SAN FRANCISCO — The dank, dilapidated underbelly of Candlestick Park, a stadium then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo famously called a "pigsty" 27 years ago, is a wretched place for a Sunday stroll, especially with a cramped NFL locker room as the ultimate destination.
Yet as I made my way through the tunnel at the southeast corner of the 'Stick in the aftermath of the Niners' 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins, it felt like a walk down memory lane.
While covering the Niners on a daily basis in the late '80s and early '90s, some of the beat writers and I made it a habit to wait for star safety Ronnie Lott – the greatest defensive back of his generation, and a faithful dispenser of wisdom and perspective – to close out our locker-room visits by telling us what it all meant.
Sometimes, Lott's words shredded our desired storylines. In 1990, as the two-time defending Super Bowl champs raced out to a 10-0 start, Lott's weekly mantra was, "We're not [expletive]. Great teams don't become great until November or December."
Twenty-two years later, after a second consecutive Sunday in December when perceived powers imploded and playoff contenders regressed, I wondered if Lott would amend his words to fit the 21st century NFL. In this current landscape, perhaps, great teams don't become great until January or February.
Or, scarier still: Perhaps great teams no longer exist at all.