Friday, September 22

Dear Jim,

I´m sitting inside a noisy coffee shop, the one I usually go to to sit outside. It´s too crowded outside and it´s windy too.

I just finished reading the NYT. There was an obituary about Bernie Casey – the receiver for the 49ers when I was 12 and you were 21.

I had forgotten about him. Turns out he was an artist, actor and writer in addition to a football player. In 1977 he wrote a movie in which three black guys talk about life in America from a black point of view. I´ll try to get it.

He played eight years. I would have loved to have been good in high school.

The photo in the paper showed him making a touchdown at Kezar. We loved Kezar. So did dad. It was great to complain about – those ridiculous lines to pee during halftime. It was magical and urban – not stuck at the edge of town. I loved to see young guys on the roof of the high school across the street watching the game, and the fans who watched the game from the roofs of the houses across the street.

Remember when we went to the 49er v.s. Cowboy championship game when I was a sophomore? The 49ers lost when Willard turned the wrong way for the pass in the end zone. We were sick.

The niners got outcouched. Landry found a weakness in Wilcox and that won the game.

I remember the two guys in their forties sitting across the aisle from us. One guy was huge. The other guy I saw two years later at Candlestick. They were splitting a half gallon of gin. Incredible!

Do you remember? You might not because you weren´t interested in drinking like I was. That was the year I got grounded for sneaking out on New Year´s Eve and not coming home till the next morning. Dad and mom had a cow.

I don´t know how we got the tickets. Did you buy them? Was one of them supposed to be for dad but he gave it to me? That´s something dad would do.

That game was the beginning of the end of my following of football. It took until I was 20 to stop giving a shit all together.

It wasn´t just the heartbreak of seeing the 49ers lose a game they could have won. It was those guys across from us drinking. It was mainly remembering the guy after the game looking for a fight, ¨Anybody who isn´t a 49er fan I´ll kick his ass.¨

That might have been the last one at Kezar. They tore it down a long time ago. Now it´s a little stadium where neighbors use the track to work out.

In that photo in the paper there was only the original rail between the stands and the field. As the country became more violent they put a fence up. Then they put a cage over the tunnel where the players came onto and off of the field. A ref was hit in the head with a whiskey bottle.

I loved standing at the tunnel to watch the players. One year the 49ers had a game against a team whose all-pro guard went to college with you. I said, ¨Hey man. Can I have your chin strap?¨ He gave it to me.

I was desperate to see big men. I even went to the parking lot after the game to see the players coming out the other end of the tunnel into the locker room.

One time I saw a player whose shoulders were so wide it scared me. Another time the wife of a traded 49er was standing next to me as her husband´s team was entering the locker room. She was complaining about the way the 49ers treated her husband.

I need big men Jim. Dad is the greatest. He is mature. He never complains.

There are not enough men like dad. But we still need heroes.

Remember that beautiful October Sunday when you were given a ticket to a 49er game at Candlestick? I listened to it on the radio. I was amazed at how boring it was: ¨God! I wonder what Jim is thinking?¨

You hated it. You said it was dreadful, that you could have been bicycling in Golden Gate Park.

The sun´s in about the same place in the sky as it was when Willard turned the wrong way in the end zone.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko