Or did it? After San Francisco beat Cincinnati in the 1982 Super Bowl 26-21 the game story in this magazine listed Walsh's name 22 times, not necessarily all including the prescribed middle name "Genius." As for Montana, who had completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown and won the Most Valuable Player award, his name was mentioned a mere 10 times. Last January, prior to the 49ers' 38-16 Super Bowl victory over Miami, an SI cover featured both Montana and the Dolphins' Marino. In the eight pages inside the 49er was mentioned twice. Then he blasted the other guy off the map—his versatility, adaptability and ballet dancer's feet winning out over the cannon. And suddenly there was no other quarterback alive.
Backing up a bit, at the same time JoeMontana has been compiling the fairly outrageous statistics that now make him both the most accurate passer (in completion percentage) and the one with the lowest percentage of interceptions in pro football history, his overall quarterback "rating," according to an NFL formula you might get Edward Teller to explain sometime, is also the best of all the pros who ever took a snap. Still, the decade of the '80s has seemed at different times to be the signal-calling province of Joe Theismann or Dan Fouts or Doug Flutie or Bernie Kosar. Or of Marino. Or even of Warren Moon, whoever that may be. But wait a minute. What other quarterback ever won a national championship in college and then won a Super Bowl in the pros? Before JoeMontana, only Joe Namath. Before Namath, nobody. And in 1985 JoeMontana won another and a second MVP award as well.
Assuredly, JoeMontana is a nice fellow, quiet and restrained, polite and humble. But it's in the quarterback manual that the species is to be booed. All quarterbacks. Except that nobody can remember this quarterback ever receiving such treatment.
That is timing, and timing has always been JoeMontana's hole card—on and off the field. JoeMontana picked the NFL's strike-shortened 1982 season to have an "off" year—the 49ers were 3-6 but in truth the defense couldn't stop anybody, and JoeMontana's factored-out numbers would have been merely brilliant over a full slate. In August of '84 he discreetly negotiated a new contract estimated at $6.6 million for six years—he is the highest-paid player in the NFL—while teammates Ronnie Lott and Fred Dean took the brunt of public alarm by engaging in noisy holdouts.
Even during the acrimonious divorce in 1983 from his second wife, Cass, a stewardess four years his senior and, according to some 49er teammates, something of an overprotective woman, JoeMontana donned the white hat and rode the white horse. (The couple's two Arabian stallions were innocent parties in the litigation.) Reports in several papers said that Cass refused to relinquish her ex-husband's Super Bowl MVP trophy and assorted football paraphernalia. That the information was false did nothing to quell the Frisco uproar over JoeMontana, their JoeMontana, being done wrong. And what about this? Recently the 49er quarterback's replies to some fan mail were lost in transit, the result being that his answers were received months late. Unfriendly repercussions? One little girl wrote back thanking JoeMontana for being so kind to aim his reply so that it arrived on her very birthday. You gotta have timing.
Most amazing of all was how JoeMontana got away with moving from San Francisco to Los Angeles—a sin normally punishable by hanging. When he signed his contract, JoeMontana said he wanted to re-up for six years because he "loved" the Bay Area. Then he moved south with Jennifer. The fact that the newspapers revealed the new residence as being in Palos Verdes Estates, 26 miles from L.A. proper, probably soothed some hurt feelings. Or else Jennifer may have smiled—an audible guaranteed to melt the harshest of critics—while the Montanas promised to find a second, in-season home in the South Bay. All the same, what San Francisco hero could have survived this horrendous faux pas but JoeMontana?
A few years ago when San Francisco Chronicle writer Ira Miller suggested JoeMontana be given a nickname, 10,000 monikers issued forth, including one proposal that what the man needed instead was a real name, specifically "David W. Gibson." Luckily, Sir Pass Goldflinger Big Sky Beaut Montana didn't change his name, and Montanamania continues unabated.
This summer at Macy's on Union Square, Montana made an appearance that in audience enthusiasm rivaled any of the past performances of Santa Claus—or even Calvin Klein at the perfume counter. Hundreds upon hundreds of people lined up for hours before JoeMontana's midmorning appearance. There were golden-agers, matrons, babes in arms—"the 49ers are undefeated in the kid's lifetime," one father boasted of his 7-month-old—who were joined by punkers with arrows, crosses and other terrific messages cut into their hairdos, creatures of indeterminate sex, shop personnel and streams of sighing young girls.
The subject did not have such a wonderful time. Even accompanied by the social and vivacious Jennifer, 27, a veteran trouper from her modeling days and her TV bit actress career (Mork and Mindy, Dynasty) JoeMontana looked painfully uncomfortable amid all the hullabaloo. Most public appearances are "a pain in the ass" to him, though he cooperates fully and understands their necessity. They are tolerable now only if his beloved Jen comes along.
Jennifer is a dazzling beach girl herself, right off the Redondo esplanade—beach "oriented," she emphasizes. She is credited with getting JoeMontana to settle down and open up in their 19 months together. Francis, the 49er tight end who knew Jennifer years ago in Hawaii, where she played beach volleyball and worked as a crew member on a large sailboat, says she is the "special partner" JoeMontana was looking for. "He had been on edge for a couple of years," Francis says. "I think he's at peace now."