The San Francisco 49ers are 70! To kick off the celebration, the team has unveiled an anniversary logo and is holding a training camp practice at Kezar Stadium, the original home of the 49ers, on August 10.
I sat down with Team President Al Guido to talk about the 70th Anniversary, Eddie DeBartolo and the Hall of Fame, Levi’s Stadium and how he’s enjoying his new gig.
Let’s start with the 70th Anniversary logo. Who came up with it and what was the thought process behind it?
We knew [the 70th anniversary]was coming, but our creative and logo team did a really nice job creating something that’s really unique for retail and everything else. When you see the old strip of the 49ers and now we’re bringing back the old miner logo, which we’re going to be putting on T-shirts and around the stadium…I think it really resonates with the fan base. I was wearing a hoodie in the market the other day, just walking around and people were asking, ‘[W]here did you get that from? That’s awesome!’ To recognize all the great past…it’s been a tough two years, there is no question, on the football field.
Ain’t that the truth! But that’s part of sports, and we have nowhere to go but up. I hope.
The great part about sports is that it’s cyclical, every year brings new hope, new energy, new passion…Over 70 years we’ve gone through ups and downs as a franchise, but our fans have been with us all the way through, dating all the way back to Kezar…Then to put Eddie [DeBartolo, Jr.] in Canton on the 70th anniversary; it’s all coming full circle a little bit and I feel like we’re hitting our stride as an organization in our new building, where I feel all the pieces are coming together.
Speaking of Kezar Stadium, it is no accident that the team wanted to do something in San Francisco. They may play in Santa Clara, but they’re still the San Francisco 49ers.
We did the Super Bowl and we really felt passionate; we’ve got to get back into the community of San Francisco…They were such good partners to us at the Super Bowl, to have those four communities come together, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Clara, and San Jose. When you think about today’s political market, it’s unprecedented that four mayors came together to bid on a Super Bowl in Northern California, where it’s difficult to get things done, and we pulled it off in grand fashion.
Then it became me sitting down with the Chamber in San Francisco and saying, ‘[W]hat can we do in San Francisco to get reunited with the community here?’ The Chamber used to have this luncheon that they did every year under Eddie and [former 49ers’ team president Carmen Policy’s]reign. The team would show up and they would have this practice. I said, ‘[L]et’s bring it back.’ More importantly, let’s bring it back to Kezar. Let’s bring it back to where it all started.
It will be a great day for fans, as the team will practice from 11:15 am to 1:15 pm. There will also be a youth football exhibition and autograph opportunities from multiple former 49ers.
It’s going to be a special day. We were able to identify all the Kezar season ticket holders that still exist today and we’ll reward them on the field…[W]e’ve impacted people’s lives for 70 years. To bring it home to Kezar is cool and [HeadCoach Chip Kelly] loved it, the minute we brought it up to Chip and [General Manager Trent Baalke] they said, ‘[L]et’s do it, let’s pull it off and figure it out.’
As Guido mentioned, aside from the 70th anniversary, this season is particularly special for 49er fans and for the organization, as the beloved Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is an honor DeBartolo so richly deserves and the excitement around it is mounting. Guido said that DeBartolo will be honored on November 20 at Levi’s Stadium when the Niners take on the New England Patriots. That’s good news Faithful, because that will probably be an otherwise rough day for Niner fans. I kid. Sort of.
He’ll have his ceremony [in Canton], and there is a select group of people that are obviously going and a lot of them are former players. The weekend of the Patriots game, when we bring Eddie back, obviously it’s big game on the field; but you bring Eddie back, you bring the former alumni back, you bring them into the building like we did last year during the Cincinnati game. There’s definitely a buzz growing.
As has been well documented, Guido took over as team president after Paraag Marathe was reassigned. How is he enjoying his new role?
I’m loving every minute of it. I love the challenge. I’m enjoying, I’ll be honest, a little bit of the underdog status…We have the best fans in the NFL by far. How they stuck by us during two difficult years and we weren’t at our best at the business side of the operation at Levi’s. We struggled that first year through a number of different things. We were finding our footing and they really stuck with us and they gave us good feedback and now they’re excited about the upcoming season… I want Levi’s to become home, I want it to create some stories, I want people to have memories about it that they talk about, that is what I want to do.
Those memories will start being created on September 12 when the Rams come to town for Monday Night Football to kick off – pun intended – the Niners’ season. It’s been a long time since there’s been a San Francisco/Los Angeles NFL rivalry.
I go to the office with [former 49er]Keena Turner every day who talks about that LA rivalry. He remembers the days when Seattle wasn’t even in our division. Most of our fans resonate with the Pacific Northwest rivalry, where a lot of fans in the eighties resonate with the LA Rams rivalry… The L.A. thing is real for people and I think it’s going to bring an added level with [Rams quarterback Jared] Goff being there…I tell people in our office all the time, our division has to be the planned games for us, what we spend our time and energy on to get the fan base riled up, because you’ve got to win your division to get into the dance.
From his mouth to Chip Kelly’s ears. It’s just about time for football, and no matter how the team does on the field, it should be a fun season for fans. Go Niners!
*All photos and images provided by 49ers.com.
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