In January of 1982, I was lucky enough to attend the NFC championship game
at Candlestick Park between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys.
By a stroke of pure luck, I was
chosen to accompany my friend and housemate Jeff Hickey to the
Jeff’s father was Howard “Red” Hickey, the former 49er coach (and inventor of the “shotgun” formation).
At that time, “Red” was the head talent scout for Dallas, responsible in large part for building “America’s Team”
which had such great success in the 70’s. Through last - minute machinations, “Red” secured two press box seats,
press passes and a reserved parking space in the players' and coaches' lot.
Jeff and I had been housemates for
the last two years and that's how I learned to watch a football
I spent many a Sunday afternoon and Monday night with Jeff as he described various plays, players and patterns within the game.
I truly only learned how to “see” what was occurring on the football field by watching TV with Jeff.
And so it was that we arrived to
Candlestick Park for one of the greatest NFL postseason games
That game was historic for many reasons but foremost was “The Catch” made by Dwight Clark
in the dwindling moments of the game which helped achieve victory and entrance to the Super Bowl.
Many people claim to have been at that game.
Few can claim that they were standing directly behind Dwight Clark at the edge of the end zone when he made “The Catch”.
I am one of those people.
After watching the first 2 quarters
from the press box, I descended to field level at
I was carrying two 35mm cameras, (one
with a short lens, the other with a long lens) and prowled the
primarily on the Dallas side. There are more photos of the Dallas team for 2 reasons.
First of all, I knew more of the Dallas players than the 49ers because of my association with Jeff.
Secondly, my press pass was missing a
certain sticker insuring complete access to the field.
There was one security guard who kept trying to throw me out.
I repeatedly ducked and hid from him
on the Dallas sidelines. For this reason, I have no close-ups of the
Also, I should add that there are very few photos from the locker room after the game because the last roll of film
in my bag was slide film which somehow got lost by the company I sent it to for processing. (Bastards!)
Anyway… as you'll see in the last 2 photographs of the web photo gallery,
I was indeed standing directly behind Dwight Clark for “The Catch”.
The first of those two images shows
me at home just before the game.
Of course, I had to get “arty” and shoot myself looking into the mirror. But please note the glasses, the hair, the beard
and the light tan blazer. This should be enough for you to reference when comparing it to the final image.
The final photograph is a reverse
angle of “The Catch”. It
took me years to find this photograph because all anyone
ever sees of “The Catch” is the classic image shot from the side as Dwight Clark reaches the peak of his trajectory,
arms outstretched, fingertips just meeting the ball. I knew there had to be a reverse shot somewhere out there and
after much searching found it in a book about the history of the NFL.
Unfortunately I took a photograph of
Joe Montana as he was releasing the ball rather than Dwight
That photo of Joe throwing the ball is buried somewhere deep in a shoebox in my closet and did not make the cut
when I assembled the photo album back in the day.
Anyway… the red arrow in the final image shows me dropping the camera from my face to watch Dwight come down with the catch.
That image of Dwight in flight above me is burned in my memory like no other.
Sadly, I missed that shot. As they say… “Timing is everything.”
Of course, my timing was good enough
to bring me to San Francisco in 1978,
into a house of men who all remain friends to this day, into that game and onto that field, so I have much to be thankful for.
And I am especially grateful to my pal Jeff, who continues, 30+ years later, to be one of my best friends.
I am indeed lucky.
Finally, let me point out that, if I
held any loyalty to Dallas beforehand, that was eradicated by the end of the
I underwent a full-scale conversion. For you see, that evening I had a vision.
I saw God… and his name was Joe Montana.
And in an interesting postscript, Jeff, too, quickly converted to the new religion.
And hasn’t looked back.