Today, November 29, 2023, is my 58th birthday. Nancy and I are going to have an early dinner at Greens and then we will head over to the Plough & Stars (116 Clement Street). If you’d like to have a pint, I’ll be there about 7:00 p.m.
On Thanksgiving, my brother Christopher put on the 49ers and Seahawks. It was the first time I had watched most of an NFL game in years. Football has been off my list for a number of reasons, the least of which is my hometown team decided the words “San Francisco” didn’t have to strictly be associated with, you know, San Francisco. It is only due to the great humility of the people of Santa Clara that a more-accurate “S” and “C” isn’t interlocked on those gold helmets.
Oh well, as Jerry Seinfeld famously pointed out, we sports fans really root for laundry. It isn’t as if the players a team drafts are born in town. At least not anymore.
My brother, Matt LaBounty, may have been the last to have that honor. Born at Children’s Hospital on California Street in 1969, he was picked in the last round—the 12th—by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL draft of 1992.
I remember reading the news in the afternoon San Francisco Examiner while taking the 31-Balboa express bus home from work downtown. That’s what sports and the news was like then. No cell phone existed to buzz in my pocket with texts.
The NFL draft doesn’t even go to the 12th round anymore. My brother was a defensive lineman and the Niners chose two others ahead of him who played the same position. Plus, there were veteran free agents invited to training camp. The odds of my brother doing anything that fall other than sheet-rocking for his friend’s father’s company were very, very low.
But Matt went on to have a nine-year NFL career, playing longer (if making a whole lot less money) than Steve Emtman, another defensive lineman who was the number one pick of the whole 1992 draft.
Matt made the 49ers practice squad, was activated for a few games, and then was claimed by the Green Bay Packers when the hometown team tried to move him back to the practice squad. He mostly backed up starters over his career—including Hall-of-Famer Reggie White. He ducked serious injury, played on good teams (even if he missed a couple of Super Bowls by just a year or two), and his generally liberal mindset in the highly conservative world of football once irritated Rush Limbaugh, who called him a tree-hugger.
More on that last story—a good one—another time. First, marvel briefly at the days long before my brother’s career, when a National Football League team played their games in Golden Gate Park. You could watch the action from a nearby rooftop, have a beer at a neighborhood bar across the street after the game, and walk home if you wanted.