Seifert unwinds, learns it differs from unraveling

Published: Oct. 9, 1995
San Jose Mercury News

Column by Ann Killion

BYE WEEKS are a purely-for-profit device. A few years back, the NFL figured out that it could stretch the season to 17 weeks and reap a bonus day in television revenues.

But bye weeks also allow players and coaches to carve precious personal time out of a job that doesn't otherwise allow it.

A football season is like a marathon run over 16 separate hills. With one obstacle conquered, another is immediately faced and the postgame descent is used not to relax but to gather energy for the ordeal on the horizon.

But the bye week is a mandatory rest stop. A chance for football people to heal their bodies, reintroduce themselves to their families, have an intimate moment.

Some coaches don't like them. George Seifert hasn't been a big fan of byes in the past. The week off can stall momentum, dissolve concentration, distract teams.

But Seifert was all in favor of a bye week this year. His daughter, Eve, had always wanted an autumn wedding, and no father -- not even a football coach -- wants to let his daughter down.

So, last weekend, the man accustomed to having the eyes of a stadium focus on him as he walks to the sideline on fall afternoons was under a different kind of scrutiny. The eyes of a church followed him as he accompanied his daughter down the aisle.

THE COACH'S steely glare was replaced by a father's misty eyes.

''I was doing OK until I gave her hand to him,'' Seifert said.

The weather was perfect. The Blue Angels soared over San Francisco Bay. The reception in the Venetian Room at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel was, by all accounts, beautiful. And, fortunately for the happy couple, the 49ers were coming off a victory the week before.

It takes Seifert a while to recover from a loss. Which is why his wife, Linda, and Eve were anxious about the New York Giants game.

The wedding was a rare chance for Seifert to not think about football for 48 hours in October. Not to dwell on the bothersome details of the season -- Steve Young's sore left shoulder, the problems at right corner, the inconsistent play of special teams, the loss to Detroit.

THIS VERSION of the 49ers is still in formation. There hasn't yet been a defining moment of the season. There have been a couple with potential -- Jerry Rice's outburst after the Deion Sanders signing most notably. But even Seifert hasn't quite put his finger on this team's identity.

''Not totally,'' he said. ''There have been moments. Defensively, when we stopped New England -- even though they're not playing well -- on the third- and fourth- down plays. And offensively against Detroit, though we didn't win the game, we moved down the field into field-goal range. Those are the moments when you say, 'OK, there's something there.' ''

One of the most revealing instances has come off the field. The Visa commercial featuring Seifert, Young and Rice singing Karaoke speaks volumes about the relaxed nature of these 49ers.

Again, Seifert's daughter played a role in that.

''When you have to pay for a wedding, you'd be surprised at how much of a fool you'll make out of yourself,'' Seifert said.

By Sunday afternoon, Seifert was back in the office. Watching Indianapolis rally to beat Miami was enough to snap him out of his post-party mood and revert to his normal worried demeanor.

''We've got to get focused here this week,'' he said. ''The party's over. Time to go back to work.''

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