone in the whole league, and, it says here, beat better teams than the Bengals to get to the Super Bowl. Montana plucked a fearsome Giant defense in the playoffs and his defenders got four turnovers two weeks ago against Dallas.
Walsh knows his opposition as well as any coach in any important game. But even geniuses sometimes are flawed.
Paul Brown, who hired Walsh as an aide with the early Bengals, this week admitted he'd made some mistakes during a glorious career, which some PB watchers regarded as startling.
One of Brown's boo-boos, hindsight yells, was choosing Bill Johnson over Walsh as his coaching successor with the Bengals six years ago. Another involved a stuttering Stanford quarterback Brown drafted high for the Cleveland Browns.
A former captain of his at Ohio State was the Stanford coach at the time, Brown revealed "and he said they handled (the stuttering), that (the quarterback) got along all right. He said they had a guy beside him (in the huddle) who would hit him on the back anytime it bothered him.
"I don't know. It could have been yours truly (who caused the quarterback's quick pro downfall). We flew him to Miami for the signing, he got off the plane and I met him. He never could get anything out. I think I must have had an effect on him.
"We went to camp, hoping he would get over it. We had a guy all ready to help him. A pathetic thing, really."
Brown's pupil, Walsh, has been inspiring this season. He took another lightly regarded quarterback and made him a star; he gambled that a secondary with three rookies could be excellent and won.
Of his Walsh connection and being the Bengals' chief executive officer, supreme competitor Brown offered: "Somebody said I couldn't miss (leaving the Super Bowl with a good feeling)." Yes he can.