Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
An Arkansan’s guide to Super Bowl XLVII
San Francisco 49ers co-owner and co-chairman John York smiles before an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
LITTLE ROCK Forget the commercials, which are averaging $4 million for a 30-second spot, and forget all the hype.
On Sunday afternoon, the Super Bowl will still be primarily a football game, presumably between the two best teams in the NFL, or at least the last two standing.
Sure, Super Bowl Sunday has become like a holiday when friends and families gather for feasts, fun and festivities, but the football game is still the reason there is Super Sunday.
If you are not a gambler (one way to always keep your interest in the game), a lover of San Francisco and Chinese food or of Baltimore and crab, deciding which team to pull for may not be easy.
Here is one man’s guide that may help: The San Francisco 49ers have the strongestof ties to Arkansas in general, and specifically to Little Rock.
The former CEO of the 49ers is John York, who graduated from Little Rock Catholic High in 1967 and went on to become a successful doctor and businessman in Ohio. His wife, Denise, formerly Denise DeBartolo, and her family owned the 49ers.
The Yorks are still cochairmen, but in 2008 they turned the reins over to their son Jeb, 28 at the time, who has watched over the draftscarefully and helped build this team.
York established an endowed chair in pathology and an endowed chief residency in pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, commonly known as UAMS, to the tune of $1.5 million.
In 1999 he donated a science and math building to Catholic High.
York has always worked behind the scenes and remained steadfast even through reported friction between he and former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who had to surrender control of the 49ers after being involved in a corruption case with former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who served 10 years in prison for racketeering.
York, by all accounts, is abrilliant man who shuns the spotlight.
The 49ers also have nine current players on their roster who played in the SEC.
Last but not least, Greg Jackson, assistant secondary coach, worked for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and before that coached Little Rock’s Chris Harris at Louisiana-Monroe. Secondary coach Ed Donatell helped develop former Arkansas Razorbacks safety Steve Atwater with the Denver Broncos, and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst graduated from Princeton (couldn’t resist adding that one).
The Baltimore Ravens have eight former SEC players, including 13-year veteran Bobbie Williams, a former Razorback who started the last 35 games of his career at Arkansas. Williams is a backup offensive tackle.
Bryan Hall, who played at Arkansas State, joined the Ravens in 2011 as an undrafted free agent, and his hard work and dedication have paid off. He’s a backup defensive tackle. Hall spent last season on the practice squad, but he made the 53-man roster this season and saw his first action a few weeks later against the Houston Texans.
One of the more storied players for the Ravens, and another of the former SEC players, is Michael Oher, who starred at Ole Miss and was the subject of the book The Blind Side.
The book, which was later made into a movie, was a huge hit, but Oher has never been happy with some of the inaccuracies and later published his own book, I Beat the Odds.
At a news conference this week, he refused - as has been the case all along - to comment on the book or movie, choosing to say that he is focused on playing football and that is what has gotten him to where he is, his dedication to football.
However, he is still close to Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the family who took him in when he was homeless while in high school.
Last but not least, defensive assistant coach Matt Weiss punted at Vanderbilt.
There you have most of the common ground with these two Super Bowl teams and Arkansas.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/31/2013