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Open letter to Denise DeBartolo York

Do the right thing: Give 49ers back to your brother

Posted: Thursday June 1, 2006 11:14AM; Updated: Thursday June 1, 2006 3:31PM
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Eddie DeBartolo gave his half of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, in 1998.
Eddie DeBartolo gave his half of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, in 1998.
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Dear Mrs. York,

I know we haven't spoken much over the years, and your husband and I certainly won't be yukking it up on the golf course anytime soon, so I thought I'd try writing.

Simply put, I have some free advice for you, a small suggestion that can get you the key to the city of San Francisco and a free pass to heaven (upon reaching the afterlife) in one bold stroke.

Give your brother back his football team.

There, I said it. And if you've got a few minutes, I'll explain everything.

Why listen to me, you ask? Having grown up in L.A. rooting for the 49ers before your family purchased the franchise, I know what it's like to be the maligned standard-bearer of an impotent organization, and I can relate to the ridicule and scorn to which you and some of your family members are subjected by the 49ers faithful. Having covered Joe Montana on a daily basis -- and, not coincidentally, having parlayed my years as a Niners beat writer for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat into a gig covering the NFL for Sports Illustrated -- I am qualified to comment on miracle comebacks.

In your case, it will take a doozy ... the ownership equivalent of The Catch. After staying in the shadows while your brother, Eddie DeBartolo, became the best owner in sports, presiding over a franchise that won five Super Bowls in 14 years and went nearly two decades without a losing streak, you took over the team, ceded managing power to your husband, John, and watched the organization plummet to laughingstock status. I could (and will) give a long, sordid detailing of the 49ers' demise, but the Cliffs Notes version is that the product on the field stinks, and many of your employees hate coming to work each day.

Back to Eddie for a moment: You may have seen my story in last week's SI -- or perhaps you've read some of the reaction pieces, many of them irresponsibly reported, in which a quote from your brother expressing his desire to get back into the NFL, and even pondering the idea of buying the Raiders and moving them to L.A., is somehow proven to be "wrong." It has also been erroneously reported that he and I had this conversation at the Super Bowl Reunion gala he threw in Vegas a couple of months ago, which is a tale as tall as the replica Eiffel Tower behind the Paris Hotel and Casino where the event was staged.

But I digress. The story's most important revelation was that, according to Jerry Jones and another prominent NFL owner, they'd lobby their peers to approve your brother's re-entry should he attempt to purchase a team. Both insist Eddie would be approved, and with commissioner Paul Tagliabue set to retire and a new wave of progressive owners in place, I believe them.