Chiefs-49ers is the stuff of TV talk shows

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's a tale of a dysfunctional family that belongs on Oprah or Phil.

There was the bitter divorce. The relatives have taken sides. Things will be tense at a family reunion today.

That's the scenario in Kansas City, Mo., today when the Chiefs play host to the San Francisco 49ers.

It's Joe Montana vs. the man who replaced him in San Francisco, Steve Young. Today's game is about more than football. It's about emotion and feelings.

Even the fans are involved. Many of the 49ers fans haven't forgiven Young for not being Montana. Especially since Young hasn't won a Super Bowl. But there are fans who think Montana should have been a mentor for Young.

A season-ticket holder named Dennis Opatrny, a metro reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote last week that Montana was "selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent."

The two principals haven't done much to fuel the fire, although Montana has given a few hints about his feelings. Three years ago, Montana said, "He's on my team, but as far as I'm concerned, he's part of the opposition."

Earlier this year, when Roger Craig re-signed with the 49ers and then retired, Montana said, "If I wanted to retire from the 49ers, I could have."

He also said he hasn't spoken to Young since he left.

Young has never fired back. "You don't fight with God," said his agent, Leigh Steinberg. Young even said they did speak earlier this year at Steve Bono's going-away party.

"We speak," he said. "We've never had any harsh words or arguments."

He also said that once the game starts, "It's really just playing

football." This time, though, it's a bit more.

The tube tale

There's so much interest in the Chiefs-49ers game that they're replacing the seats in the press box in Kansas City with folding chairs to squeeze in more reporters.

Only one thing is missing. It's not on national TV.

It would be a natural for a Monday night game, but Fox wanted it, and when you pay $1.58 billion, you get some perks.

The game couldn't be on opening week because Fox wanted the Dallas Cowboys for that slot. Yet it had to be early because they feared Montana might get hurt.

The result was that it wound up in a 1 p.m. slot in the second week when Fox could only show one game. Only 60 percent to 65 percent of the country will get it.

The league did schedule the Giants on Sunday night and the Eagles-Bears on Monday night to clear the New York, Philadelphia and Chicago markets, and the NFL says it's satisfied with the exposure.

"This is where it fits the best," said Val Pinchbeck, the league's director of broadcasting. "It works well for Fox."

It doesn't work well for the fans in cities, including Baltimore, that won't see it.

The distraction

Even though the Los Angeles Rams won their opener last week, coach Chuck Knox said all the talk about a possible move is distracting the team. "Let's face it, you're only human," Knox said. "You go home and your wife asks you, 'Where are we going to be living next year?' The kids want to know where they'll be going to school. You try to seal it out, but it's a tough thing to do. It preys on people's minds. You can tell them not to think about it, but it's tough to put out of your mind."

Of course, it's not yet certain the Rams will move, but the sparse crowd of 32,969 for the home opener did nothing to persuade team officials to stay.

The guarantee

When Bill Tobin was hired as the director of football operations for the Indianapolis Colts and he hired his brother, Vince Tobin, to be defensive coordinator, it started speculation that Tobin will replace coach Ted Marchibroda sometime this year.

But, because the Colts won their opener, it's likely to cost owner Bob Irsay a lot of money to fire him. If Marchibroda wins two more games to increase his three-year victory total to 16, his 1995 contract for $500,000 will be guaranteed.

"I don't react to that anymore," Marchibroda said.

Meanwhile, the Colts get no respect, even though they seem to be improved with running back Marshall Faulk. Their home crowd of 47,372 was second lowest in the league last week, and they're 1 1/2 -point underdogs at Tampa Bay today. Meanwhile, Vince Tobin said his brother's criticism of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is responsible for the team's aggressive play on defense.

"It signaled the Colts are no longer a team to be walked on," Vince Tobin said.

Bill Tobin knocked Kiper after Kiper criticized the Colts for taking linebacker Trev Alberts, who's out for the year with an injury, instead of quarterback Trent Dilfer.

Baltimore bashing

The NFL's relentless anti-Baltimore campaign is getting sympathetic treatment in some quarters.

