With hopes high that the San Francisco 49ers can, once again, provide as much or more entertainment as the Piccolo Pete's sandwich and clandestine booze fans smuggle into Candlestick Park, the jury is out on who will be the team's on-field leader.
Will it be blue-collar underdog slinger Shaun Hill? Or tarnished golden boy Alex Smith, looking for that last shot at redemption? Actually -- no. The team's on-field leader will be Steve Mahoney, a 51-year-old employee of the city's Department of Public Works.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, it will be Mahoney leading the team out onto the field for its first home contest. The street-steamer auditioned for the part last Friday, and team brass liked him -- but they loved
his Harley-Davidson decked out in the team's old-school colors and emblazoned with a Niners logo. Mahoney and 49ers officials will be test-driving his bike on the stadium's sod Friday to see if he can motor onto the grass without ripping it up. "It shouldn't be a problem," says Mahoney." They've had bigger things and heavier things on that grass." Insert your Bubba Paris joke here
It's a real thrill for the city-born and raised Mahoney, who used to turn in Christopher Milk Cartons for free end zone tickets at Kezar Stadium as a kid. As a teenager, he picked up the seat cushions at Kezar for a nickel apiece; he still remembers watching the Niners lose the Championship Game to Dallas in 1971 from a nearby rooftop before glumly collecting the cushions.
Finally, when it comes to slinging the ball, one look at the pictures accompanying this story was enough to convince us that Mahoney has a much better arm than either Hill or Smith. Well, more artistic anyway. Photos | Tom Tracy