Posted: Wednesday February 8, 2006 4:45PM; Updated: Wednesday February 8, 2006 4:45PM
Joe Montana says money wasn't the reason he didn't appear at Super Bowl XL.
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Phil Taylor will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Maybe Joe Montana knew something that the rest of us didn't when he declined an invitation to be honored at the Super Bowl and attended his son's basketball game instead. The Steelers and Seahawks played such an odd, ugly game that his kids' contest was probably more entertaining -- and undoubtedly better officiated.
Still, it's likely that at least a small part of Montana wishes that he had shown up and waved to the crowd, as all but two of the other former Super Bowl MVPs did in Detroit on Sunday. If he had, there wouldn't be such an uproar over his no-show, with some people considering him a greedy SOB, anonymous sources making accusations about him, and his agent and even his wife rushing to defend him in the media. It all has to do with whether Montana skipped the Super Bowl ceremony because he had made a promise to his kids, as he says, or because the NFL wouldn't meet his $100,000 asking price, as those ubiquitous unnamed sources have alleged.
Someone is, if not lying, at least telling less than the complete truth. It would be easy to take Montana at his word, since he's always been a stand-up guy to this point. If anything, he seems too bland to be particularly deceitful. We have heard him say that he just wanted to be with his kids. His wife, Jennifer, called in to San Francisco radio station KNBR on Tuesday to say that he just wanted to be with his kids. Montana's representatives at IMG sent out a press release saying that he just wanted to be with his kids. We have heard lots of voices defending Montana, but it is the voice we haven't heard speaking out in his defense that leaves the seed of doubt -- the voice of the NFL.
League officials could have taken the air out of this controversy before it blew up, simply by coming out and saying that the report of a $100,000 demand was untrue. We're still waiting for that denial. "We're disappointed we weren't able to work it out with him," said Greg Aiello, the NFL vice-president of public relations. Asked the $100,000 question, Aiello referred all inquiries to Montana and his representatives. "You'll have to ask them about that," he said. Hmmm.
So, we're left wondering whether Montana is a money-hungry jerk or the leading candidate for Father of the Year. The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in the middle. We may never know exactly what transpired between Montana and the league officials who wanted him to be part of the ceremony honoring the Super Bowl's former heroes, but piecing together the various accounts that have been offered, here's a scenario that sounds plausible:
League officials approached Montana about appearing at the game, and Montana, who has never been much for being trotted out at these kinds of things anyway, said no thanks, citing family business. The folks at the NFL office said pretty please, and someone, perhaps not Montana but one of his representatives at IMG, the company that handles his appearances, brought up the 100 grand figure as a number that might get Joe's attention. When the league, which provided all the MVPs with $1,000 plus expenses, balked at that figure, Montana was perfectly happy heading home to Napa.
Montana didn't owe it to the NFL to appear at the Super Bowl. He and the league have made each other quite a bit of money, and neither party is in debt to the other. And no one could logically claim that he owes more to the fans who would have loved to see him in Detroit than he does to the family who spent so many Sundays without him during his playing days. Montana's legend will surely survive this messiness; the public loves him that much. But it's one thing to be beloved, and quite another to be believed.