It was as if Mother Nature was cackling from somewhere east of Eden or west of Milpitas. Late on a Sunday afternoon that had been all too wet, and — for the 49ers — all too unsuccessful, the sun broke through, casting a glow on the upper rows of Levi’s Stadium and creating a rainbow in the skies above.
The old gal must have a perverse sense of humor. Now that the ceremonies were finished, a hurrah for Eddie DeBartolo, which surely will not be the last; now that the football game was finished, a 49ers loss, 30-17, to New England, the weather turned fine.
Oh it was nasty there for a while, especially at halftime when DeBartolo, his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust on display, was honored for championships and memories he helped create in his years as Niners owner.
The fans had fled to cover — and who can blame them? Eddie was shrouded by umbrellas.
But he’s a tough little guy. “I was told I brought thunder and lightning to the 49ers,” DeBartolo cracked. This time the storm lacked those particular elements, although for a good while the rain was heavy. No matter, the presentation went forward.
These are days of nostalgia in Ninerville. It’s the 70th year since the 1946 founding. Virtually every timeout videos are shown of players from the past, a Wendell Tyler, a Dan Bunz, a Tom Rathman. When you’re going through your worst season in more than 35 years — 1-9 and counting — a little escape is understandable.
As was the emotion of DeBartolo, who turned 70 a few days ago. The realization of his place in history in the game and with the 49ers was almost too great to accept.
“I don’t think I cried that much since I don’t know how long,” he said about visiting the 49ers Museum at Levi’s.
The Niners now are under the control of Eddie’s nephew, Jed, who because of the forced departure of then coach Jim Harbaugh and the team’s subsequent decline, has been criticized heavily. However, Eddie, having been there — pillaged by the media his early years, 1977 and ’78 — is considerably mellower about the subject than others.
“I think the 49ers will be all right,” he said. “Jed will be fine.”
Sunday night, when the team had a party at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel in DeBartolo’s honor, Jed was in attendance — as was Jed’s father and Eddie’s brother-in-law, John York. The family sticks together even as the press tries to tear it apart.
Dozens of former 49ers were at the affair, and Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Jerry Rice and Steve Young grouped together for a presentation that kept Eddie D. enthralled and the gathering entertained. Who knew Joe had such a stage presence?
And who knew Levi’s Stadium on Sunday would have such an abundance of Patriot fans?
Yes, Tom Brady grew up in San Mateo, but that cheering when he came out of the locker room all but drowned out (intentional pun with the rain) some pregame remarks by DeBartolo who was attired in his gold Hall of Fame jacket
“I feel very bad about what the 49ers have been going through,” said DeBartolo, who follows them, if not as closely as when he was the owner. “But they’ll come out of it. I think they’ll play very well against the Patriots.”
He was correct. For three quarters. Then ultimately the Patriots and Brady played as expected, and unfortunately so did the Niners. “I was hoping he would be our good luck charm,” Niners coach Chip Kelly said about DeBartolo. “Unfortunately I think we let him down.”
So did that fickle lass, Mother Nature.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Eddie DeBartoloNew England PatriotsSan Francisco 49ers