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Morning briefing

July 25, 2008|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Crystal ball not quite so clear

With NFL camps opening up, everybody has their pre-season picks for greatness. So let's look back. The San Francisco 49ers were the popular, hip pick last season, and more than one publication figured they were really going to take off.

"A very interesting dark horse," said Pro Football Weekly.

"[A] division title within reach," said the San Jose Mercury News.

"Playoff Run in San Fran," said Athlon Sports.

No, no and no. The 49ers got lost in the fog bank at Candlestick Park on their way to a woeful 5-11 record.

So what is the consensus now?

Let's just say nobody's making the same mistake again, despite new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Sporting News picks the 49ers last -- behind Seattle, St. Louis and Arizona -- in the weak NFC West. Athlon says the 49ers will finish ahead of only the Rams.

Of course, Martz was with the Rams for seven years, which must mean that Athlon figures they're improved without him.

The big Bay Area question remains, is there anything that can make the 49ers look better?

The answer is yes. The Oakland Raiders.

Trivia time

When was the last time the San Francisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl?

Big hang-up

Because images of quarterback Jimmy Clausen and basketball star Luke Harangody were used in an online ad for cellular phone ring tones, Notre Dame sent a cease-and-desist letter to the cellphone company.

The company line in its defense?

Wrong number, clearly.

This would be a vital sign

You remember Steve Bartman? The Cubs fan who tried to catch a foul ball in the stands but wound up interfering with outfielder Moises Alou in Game 6 of the 2003 National League championship series between the Cubs and the Florida Marlins?

The Cubs, of course, went on to lose and Bartman went on to find his place in infamy. Screwing up could have been worth his while, but Bartman turned down a $25,000 offer from show organizers at the National Sports Collectors Convention just to sign a photo of the incident.

There must have been a catch.

George, Part I

Did you catch George Foreman on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live?"

Kimmel asked Foreman -- who has a new reality show called "Family Foreman" -- how he kept up with his five sons, since they are all named George.

Said Foreman: "Originally they had nicknames. I can't remember them, but they had nicknames."

George, Part II

Foreman did remember the nickname of one of his Georges:

"The one who was supposed to be the last one, we called 'Red,' after a stoplight."

All about the Benjamins

St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Chris Long, son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, signed a six-year, $56.5-million deal, revealing what he will do with some of the money.

"I've got some debts to pay off with my parents," Chris Long said. "Growing up and living in your college town, you tend to accumulate a bit of a debt to your family."

What did they give him, a platinum mattress, gold sheets and a palladium pillow?

Trivia answer

In 1995, when the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl with a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young was the MVP.

And finally

An editorial in the French newspaper "Liberation" after cyclist Riccardo Ricco became the third rider kicked out of the Tour de France because of a failed drug test: "As a sport, cycling is dead. As a spectacle, it is still running -- like a chicken with its head cut off."

--

thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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