The 49ers should eighty-six their new logo
San Francisco 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo announced last week that he was changing the team's tastefully understated helmet logo, an interlocking block SF, to a garish 49ERS emblem that resembles something one might expect to see on a children's toy or a professional wrestler's frock. This supposedly bold move into the '90s was greeted by predictable hoots of derision all over the Bay Area. Talk-show hosts were besieged by angry protests. A poll by the San Francisco Examiner, which attracted the biggest reader response since the 49er quarterback controversy of 1988 (Joe Montana versus Steve Young), resulted in 7,392 votes against the new insignia and only 583 for it. Similar polls conducted by The Sacramento Bee and the San Jose Mercury News elicited overwhelming anti-logo sentiments.
Poor Eddie. For all the great teams he has financed from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, he still can't read the soul of San Francisco. He doesn't understand that these are a people who sharply oppose any break with tradition—the 49ers have had the same helmet logo since 1962—and who, to their eternal credit, retain some feel for aesthetics in a barbaric age. The new logo is not merely ugly, it's wrong. Eddie should have learned his lesson 14 years ago when he bought the team and had the bad taste to hire as his front-office honcho the infamous Joe Thomas, a philistine who said tradition be damned. Thomas actually took down the office photos of such 49er legends as Frankie Albert, Joe Perry, Leo Nomellini, Hugh McElhenny and Y.A. Tittle. Thomas was nearly run out of town on a rail, and his successor, Bill Walsh, wisely restored historical perspective to the operation. Eddie just didn't get the message.
There is another issue here besides taste and tradition. In removing the city's initials from the helmet, Eddie is following a disturbing pattern in the NFL of franchises disengaging themselves from the cities of their origin. Some, of course, have done it physically. It's significant that the Oakland Raiders became merely, in Al Davis's peculiar accent, "the Raid-uhs," when that footloose proprietor started making plans to hit the road. All of this leaves one with a feeling of rootlessness and impermanence.
Eddie, unless you know something we don't, your team is not just the 49ers, it's the San Francisco 49ers. That new logo must go.