You Gotta Love 49ers’ Singletar

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - November 05, 2008
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Mike Singletary

For at least in the short term, Mike Singletary is my favorite person in football. Not just in the NFL, but in college, Canada, Samoa, Japan and anywhere else an oblong leather ball is tossed and toted across a grassy field or its synthetic copy. I say short term because as the San Francisco 49ers’ interim coach, his future as the leader of the disappointing Bay Area panners is in doubt. But for the time being, I’m going to enjoy the ride.

At the post-game press conference following the Niners’ loss to Seattle, Singletary gave voice to all fans and topic-starved commentators tired of prima donna athletes more concerned with personal achievement than team success. On this day, he put away his ocassion Cosby sweaters and regressed back into the saucer-eyed Hall of Famer who once boasted about wanting to hit someone so hard that bubbles were forced from the victim’s nose.


The difference this time was that the target wasn’t an NFC tailback or unfortunate tight end doomed to mid-field pass routes, but his entire team in general and tight end Vernon Davis in particular. Saying, “I told him he would do a better job for us right now taking a shower and coming back watching the game then going out on the field,” Singletary gave a performance likened less to his excitable former coach and more to the World War II tank commander who infamously slapped two shell-shocked soldiers in European field hospitals. At least Singletary had more in common with the actor who played the Gen. George S. Patton in the Oscar-winning film.

For those few moments, Singletary was George C. Scott’s Patton. Would it be so out of character at his next presser if the coach addressed the media before a massive American flag wearing sharply creased riding pants, a highly polished helmet boasting four stars, an international collection of military honors including the Pope Pius XII Medallion and ivory - not pearl - handled revolvers because Singletary is no “pimp from a New Orleans whorehouse.”

Here’s still hoping it happens just so we can hear the coach paraphrase the film’s opening monologue saying, ” ... no bastard ever won a game by dying for his team. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his team.”

Whether Singletary went to the podium with thoughts of the hot-tempered commander of the Third Army following the D-day invasion is not clear, but he could have hardly done a better impersonation.

Singletary’s “I would rather play with 10 people and just get penalized ... than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team. It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it!” bore the same message as Patton’s “An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleep, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap.”

Of course, Singletary’s assessment lacked the whimsical commentary of his forebear concerning those who espouse uniqueness as knowing less “about real battle than they do about fornicating.”

Much like the work Patton had to do to clean up the mess that was the U.S. II Corps in North Africa, Singletary takes over a team that was expected to be a divisional factor but has failed because of sloppiness and poor execution. San Francisco has collected the second most penalties in the NFC and leads the division in interceptions thrown and times being sacked while trailing only the Lions in rushing touchdowns. On defense, the 49ers have given up a second-worst 28.8 per game and are 11th in yards allowed.

Singletary has his work cut out for him. But one thing that became evident, he’s not about to coddle his troops, and expects nothing but extreme effort.

“Our formula is this,” said the coach. “We go out and hit people in the mouth. That’s No. 1. No. 2, we are not a charity. We cannot give them the game. No. 3 is that we execute from the very start of the game to the very end of the game.”

Or as the man called Georgie in deference to his father, who had the same name, said, “We’re going to hold him by the nose and kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick him all the time and we are going to go through him like crap through a goose.”

Singletary closed with his anger tempered and his pants on - something he failed to do during halftime. But he made his point in clear George S. style, and just needed to end it the same way.

“All right now you sons of bitches, you know how I feel.”

After all, all real Americans love the sting of battle and can’t stomach a loser.

Neither can Singletary.

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