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This has been the toughest season in recent memory for the San Francisco 49ers and their passionate fans. The championship years of Montana, Rice, Young, and Walsh are firmly behind them, and the team is now the worst in football, with only one victory heading into week 14. General Manager Terry Donahue and owner Dr. John York, who assumed control of the franchise in 1997 from his brother-in-law, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., blame the Niners' woes on almost $30 million in "dead money" still tied up in contracts to players who are no longer on the team. Critics charge that York, a thrifty billionaire, uses the salary-cap problems as an excuse not to spend money, and that Donahue has hopelessly mismanaged the roster. San Francisco loves its football, and many fans are becoming distraught over the state of their team. Are you an apologist for the 49ers? Take this quiz and find out!
1) What's been your main thought as you've watched the 49ers endure this truly torturous season?
A) "Honestly, where's BALCO when you really, really need it?"
B) "Aren't we still paying Steve Young? Why isn't he on the field?"
C) "Just wait until 2009!"
2) Eddie DeBartolo Jr. bought the 49ers in 1977, and over the next two decades he transformed the franchise into a championship dynasty and a Bay Area institution. In 1999, however, he abruptly resigned, facing a federal indictment over dealings with former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards on a riverboat casino project. DeBartolo handed the franchise to his sister and her husband, Dr. John York, whose regime has seen a stadium drive stall and the team's fortunes plummet. Who's to blame, in your mind, for the 49ers' current plight?
A) York. Three words: "higher ticket prices."
B) Gosh, I dunno. Maybe the convicted felon?
C) The media. (Bonus point for adding: "And probably the homeless.")
3) Ex-49er Derrick Deese, 34, who spent a dozen years with the team until he was released this summer, criticized the management style of York and Donahue a few weeks ago, claiming he was speaking for many other players around the league. Asked by a reporter what York puts first, Deese answered simply: "His pocketbook." Do you agree with Deese's assessment?
A) Totally. York is just the kind of guy to carry a pocketbook.
B) Sure. It's just not like a professional athlete to complain that an owner isn't paying him enough.
C) Nah. It's best to take the high road, just like Donahue did in responding to Deese's comments: "He's had concussions and things like that. I don't think his memory's all that good at this age."
4) The past few seasons have seen the firing of popular coach Steve Mariucci and the departure of many star players, including quarterback Jeff Garcia and controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens. How would you evaluate the team's current players?
A) With a blowtorch.
B) Well, I guess I'd start by learning some of their names ....
C) Hey, man, you can't evaluate talent. That's the 49er motto.
5) Which of the following quotes from members of 49ers management makes you most confident about the direction of the franchise?
A) General Manager Terry Donahue: "We're fighting our guts out trying to get a win. The reality is this kind of situation is difficult on anyone. This is not a good time to be the general manager or coach of the 49ers."
B) Coach Dennis Erickson: "We've got a plan here with Terry and Dr. York. It's a long-term plan."
C) Owner Dr. John York: "Terry has put together a good plan. It may be tough to stomach."
6) The 49ers lost 24-17 to the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 28 at Monster Park in San Francisco, a woeful matchup between two teams with 1-9 records and little hope for the future. Following the debacle, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took time out of a trade-show press conference to blast 49ers ownership and hint that he'd like to buy the team. "Clearly, it's the worst team in football," said the eccentric, cutthroat executive. "Unfortunately, it's not a publicly held company, so you can't vote [the Yorks] out of there." As a fan, what do you think of Ellison's comments?
A) C'mon, Larry, buy the team. You can slash apart that salary cap with your samurai sword!
B) First PeopleSoft, now the 49ers. Man, that Ellison really likes to go after stinkers, doesn't he?
C) Please -- this is a guy with a long history of stirring up controversy by issuing pointed barbs. Besides, what does Larry Ellison know about running a business?
7) What, in your mind, is the key to restoring the winning tradition of the 49ers?
B) You know, recently retired San Francisco Chroniclecolumnist Glenn Dickey would probably take over for free. (Bonus point for adding: "And you thought York was nuts!")
C) Are you kidding? It's only a matter of time before that Monster Park magic kicks in!
How to score:
Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."
0-6 points: It's nice having Sunday afternoons free again, isn't it?
7-10 points: You know, you're right. Los Angeles doesneed a team.
11-14 points: Congratulations, you're a real die-hard 49er fan! What does an NFL water boy make these days, anyway?