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Steve Cameron: Let's have a devil of a time, shall we?

How about a special, wicked treat to start the week?

Let's call it our version of "The Satanic Verses," since that evil fellow with horns and a tail shows up as a key thread to the theme here.

ACT I

Perhaps the 49ers have sold their souls to the devil in order to make the playoffs.

How else can you possibly describe a team sitting at 2-0 in the NFC West despite playing such ragged football that customers must be screaming for refunds?

Seriously, in an unforgiving league like the NFL, you can only dream of putting in a stinker performance and escaping unharmed.

So what about doing it twice?

The Niners had no business whatsoever beating Arizona in their opener -- showing no offense at all until the final drive of game and then, with a lone chance to win, Arnaz Battle fumbles just as he's about to cross the goal line.

When that sort of thing happens, you lose.

Period.

And yet through some eerie twist of fate, the Cardinals decided not to fall on the football as it lay unattended in the end zone.

Thus the 49ers got a reprieve and scored the winning touchdown.

Spooky.

Right, so you're entitled to one victory like that per year, OK?

And yet the Niners managed to steal another one on Sunday, stunning the Rams 17-16 after another display of inept offense was wiped out by bags of good luck.

Battle's fumble and the wondrous result from Week 1 were amazing enough, but this time the 49ers survived a performance that included just eight first downs while allowing St. Louis a mere 331 yards passing.

It boggles the mind.

To win, the 49ers required normally sure-handed return man Dante Hall to fumble a punt -- setting up Joe Nedney's 40-yard field goal -- and then had to hold their collective breath as the Rams' Jeff Wilkins' 56-yarder with a minute remaining fell short by the length of a thumbnail.

The devil's at work here, gang.

There's no other explanation.

ACT II

Lucifer himself would trade his soul for Tiger Woods' golf game.

After the year-long hoopla over the FedEx Cup, explanation of the point system, debates over the the PGA Tour's four-event, season-ending "playoff" and all the rest...

Absolutely nothing has changed.

Tiger is so far ahead of everyone else, he's over the horizon. Competitors don't look for him on the leaderboard -- they track him via GPS.

I love all those ads that have been running and running and running, referring to the FedEx Cup as the beginning of golf's "New Era."

Funny, but this era sure looks a lot like the last one.

Woods had the audacity

to skip the first of the four playoff tournaments, and still won the inaugural FedEx Cup by such a margin that they were engraving the trophy before he got to the back nine on Sunday.

Was it just a couple of weeks ago that the Tour's PR folks were hyping the dramatic shootout certain to pit Woods and a rejuvenated

Phil Mickelson for the

No. 1 spot?

Right.

Tiger's been roughly a thousand under par since then and over the weekend -- at their supposed "duel" at the

Tour Championship in Atlanta -- he dusted Lefty by, uh...

Was that 18 strokes?

Yikes.

Here's worse news for everyone trying to invent new formats and invented rivalries -- Tiger now has settled into his new swing and he's hitting fairways with his driver.

Relentlessly.

To quote TV analyst

Roger Maltbie: "If Tiger's going to hit it straight off the tee, well, it just isn't a fair fight."

ACT III

Even the devil couldn't dream up the antics of O.J. Simpson.

You'd think a guy who barely dodged a double murder charge -- and was held responsible for it in civil court -- would count himself lucky, go find the Lord and shut up.

But not the Juice.

I'm ashamed to admit that I once considered Simpson a friend of sorts -- we were both from San Francisco and saw each other at a lot of national sports events when O.J. was working for ABC.

I liked him and, along with millions of others, I found it impossible to believe he could be a killer.

Now I'm afraid he's just plain nuts -- hanging out with losers in Miami, writing that "fake" book about the murder and finally, this weekend, getting arrested in Las Vegas for armed robbery.

O.J.'s story is that he was just trying to retrieve some sports memorabilia that belonged

to him.

Right, and any sane person who wanted a few autographed footballs returned would bring along four thugs and a couple of handguns, wouldn't they?

Just to finish out our theme here, I have a scary feeling that O.J. and the devil may have some unfinished business down the road.

O.J. won't need his golf clubs for that outing.Steve Cameron is the Sun-Star sports editor. He can be reached at scameron@mercedsun-star.com.

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