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Giants, 49ers must ignore buildup before showdown

Bill Parcells and George Seifert have one problem in common these days.

The coaches of the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers have to try to keep their players from looking ahead.

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Their unbeaten teams will be going for a milestone today. If they both win, the National Football League will have two 8-0 teams for the first time since 1934.

But nobody seems to want to talk about today's games. The drums are already beating for the Dec. 3 Monday night meeting between the 49ers and the Giants.

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The back page of the New York Post featured a headline las week that read: "Nothing Finer Than Niners: Madden rates San Francisco No. 1, Giants No. 2."

The breathless news was that of John Madden of CBS rates th 49ers over the Giants. A scoop direct from the Maddencruiser.

As a former coach, Madden knows it drives coaches batty to have a game a month away already being hyped.

Madden said: "They keep saying they're not thinking about the 49ers, but they are. Everyone reminds them of it."

Including Madden.

The problem is that in the National Football Conference, the 49ers have a four-game lead and the Giants and the Chicago Bears are three games up in their divisions.

Until the playoffs, the 49ers-Giants game may be the only highlight of the second half of the season, which sort of starts today. Since it's a 17-week season this year, there's not really a halfway mark.

The 49ers play the last team to beat them, the Green Bay Packers, today, then meet the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants have the Indianapolis Colts tomorrow night followed by the Detroit Lions, Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.

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If both win their next four, it will be the first match between 11-0 teams in NFL history.

In 1934, the Bears and Lions started out 10-0. In the 11th game, the Lions lost to Green Bay, 3-0, then were swept by Chicago, 19-16 and 10-7.

The Bears won their division with a 13-0 mark and lost the title game to the 8-5 Giants, 30-13, in the famous sneaker game when the Giants switched to sneakers at halftime to contend with icy conditions at the Polo Grounds.

The Lions, despite the 10-0 start, finished 10-3 and didn't even make the playoffs.

When the 49ers play the Giants, all that really will be at stake will be the home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The strange thing is that neither the Giants nor the 49ers have been awesome lately. The Giants barely escaped with a victory over the Phoenix Cardinals two weeks ago and needed a couple of freak fourth-quarter plays to beat the Redskins the second time this season. Joe Montana, meanwhile, has been intercepted twice in three straight games for the first time in his career.

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But what counts is they're both unbeaten. ABC-TV executives are keeping their fingers crossed that they stay that way until Dec. 3. The odds, though, are against them -- especially since they could get caught looking ahead.

Paul Tagliabue is no longer a rookie commissioner. It was a year ago this weekend that he took over for Pete Rozelle.

Tagliabue wasted no time showing he's in charge. In his first year, he fined owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. of the 49ers $500,000, Sam Wyche, the Cincinnati Bengals coach, almost $30,000 and safety Andre Waters of the Philadelphia Eagles $10,000.

But Tagliabue's actions last week raised the old question of whether his lack of a football background handicaps him. He sent a memo to teams warning them they'll be subject to fines of they criticize the officials publicly.

The memo included this sentence, "In midseason, there is no justification for public criticism of officiating, particularly when it is so often little more than an effort to find a scapegoat for defeat."

That irritated club officials because they felt Tagliabue was brushing off justified criticism of the officials as crying by losing teams.

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Some club officials feel there are legitimate concerns about the quality of the officiating that Tagliabue should address. They wonder whether the former league lawyer understands the game from a club's point of view. Rozelle had been a public relations man and a general manager before he became commissioner.

None of the club officials, though, was willing to go on record and risk one of Tagliabue's fines. He's proved he's good at that.

Tagliabue also seems to be good at consolidating power. At a Nov. 14 owners' meeting in Dallas, he has a league reorganization on the agenda in which his office will take charge of such areas as the NFL Management Council and NFL Films.

Tagliabue and Jack Donlan, the head of the Management Council, have declined to comment, and it's uncertain whether Donlan's post is destined to be downgraded or simply eliminated.

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The World League of American Football is alive and well despite the departure of Tex Schramm.

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The league hopes to announce some of its owners before the Nov. 14 owners' meeting.

The key question is whether there will be 10 or 12 teams. Milan, Italy, and Mexico City are two major question marks. The league's new head, Mike Lynn, will be in Europe this week trying to firm things up.

The league started conducting tryout camps for players by invitation only this weekend in Montreal and New York.

It also recently invited about 20 European sportswriters to a tour of the facilities in San Francisco and New Orleans.

In San Francisco, the European writers were even treated to an interview with Montana. The San Francisco writers found that amusing because he rarely grants interviews during the week.

If the WLAF is a success, the European reporters are likely to find out it's not always that easy to deal with American football players.

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Earnest Byner of the Washington Redskins could have given them a good example last week. One Washington television station ran a film clip of what it termed an "exclusive interview" with Byner -- the clip showed the running back coming off the field and refusing to talk to its reporter.

Byner stopped talking a few weeks ago, but it didn't become an issue until he dropped the fourth-period pass and it was intercepted by the Giants last Sunday.

Byner hasn't explained why he stopped talking and he still appears on talk shows. On a WMAL Radio talk show last week, he said: "You can't make excuses. I should have made the play."

The problems never seem to end for Victor Kiam, owner of the New England Patriots and Remington Products, Inc.

His Remington shavers company has been charged in Canada with misleading advertising for saying his product shaved "as close as a blade and closer than any other electric shaver."

A hearing has been set for Feb. 11 and Kiam could face a five-year prison sentence on the charge.

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Meanwhile, he proved to be right when he predicted a month ago that the Patriots wouldn't win another game until the Lisa Olson sexual harassment case was cleared up. The Patriots have lost five straight since it happened.

Special counsel Philip Heymann has concluded his interviews and is supposed to present his report to Tagliabue next week.

In a related matter, the NFL is spending $40,000 for 2,100 robes and wrap-arounds from a Wisconsin manufacturer for the players to use in the locker rooms.

The problem is that players have been given bathrobes in the past and often just take them home. But for all the publicity the women in the locker room issue has received, it's virtually a non-issue for everybody but Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche.

Former Washington quarterback Doug Williams has noted that such players as Joe Ferguson, Gilbert Renfroe and Rusty Hilger have been signed as backups this year, but he hasn't received a call.

Since Renfroe is black, Williams is not saying it's a racial matter, but he does hint he thinks he was blackballed for writing his book, "Quarterblack."

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"I don't want to say I've been blackballed. I'm not going to say it directly [but] I think the book has a lot to do with [why he's not playing]. When I put the book together, I understood what I was doing. I knew the consequences," Williams said.

In his book, Williams was critical of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his first team, and said NFL teams are reluctant to hire blacks as backup quarterbacks.

Statistics to note: Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Green hacaught six touchdown passes -- one more than all the Steelers tight ends caught between 1985 and 1989. . . . Billy Joe Tolliver of the San Diego Chargers has one more touchdown pass (eight) than Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins (seven). . . . Herschel Walker of the Minnesota Vikings has fumbled three times in his last six carries.



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