One Play, Two Dynasties, and the Game That Changed the NFL
Publication Date: September 7, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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How many great catches have there been in the history of the NFL? Hundreds? Thousands? Mention "The Catch,"though, and fans will think of only one: Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, the NFC Championship game, the Dallas Cowboys vs. the San Francisco 49ers, January 10, 1982. It changed the game and The Game. This is the story of the pieces that fell into place to allow it to happen and what it meant to the players, to the fans, and to the future of professional football.
Drama like this couldn't be scripted any better. Dallas was still reigning as America's team. San Francisco was hungry for a ticket to its first Super Bowl. With less than a minute left, the 49ers were one touchdown and extra point away from pulling it off, six yards from the end zone. Too Tall Jones and the Cowboys' celebrated defense were primed to stop Montana and the 49ers. The play came in from head coach Bill Walsh: Sprint Right Option. It almost never worked in practice. But this was game on. It had to work. Montana took the snap and rolled right. With 700 pounds of prime defensive talent bearing down on him, leaning backward, in his last moment of upright balance, Montana sent the ball to the back of the end zone. The primary receiver had slipped and was not in place. But the secondary receiver, Dwight Clark, was streaking toward the corner, leaping higher than he ever had or ever would again. With his arms reaching for the sky, his fingers splayed, he snatched the impossibly high pass, briefly lost control, regained it . . . touchdown!
Franchises, careers, lives, and dynasties all changed in that moment.
Sports journalist Gary Myers was there, and now with fresh revelations from key players, including Montana, Clark, Ronnie Lott, Randy Cross, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Charlie Waters, and others, he takes fans back to an iconic game and one of the NFL's most breathtaking plays. Myers presents new details on the rise of Montana and the 49ers and the fall of the '80s Cowboys. He reveals what Bill Walsh saw in an overlooked third-round draft pick named Joe Montana and how Walsh accidentally discovered Dwight Clark. He shows how legendary Dallas head coach Tom Landry, who as reputed did put winning first, was not above crying over players whose personal careers had to come second. He celebrates forgotten heroes like journeyman running back Lenvil Elliott, who picked that particular game–and that final drive down the field–to shine. It's all here, from the death threat that spooked Montana during the game to 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo's bad luck when his view of the historic play was literally blocked by a horse's ass.
The Catch is both the ultimate replay of a sports moment for the ages and a penetrating look into the inner dynamics of the NFL.
GARY MYERS started covering the NFL in 1978 and was in the press box at Candlestick Park for The Catch on January 10, 1982, as the beat writer covering the Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News. In 1989, he not only joined the New York Daily News, but also began a thirteen-season run as the inside information reporter for HBO's popular Inside the NFL. Myers has also hosted the YES Network's This Week in Football since 2002.
From Publishers Weekly
The Catch: One Play, Two Dynasties, and the Game That Changed the NFL
"Looking at a single, spectacular play from 17 years ago, long-time sportswriter and commentator Myers extracts a graceful examination of the National Football League, and the legends it created. In January, 1982, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana threw a high pass to Dwight Clark in a contentious game against the Dallas Cowboys. Clark's catch—a stunning, stratospheric leap—led to the team's victory, their subsequent Super Bowl trajectory and a number of on- and off-the-field careers; it also reversed the fortunes of two franchises. Myers covers the locker rooms, the front offices, and the lives of varied participants—brilliant coaches Tom Landry and Bill Walsh, assistants, owners, rookies, old-timers and others swirling around the leads, who first met at a lunch counter: "This was the start of [Clark's] professional career: dinner at HoJo's. For all Clark knew, it would be the highlight." A resonant look back at a defining moment for fans of both teams ("Montana always heard from Cowboys fans how he broke their hearts with that pass"), this is also an involving story of the characters and traditions upon which the NFL is built."
"Gary Myers captures one of the most exciting, interesting, and pivotal games in NFL history. The '81 NFC Championship Game had everything that makes football America's most popular sport. It was that rare game that became worthy of its own title by virtue of one spectacular play -- The Catch. But it was a game about far more than one play. The poignant stories of what happened to the heroes of the game elevate the book into a tale about the human spirit. This is a great slice of NFL history and a story well worth reading."
—Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
"Gary Myers has captured the story behind the story of the game that started the 49er dynasty of the 80s. Nobody understands the significance of that game more than I do. Joe Montana and Bill Walsh beat us twice in Super Bowls during the 80s, including that year. I want to thank Gary for opening old wounds. Back to the therapist I go."
—Cris Collinsworth, former All Pro Bengals great and commentator for Sunday Night Football
"Gary Myers brought back so many great memories for me in The Catch. Reading it was like taking a step back to some of the greatest years of my life. Story after story, it gave me chills and let me re-live how awesome the season of '81 was for the San Francisco 49ers and our fans. There's not a day that goes by when someone doesn't ask me about that play. The Catch allowed me to enjoy the memory of that moment in elaborate detail."
—Dwight Clark, former All Pro 49er and on the receiving end of The Catch
"Gary Myers brought me right back to The Catch game. It's one of those games that I will remember where I was when it happened. It was really the first time you held Joe Montana with such reverence, Bill Walsh first became a genius, the 49ers began a dynasty and the end began for Tom Landry. Gary Myers took me back to Candlestick Park and allowed me to relive such great memories of Montana throwing the ball, Ed Jones looming in front of him and Dwight Clark making an impossible leap. This is a book that will stick with you forever."
—Pat Summerall, legendary football announcer
"Gary Myers has always been uncompromising when it comes to getting things right. And in The Catch, he's once again spot-on in capturing the essence, flavor, and magnitude of one of the most compelling and dramatic games in NFL history. All in all, its perspective on how one game altered the paths of two storied franchises and the sport itself, so richly told, makes The Catch a terrific read."
—Al Michaels, NBC
"Standing on the sidelines when Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark for The Catch, I knew right away this was a special game. What nobody could have guessed is that the 1981 NFC Championship game was about to turn the NFL sideways. What Gary Myers brings to life are the characters at Candlestick Park that day, so many of them still so familiar almost thirty years later. But many of their stories have been far from familiar . . . until now. A watershed game becomes even more momentous!"
—Chris Berman, ESPN