Ho-hum season highlighted by 49ers-Cowboys again

Call it NFL 95. It's the Windows 95 of the sports world.

Just as Microsoft managed to hype Windows 95 into a major event even though it does many of the same things Macintosh did years ago, the NFL kicks off its season with much fanfare today while obscuring the fact that it's in somewhat of a rut.


For the fourth straight year, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas ++ Cowboys appear to be the two best teams.

The league will play 240 regular-season games, but only one of them -- the Nov. 12 meeting between the 49ers and Cowboys scheduled during TV's sweeps week -- is likely to help determine the title.


Unless Dallas and/or San Francisco is hit by injuries, they're almost certain to meet in the NFC title game for the fourth straight year, and the winner will bash the AFC team in the Super Bowl.

Former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who's now pitching those 18-inch satellite dishes, says of the two-team domination, "I don't think it's good for the game."

But it doesn't appear to matter to the fans that 28 of the 30 teams appear to have virtually no chance to win the championship.

The NFL still appears ready to do what it does best -- make money by the carload. After all, Fox is willing to lose $350 million to televise the NFL. It's the only sport that can compete in prime time on TV with such shows as "ER" and "Seinfeld."

As the league proved in 1987 when it dressed truck drivers up in NFL uniforms for the strike games, if the NFL puts it on the tube, the fans will watch.

It has the best time slot of the year -- Sundays in the fall when summer is over and young men's, and women's, thoughts turn to the NFL. The advertisers love it because it leads into the Christmas selling season.

The NFL can't seem to damage its popularity even when it tries to. It doesn't seem to matter that the NFL abandoned Los Angeles this year, or that several teams are threatening to move, or that the matchups aren't always sensational.

Look at today's matchups. Since Dallas is playing tomorrow night, Fox, which has the first TV doubleheader, is going with San Francisco in one national game, even though it's heavily favored over New Orleans.


The 4 p.m. game features Minnesota-Chicago, even though the only marquee player on either team (Warren Moon) had a terrible preseason. Meanwhile, one-third of the country gets the Arizona-Washington game, even though the Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season.

Forget that some of the matchups might embarrass Don King. The NFL will be laughing all the way to the bank. It's NFL 95. Even Bill Gates would be impressed. After all, you can use Windows 95 to get the NFL on the Internet:

For openers . . .

Everything you wanted to know about Week 1 but were afraid to ask:

* Dallas has the best opening day record -- 26-8-1.

* Dan Reeves has the best opening day record among active coaches -- 10-4. He was 15-0 as a player and assistant coach for a 25-4 overall mark. The dean, Don Shula, is 16-15-1 on opening day.


* The best opening day rushing, passing and receiving records were set 22, 44 and 34 years ago. O. J. Simpson rushed for 250 yards in 1973, Norm Van Brocklin passed for 554 in 1951 and Frank Clarke had 241 receiving yards in 1961.

* Chicago has the most opening day wins -- 36. The Bears are 10-1 in their past 11.

* Minnesota is the only expansion team to win its first game, beating the Bears, 37-13, in 1961.

Milestones in reach

Dan Marino needs 1,831 yards, 15 touchdown passes, 419 attempts and 83 completions to pass Fran Tarkenton as the all-time leader in all four categories. Tarkenton is at 47,003, 342, 6,467 and 3,686 in those categories. Johnny Unitas is fifth in passing yardage at 43,040 and third in touchdowns with 290.



The real Al Davis

When Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf, who once worked for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, was meeting with a fans group recently, he was asked: "Could you tell us something that nobody knows about Al Davis? Like a good human story or even something like, does he like wearing ladies clothes or something?"

MA Wolf gulped and said, "I don't think anybody knows Al Davis."

NFL integration

The NFL is pointing out that four African-Americans (Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis) integrated the NFL in 1946, a year before Jackie Robinson joined baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers. The NFL was such a minor sport in those days that Robinson was still considered the sports pioneer.

The NFL is not pointing out that it banned African-Americans from 1933 to 1945 after several played in the 1920s.


The Washington Redskins, the last team to integrate in 1962, will include 19 African-Americans among their 22 starters today. But the NFL still has no African-American owners and only two coaches.

Mr. Anonymous

Derek Loville of the 49ers, the running back who replaced Ricky Watters, isn't even a household name in the 49ers' house. When he stopped in at the team's training complex on a day off, a security guard stopped him and said, "Who are you?"

L Loville had to identify himself to get into the locker room.