Before Christmas, Colin Kaepernick jerseys were pretty hard to find. The Pitman High graduate had yet to become a household name. But Debby Neuman, determined to track down a jersey for her husband, Mike, turned to the Internet and snagged a No. 7.
It quickly became the 62-year-old Modesto resident's most treasured possession, and his near-uniform.
"He's like a little boy," Debby Neuman said. "You have to sneak it to wash it."
Mike Neuman is a longtime fan of the San Francisco 49ers, as well as their baseball counterparts, the Giants. But his enthusiasm has grown in recent years, in part because it's a pastime he can enjoy while some other abilities fail.
Mike is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He was diagnosed three years ago, Debby said. The progression of the disease has been slowed by therapy and medication, and Mike still works one day a week at the Livermore lab from which he retired.
But he no longer drives he gets to work by van pool. And he can't handle the family finances anymore. So cheering on the local teams has become "a bright spot in the middle of a bunch of disappointments," his wife said.
And it is a very bright spot. Debby said Mike will walk across the room to a stranger in Niners gear to exchange a fist bump and a cheer. Just this week, he was walking the family dog near the Neumans' north Modesto home when he saw a man with a 49ers shirt putting his little girl into her car seat.
Mike and the dog ventured over to the man, who turned out also to be wearing a hat representing the Giants. "I said, 'Hey, man! Go, Niners, go! We're going to win on Sunday!' " Mike said. "His little girl started laughing."
The Neumans, who have been married for 10 years and have between them 17 grandchildren, will host family for the Super Bowl on Sunday. That includes one family member who is a Dallas Cowboys fan, as long as he cheers for the Niners against the Baltimore Ravens.
It no doubt will be a loud party, though the warning has been issued.
"I've been told I have to maintain," Mike said.
"As long as they're winning, he'll be fine," his wife added.
And they, like their baseball counterparts, no doubt will do just that, Mike predicted.
"They're bringing everything back to the West Coast, where it belongs."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.