Originally posted on Cleveland Frowns  |  Last updated 2/3/13
“No family is perfect, but life’s too short.” — Eddie DeBartolo Jr. “We’re both short, unathletic and grew up in Youngstown.” — Jed York ————— First a salute to Old Man Jack Harbaugh. A 72-year-old football coach who, with his wife Jackie, fathered the first pair of brothers to serve as NFL coaches and the first pair of head coaching brothers to face off in a Super Bowl: John and Jim Harbaugh. Also, from Ohio; Jack and Jackie both Bowling Green alums, making this a Super Bowl born entirely from #MACtion. Of course, stories about good parenting are far from the worst (did you know that John and Jim have a sister, too (Joani), and that she’s married to University of Indiana mens head basketball coach Tom Crean?). But stories about families that go through terrible things that cause terrible interfamilial disputes, that go on to manage to reconcile their terrible differences to become a family again, also a family in the Super Bowl, and almost (surely soon enough) in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, are probably better. Enter Youngstown’s most legendary: The Debartolo Family; Eddie Jr. and his sister Denise, now Denise York, looking well at last week’s NFC Championship in Atlanta some 15 years after engaging in as publicized and bitter a family feud as there’s been in recent American history, and one that dragged the San Francisco 49ers down with it. Yet now we have a Super story about how Eddie, Denise and the family have come “full circle,” after 1995 legal charges that Eddie attempted to pay a $400,000 bribe to Louisiana politicians for a riverboat gaming license touched off a lawsuit against him by his sister by which Denise seized the 49ers from her brother, only to be countersued to have the family assets split by lawyers while the once proud NFL franchise floundered. For more than a decade after Denise and her husband took over the franchise in 1999, the Niners won just a single playoff game, after having won an unsurpassed five Super Bowls from 1981-1994 thanks to Eddie’s partnership with Bill Walsh. During this time, the Yorks were widely criticized as among the worst owners in the NFL whose “condescension and cost-cutting ripped apart the soul of an organization [that had once been] known for its first-rate treatment of its employees.” But time heals a lot, and something that Hannah Arendt once said about forgiveness, action and freedom. Also something about a proud man like Eddie seeing the next generation of his own blood in his sister’s son, Jed York, who’s been running things for the last few years now, including the head coaching search that landed Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. Amazingly, the DeBartolos have put a significant part of it back together again and there hasn’t been a more obvious Super Bowl pick in years. If you need more convincing, Nate Silver picks the Niners, too, and remember what even Peyton Hillis could do to this creaky Ravens defense a few years back when the Browns had a good coach (and as always not a quarterback to speak of). We’ll also play Vernon Davis and Frank Gore as steals at 18-1 and 10-1 respectively for MVP, and since by now there must be at least one troglodyte out there itching to ask stupid questions about the difference between Debartolo and Art Modell, we should note that it goes much deeper than the difference between five Super Bowls (5) and a stolen away one (1). Whether Eddie’s one or not, some mobsters are a lot more honorable than others, and it’s all too possible to act with much more integrity outside the law than folks like Modell acted “within” it. It might well be too bad that Eddie never got that riverboat license. He might have been able to clean things up down there. God knows he knew what he was doing in the NFL. ————— Alright, it’s time to bake the biscuits because there’s a phenomal Super Bowl party going on at Map Room this afternoon. Also sort of a birthday party (no presents, please!), since this website started five Super Bowl Sundays ago when I had something to get off my chest about Derek Anderson that reads no less ridiculously today than it did back then. And I’m no more amazed by anything than I am by how many great people a person can meet just from writing ridiculous things on the internet about Cleveland, Browns, and things, and what those great people can do for a person, so thanks to you as always for that, and happy Super Bowl Sunday. Go Niners and hope at least some part of you will be at the Map Room in spirit if you won’t be in the flesh. Tweet
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