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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jeff Garcia and 'The Jerseys That Should Not Be'

Posted By on Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Et Tu, Jeff?
  • Et Tu, Jeff?
Jeff Garcia is one of my favorite football players of all-time. I first saw him play -- in person no less -- in October of 1990 when he very nearly led San Jose State to upset a damn good Cal squad in Berkeley. The Bears held on, 35-34.

He next crossed Bay Area fans' paths when he played his way onto the 49ers in 1999. That was a rough year -- you'll recall Lawrence Phillips missing a block and Steve Young's brain skipping along the turf after a career-ending hit. It was a rough year for Garcia, too: He wasn't a superstar out of the gate. Things were so bad, he actually lost the starting job to Steve Stenstrom. But he righted his ship -- and the team's. If any other football franchise has had the level of excellence from the quarterback position the 49ers had between 1981 and 2002 -- I'd like to see it.

But that's the past. And the present is: Jeff Garcia is a 40-year-old Omaha Nighthawk in the minor-league UFL. Perhaps, as athletes are wont to say, "the fire still burns." But, more likely, Garcia's Nighthawks duds are the latest sartorial entry in "The Jerseys That Should Not Be."

"The Jerseys That Should Not Be," are, simply, the unfortunate proof of veteran athletes' inability to call it a game when the game should have been called. Spotting a fan wearing any of the following uniforms would induce a reaction similar to seeing someone wearing the jersey of a player famous for crimes of moral turpitude or dying on the field. To wit:

click to enlarge It's Broadway Joe -- in the O.C.
  • It's Broadway Joe -- in the O.C.
Joe Namath, Los Angeles Rams, 1977. The Cult of Namath has dimmed to a flicker over the years. When you take away his brash guarantee the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets Jets! would win the 1967 Super Bowl -- and iconic image of Broadway Joe pointing skyward as he jogs, victorious, off the field of play -- there ain't much left. Did you know Namath only won more games than he lost in three of his 12 seasons -- and had a career losing record? By 1977, the mystique that made Namath a larger-than-life figure was gone -- and so were his knees. After 11 years with the Jets, he played four games with the Rams before his body failed him.

click to enlarge The Toy That Should Not Be
  • The Toy That Should Not Be
Franco Harris, Seattle Seahawks, 1984. Other running backs may have eclipsed Harris' career marks and assembled flashier highlight reels. But they don't have four Super Bowl rings. After doing just about everything a back could do for Pittsburgh between 1972 and 1983, Harris trotted out for one last season in the Pacific Northwest. It was a disappointing coda: He only played in half the 'Hawks games and amassed a minuscule 170 total rushing yards. 

click to enlarge willie_mays_mets.jpg
Willie Mays, New York Mets, 1972-73. It'd be a thrill to be as good at anything as Willie Mays was at playing baseball. But by the time the Say Hey Kid was a 41-year-old man, his relationship with the Giants was strained. In 1972, San Francisco unloaded Mays to the Mets -- ending a 21-year-run with the New York/San Francisco Giants. In a moment that saddened an entire generation, Mays -- perhaps the finest fielder who ever breathed -- fell on his face while attempting to run down a ball in the 1973 World Series.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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