YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Located approximately equal distance from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the fan bases of football-crazed Northeast Ohio are divided.
Fans have to pick a side when it comes to their preferred AFC North team, but everyone in this area is fully entitled to view the 49ers as their favorite team from the NFC.
“It’s a family-oriented community, so even people that had no reason to cheer for the 49ers, they would because of my family,” 49ers CEO Jed York said Thursday on the 49ers Insider Podcast.
“Everybody sort of looks at the 49ers as their second team, or some people, their first team. So it’s cool to have that family feel, back then in the ‘80s and ‘90s and even today, seeing the excitement the 49ers bring to the community.”
Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and sister Denise grew up in Youngstown. Denise DeBartolo York and her husband, John York, are co-chairs of the franchise. The Yorks still reside in the area. Jed York, their eldest son, has been in charge of the day-to-day operation of the team for the past decade.
The 49ers arrived in Youngstown on Sunday night following their Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After practicing at Youngstown State University three days this week, the club will depart for Cincinnati following practice on Friday. On the players' off day on Tuesday, more than 20 players and many staff members took part in community events in Youngstown.
“Youngstown is a very proud city. It’s a very proud community,” Jed York said. “There’s not a lot of bragging that goes on in Youngstown. Even if your family is fortunate enough to own the San Francisco 49ers, that’s not something that carries a lot of weight when you walk into a bar in Youngstown. You are what you bring to the table.
“But I think it’s very important for us to give back to this community. This community has given so much to us. And it’s a community that has needed some help.”
York said he sees his hometown slowly bouncing back after steel mills in the area shut down decades ago and the area fell on hard times with significant rises in poverty and crime.
“There are some positive things going on,” York said. “And if we can do anything to spur that and certainly have the team play a role in that, it’s really, really cool to be able to see that.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch were on the same page, as far as the decision to travel to Youngstown in order to remain in the Eastern time zone following the 49ers’ Week 1 game at Tampa Bay, York said.
The 49ers have plenty of issues to clean up from their opening-week victory as they prepare for their game Sunday at the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 49ers had three touchdowns called back due to penalties, yet they were 31-17 winners with the defense leading the way with two interception returns for touchdowns. The 49ers overcame some sloppy play, as well as 95-degree heat and suffocating humidity to pull out the road victory.
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York viewed the 49ers' imperfect victory as a testament to what Shanahan and Lynch are building together.
“I think the more we can scrape together wins even when we don’t play perfect, I think that’s a testament to what John and Kyle have put together -- their demeanor, their standard for the team,” York said. “They know who they want to be, and they are who they are every single day, and they don’t change. That’s what you love about John and Kyle and what they bring to the table, and it gives you an opportunity to win.”