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Scott Ostler

This Joe Says It Ain't So, and Yet, Rumors Still Fly

November 14, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

According to the rumors, Joe Montana's arrest record for the last month is not a pretty sight. He has supposedly been busted for drug-related offenses in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, San Mateo, Richmond, Redwood City, Detroit, Atlanta and various parts of Florida and Minnesota.

If Joe has skipped your city, don't feel slighted. You can bet he'll be coming soon to a police precinct or rock house near you. Check your local listings.

Yes, Joe Montana has had a busy month since Oct. 13, when the 49ers lost to the Chicago Bears, and the rumors started.

The rumors picked up momentum, like Refrigerator Perry running to daylight. Joe is not only hitting a lot of cities on this imaginary drug binge, but he is branching out, crimewise.

The rumors have him busted for speeding, and for erratic driving. They have him bailed out of trouble by 49er Coach Bill Walsh, team owner Eddie DeBartolo and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, not necessarily all at once.

When the 49ers played at Detroit three Sundays go, Joe had the flu, so in the dressing room before the game, he was given intravenous injections of fluid.

The rumor now, though, is that Joe had gone on a drug rampage. Walsh went looking for his quarterback and found him in a gutter, dragged him back to the hotel and called the doctors, who got Joe in shape to play.

Joe Montana sightings have replaced UFO sightings. All that's left is for someone to produce fuzzy photographs of Joe being busted. Or for the National Enquirer to publish an eye-witness account: "Joe Montana Took Me Captive in his Red Ferrari and Forced Me To Snort Coke and Listen to Barry Manilow Cassettes."

So, big deal. Rumors are nothing new. A sportswriter once phoned Willie Pep's house to check on a report that Pep had died the night before.

"Nah," Willie said. "I wasn't even out of the house."

But with Montana, the rumors have been ugly, persistent, and as near as anyone has been able to ascertain, absolutely false. Not a shred of real evidence has been produced.

Wednesday, Montana held a press conference at the team's headquarters in Redwood City to talk about the rumors.

He has already submitted to a urine test, voluntarily, and told Walsh that he would submit to further testing any time the team considered it necessary.

The rumor business is starting to annoy Joe.

"If I go out to a restaurant with my wife, I damn sure can't go to the bathroom, because of what people are gonna think," Montana said.

What they're going to think, Joe thinks, is that Joe is stepping into the men's room for a toot.

So Joe stays home with Jennifer, despite the rumors that their marriage of less than a year is breaking up.

"I haven't been having the great season I had last year," Joe told the press. "But last week I was the leading passer (in the NFL's quarterback ratings). I told someone, 'I wonder what the other guys (quarterbacks) are taking?' "

Joe denied ever having used cocaine, or heroin. He said he hasn't been stopped by cops for anything. He said his red Ferrari, in which most of the recent drug busts have supposedly taken place, has been parked in his garage in Los Angeles since before the season started.

By the way, he also denied the rumors that his parents are headed for divorce, in a red Ferrari or otherwise.

What do the fanatical fans of the Bay Area think about all this? Well, San Francisco is a place where the edges of reality are sometimes a little foggy, anyway. This is the town where people live in gingerbread houses and root for the Giants.

The fans want to believe Joe. He is the city's greatest sports hero since Joe DiMaggio. But gee, have you heard the one about Joe . . . ?

"The rumors have been spreading like wildfire," said Jerry Walker, 49er publicity director.

Walker produced a gambling newsletter published last week. He read the report on the 49ers: " 'Rumors about Joe Montana continue to swirl. Is he really injured? Does he have a cocaine problem? Is he headed for yet another divorce?' "

Walker shook his head. "As the World Turns," he said.

"Joe's taking it all in stride," Walker added.

What else can Joe do? Drive his red Ferrari off the Golden Gate Bridge?

Meanwhile, the other 49er players have been asking Joe about the rumors, telling him the latest they've heard. They're even getting a piece of the action. There are rumors about gay players on the team, nervous breakdowns of coaches, drugs . . .

Funny thing for Joe is, he came into the season in the best shape of his life. Jennifer had him whipped into shape, encouraged him on a tough off-season workout program. She got him to take aerobics classes and run up and down sand dunes. They bought a personal-computer program designed to help you healthify your diet.

Joe isn't mad at anyone, just puzzled. He has no idea how the rumors got started. He isn't even upset with the media bombarding him with questions about the rumors.

"If they're true, they (reporters) have the right to try to find out," Joe said. "If they're not true, they have to realize it (the rumor problem) isn't minor, it affects my life. If they're not true, I'd appreciate the help they could give me."

Hey, I'd love to help you, Joe old buddy. But doggone, I was making a midnight run for ice cream last night and I was run off the road by this crazy man in a speeding red Ferrari, and I swear the driver was wearing a 49er helmet . . .

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