Dickey: Break bread, even with stadium flap

Because 49ers owner John York, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have all acted like donkeys, the fan-friendly luncheon in The City honoring the team has been canceled this year. That’s a no-win situation for everybody.

At last year’s luncheon, Newsom pandered shamelessly for votes as he asked the audience where they wanted the 49ers to stay. Of course, they shouted, “San Francisco.” Feinstein also made a strong pitch for keeping the team in San Francisco.

York was in the audience and he was not amused. I don’t blame him. Newsom’s motives are transparent: He doesn’t want to go down as the mayor on whose watch the 49ers left San Francisco. He has had people working on an alternative plan at Hunters Point, which is fine, but this was not the place to campaign for it. There was even less reason for Feinstein to make her statement. She is a senator for the whole state, not just San Francisco. Of course, she can’t resist being on the popular side of an issue and she knew her audience.

But York’s petulant attitude, saying his organization wouldn’t participate in the luncheon this year, was equally wrong. San Francisco Chamber of Commerce President Steve Falk is a reasonable man — which is probably what got him fired in a previous job as publisher for another paper in this city — and he has said politicians wouldn’t be invited this year, so there would be no repeat of last year’s fiasco.

The 49ers are working hard to persuade Santa Clara voters to support their plan for a new stadium just opposite their practice facility, meeting with small and large groups. That movement was dealt a blow Friday, when Santa Clara said a ballot measure would not go before voters in November. This summer, the team plans to have a luncheon in Santa Clara with players there to greet fans.

That’s understandable, but York should realize that the 49ers are the most important team in the Bay Area because they are really a Northern California team. They need support from all areas, not just one.

And, it bears remembering: The 49ers are still playing in San Francisco, at Candlestick Park.

York is not popular with 49ers fans, who often make unfavorable comparisons to Eddie DeBartolo. The last thing he needs to do is to insult a sizable section of the fan base.

Because the team has not been successful in recent years — the last season in which they made the playoffs was 2002 — attendance has been dropping. The 49ers don’t announce this, but they have been forced to buy up tickets to be able to declare a sellout and put the game on local TV. That’s a wise decision because TV is a great selling tool, but it shows how desperate their situation is.

This year is especially critical. The 49ers started last season with Mike Nolan declaring they were ready to compete for the postseason, but quickly fell apart. To make it worse, they were dreadfully dull because they couldn’t do anything on offense. Hiring Mike Martz as offensive coordinator should help this year, but there has not been any stampede for season-ticket renewals.

York should stop sulking and tell Falk to reinstate the San Francisco luncheon; there’s no reason the 49ers couldn’t participate in two such events. Newsom should shut up and Feinstein should go back to the Senate and work on more compelling issues.

That’s the way it should work for Northern California’s team.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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