A week after the NFL failed to invite any of the four former Baltimore Colts named to the 75th Anniversary team to a news conference in New York, USA Today ran a headline: "Unitas gets NFL snub" and ran a subhead, "Baltimore Colts-era greats ignored at gala." And it ran a two-column picture of John Unitas.

The paper had ignored the original news conference. Unitas got more attention for not being invited than he would have if he had been invited.

VITO STELLINO'S PICKS

OK, the Redskins-Saints game is being televised in Baltimore today instead of the Joe Montana-Steve Young/Chief-49ers showdown.

But look at it this way. The Chiefs-49ers game starts at 1 p.m. and those nice guys in the NFL office knew that you had some work to do in the yard today. They're just thinking about your lawn. Aren't they a considerate bunch? And they did us one favor. When the 49ers play the Cowboys on Nov. 13, the Redskins have a bye, so you'll be able to see the only game that counts this year.

Of course, it's easy for me not to be upset about the Chiefs-49ers game not being shown here. I'll be in New Orleans today and it will be shown there because the Saints-Redskins game didn't sell out and was blacked out.

* Washington at New Orleans (-9) -- Did you hear about Jack Kent Cooke's secret plan to solve the parking and traffic problem in Laurel? All the Redskins have to do is continue to play as poorly as they did last week and there will be so many no-shows and so many fans leaving early that the problem will solve itself.

Take New Orleans: Saints 20, Redskins 10

* Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta (-8 1/2 ) -- Was John Shaw just teasing us with all those remarks about Baltimore?

Take Atlanta: Falcons 24, Rams 9

* Pittsburgh at Cleveland (-1 1/2 ) -- The Steelers find out it's a little easier to play against Vinny Testaverde than Troy Aikman.

Take Pittsburgh: Steelers 21, Browns 13

* Miami vs. Green Bay (-3) at Milwaukee -- The key for Miami is playing in Wisconsin before the first frost.

Take Miami: Dolphins 27, Packers 17

* San Francisco (-2 1/2 ) at Kansas City -- Somehow, I don't think Joe Montana took Steve Young out to dinner last night.

Take San Francisco: 49ers 24, Chiefs 13

* Detroit at Minnesota (-5 1/2 ) -- Scott Mitchell is 11 years younger than Warren Moon. It wasn't so long ago that he would have been asking for Moon's autograph.

Take Detroit: Lions 28, Vikings 20

* Buffalo at New England (-2 1/2 ) -- Bill Parcells' team doesn't play defense quite as well as it did when he had LT.

Take Buffalo: Bills 21, Patriots 14

* Indianapolis at Tampa Bay (-1) -- Can the Bucs top the Rams' attendance of 32,969 in their home opener last week? The Baltimore CFLs may outdraw both the Rams and Bucs this year.

Take Indianapolis: Colts 24, Bucs 13

* Houston at Dallas (-15) -- Now that the Cowboys are proving they can win without Jimmy Johnson's coaching, Jimmy says his skill was putting the team together. He overlooks the fact that Michael Irvin and the No. 1 draft choice for Troy Aikman were there before he arrived.

Take Dallas: Cowboys 31, Oilers 10

* Seattle at Los Angeles Raiders (-7) -- The Raiders play their home opener today. Will anyone in Los Angeles notice?

Take Los Angeles: Raiders 28, Seahawks 13

* Denver at New York Jets (-3) -- John Elway still can't figure out why that ball slipped out of his hand.

Take Denver: Broncos 24, Jets 17

* Cincinnati at San Diego (-8) -- Bobby Ross figures he was due some luck last week -- even if he won't admit the Chargers were lucky.

Take San Diego: Chargers 31, Bengals 10

* New York Giants at Arizona (-3 1/2 ) -- Buddy talks a better game than his team plays.

Take New York: Giants 21, Cardinals 10

* Chicago at Philadelphia (-3 1/2 ) -- Rich Kotite already has flunked his first test with new owner Jeffrey Lurie. He let the boss take the fall for the pay-cut controversy, even though he supported the idea. Employees who do that are in danger of becoming ex-employees.

6* Take Philadelphia: Eagles 24, Bears 14

Best bets: Falcons, Steelers, Colts and Chargers.

Last week's record: 8-6. Against the spread: 5-9. Best bets: 2-2.

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