In defense of Joe Montana

By Kevin Wilson

It was a long time ago at my home; about 17 years ago to be exact.

The family was gathered around the television, and the final outcome of the country’s premiere sporting event hung in the balance.

Jim Breech had just hit his third field goal of the game, a 40-yarder with 3:20 left in Super Bowl XXIII. The Cincinnati Bengals led the San Francisco 49ers 16-13, and my brother Justin was saying it was over.

My dad and I disagreed, for there were still three minutes left and the 49ers had Jerry Rice, the greatest football player of all time.

However, he wasn’t the one who made the biggest play. That honor belonged to No. 2 receiver John Taylor, who hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left.

The man who authored that 92-yard scoring drive was so calm, the story goes, that he took time to tell his teammates he just spotted John Candy in the stands.

The 49ers won that game, 20-16, and three other Super Bowls with Joe Montana at the helm. With three minutes left and the Bengals up by three, I had Joe Montana’s back. I still have it today.

Beyond Sunday’s Super Bowl XL were several points of conversation. Were the Seattle Seahawks robbed by the officials? (Maybe if they didn’t mismanage the clock and fail to hold the Pittsburgh Steelers on third and 28.) Why were the commercials so average? (That’s a whole other column).

The other argument I’ve heard is how classless Montana and Terry Bradshaw were by turning down an invite from the National Football League.

As part of the 9 1/2-hour (yes, 570 minutes) pregame coverage, the NFL wanted to bring out all of the living Super Bowl most valuable players. Famous MVPs like Steve Young and John Elway joined not-so-famous MVPs like Larry Brown and Dexter Jackson.

Montana and Bradshaw were not there. Both claimed they preferred to spend time with family instead.

Reports are that Montana wanted an appearance fee of $100,000. The NFL offered transportation, accommodations, two tickets to Super Bowl XL (which, in retrospect, might be deemed punishment), the use of a rental car and $1,000.

Maybe this was simply over money, or there’s something that we don’t know about. Regardless, Joe Montana doesn’t owe the NFL anything.

You may argue that Montana was handsomely paid for his time, but understand that it goes both ways. The NFL was also paid handsomely for Joe Montana’s time. You can see it today in the billion-dollar broadcasting deals it pulls down from the networks and from its Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV.

This is the same NFL that has one game a year where advertisers pay an average of $2.5 million for 30 seconds of ad time. That’s 25 times the rumored appearance fee.

This is the same NFL that has strongarmed its way into a labor system where teams can cut players for any reason, but fully expects those players to hold up their end of the contract.

This is the same NFL that allowed the 49ers to trade Montana to a mediocre Kansas City team, when he still had good years left to help a contender.

It’s been 17 years since that day when the country recognized Joe Montana as one of its greatest football players ever. I only wish that now we’d recognize an adult who is not obligated to a company that hasn’t employed him for more than a decade.

Kevin Wilson is a staff writer at the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 32, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com