Thoughts on Leadership: Super Wildcard Weekend and a Tribute to Dwight Clark

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Tuesday at home with the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls (one day later due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday) and our monthly CEO meeting. There were 11 calls in total that day and I thoroughly enjoyed them all – when you love what you do and who you do it with, it never feels like work! On Wednesday, I traveled to Nevada to meet with Mark Stark, Troy Reierson and several of our HomeServices of America leaders, including HomeServices of America Chief Administrative Officer Dana Strandmo, Chief Financial Officer Alex Seavall and Chief of Staff Deitra Catalano.

Being an NFL fan, this past weekend was my favorite weekend of them all. Why? It was Super Wildcard Weekend, which meant two Wild Card games on Saturday, three games on Sunday and one game on Monday night. And they’re all games that you win, or you go home.

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys played my San Francisco 49ers, and it marked the eighth time these two franchises have met in the postseason. That is a tie for the second-most common matchup in the Super Bowl era of the NFL. The 49ers won the game 23-17 with strong defense, rushing attacks and the ability to capitalize on the Cowboys’ mistakes.

As I watched this historic matchup, there was so much nostalgia. It made me think back to my dear friend, Dwight Clark. January 10, 2022, was actually the 40th anniversary of “The Catch,” when “Too Tall” Jones and what seemed like the entire Dallas Cowboys defense was chasing quarterback Joe Montana and Dwight was trying to lose Cowboys’ defensive back Everson Walls running across the back of Candlestick Park’s end zone. What happened next has been memorialized in sports history books forevermore: Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by Montana and the 49ers won the NFC Championship Game that year. Today, “The Catch” is known as the #1 play for the 49ers.

In analyzing the top 10 moments in the epic 49ers-Cowboys rivalry, Sports Illustrated recently named “The Catch” as No. 1. Other ranked moments included: “Roger Staubach’s rally; T.O. standing on the star in Texas Stadium; Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, swapping sides; John Madden and Pat Summerall; The Guarantee, in three-inch headlines; Brass vs. papier-mache; Tony Romo’s punctured lung; Troy Aikman’s concussion; Jimmy Johnson’s “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?!”; Bill Walsh; Tom Landry; Joe Montana; Steve Young; Emmitt Smith; San Francisco’s Team of the 1980s; Dallas’ dynasty of the 1990s; Six NFC Championship Games, leading to five Super Bowl champions …”

… but “The Catch” remains No. 1.

This time is also especially profound because January 8 was Dwight’s birthday. (He turned 25 just two days before “The Catch.”) Dwight’s career with the NFL began in 1979; the NFL draft took place, and he went in the 10th round to Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers.  (You can read the story in Dwight’s own words here.) As my dear friend once described the experience: “[It was] the ultimate meeting between opportunity and preparation [that] resulted in the start of my pro football career. Yet, I know this tale could’ve had a very different ending if I hadn’t spent years running drills, if I hadn’t practiced all those long hours, if I hadn’t worked my hardest on the field each and every day.”

So, what’s the message? Dwight continues to inspire me and all those who knew him. We look up to the legacy he left behind as an extraordinary football player, leader and friend. Abraham Lincoln once said no man stands as tall as when he bends down to help a child in need. And for me, when I think of my friend, Dwight Clark, I don’t think of “The Catch” and how high he had to jump, I think of the many times I watched him bend down and help a child in need.

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