SEEKING DIVINE GUIDANCE: Hercules, a city mired in financial problems and an identity crisis over its planning vision, arguably could use some help from a higher authority. On Sunday, at the end of the 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church, Father Larry Young will bless the new City Council and ask God to inspire it "to lead the city and enrich the lives of all our people."

"It doesn't hurt to ask for a little help from Him," Young said.

St. Patrick, at 825 7th St., Rodeo, is the parish for Hercules and its unincorporated neighbor.

Hercules Mayor John Delgado, Vice mayor Myrna de Vera and Councilman Bill Kelly are St. Patrick parishioners, and Councilwoman Sherry McCoy frequently attends Mass and other events there.

The idea for the blessing came from de Vera, who invited the whole council, including Dan Romero, who is not a St. Patrick parishioner; Romero said Thursday he believes church and politics shouldn't mix, and that he won't attend.

Young also will pray for President Barack Obama, the Hercules city staff and other government bodies, including one that quite a few people think needs serious guidance from above: the U.S. Congress.

HISTORY ON 49ers' SIDE: Former Hercules Mayor Ed Manuel is neither a numerologist nor an oddsmaker, but the San Francisco 49ers fanatic says his team has a better than 2-1 chance of winning Super Bowl XLVII.


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"History is on the side of the Niners against the (Baltimore) Ravens," says Manuel, who served on the Hercules council from 1991 to 1996 and now lives in Concord, spending much of his time pursuing his second passion in life: rooting for the 49ers (his first passion is his wife, Norma).

The actual odds of a 49ers win Feb. 3 are 18-7, "better than the Vegas odds," Manuel says. That's the won-loss record in Super Bowls pitting "human teams" against "animal teams," he explains. That's assuming the Jets, winners over the Baltimore Colts in 1969, are humans, not machines.

It's gotten more lopsided recently. The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in 2010; the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 and the Seattle Seahawks in 2006.

The New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams in 2005, 2004 and 2002, respectively. The only exceptions since the turn of the millennium were the Ravens over the New York Giants in 2001 and the Rams over the Tennessee Titans in 2000 -- assuming Giants and Titans are human.

Animal teams held their own in the Super Bowl's first decade.

"The (Miami) Dolphins spoiled my thing because they won twice in the 1970s," against the Washington Redskins in 1973 and Minnesota Vikings in 1974. "The only animal team to beat a human team twice," he adds.

Manuel has some advice for the team the 49ers beat in last Sunday's NFC championship game: "If I were the Atlanta Falcons, the first thing I would do is change the team name."

HAPPY LIBRARIAN: At a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday event in Pittsburg on Monday, the library checked out most of its copies of the book written by keynote speaker John Carlos, the 200-meter bronze medalist who raised his fist in a human rights salute at the medals ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Not only did most of the 30 copies of the "The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World" get checked out, but the 25 people who did so had expired library cards, all of which were renewed on the spot, said Chris Brown, manager of the Pittsburg branch of the Contra Costa County library.

"We checked out almost all the books. Every single person who checked out a book had an expired library card," he said. Most were between the ages of 30 and 40, old enough to have had a card for years and not use it.

"That was really exciting for us," he said of getting people to check out books and renew their cards. "It's making the library relevant to what the community is doing. We want to try and find ways to be more relevant."

To that end, a book reading of "The John Carlos Story" will take place at the E.J. Phair taproom in Pittsburg at 2 p.m. Feb. 23.

Eddie Hart, a Pittsburg resident who won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the 1972 Olympics, will lead the discussion.

Staff writers Tom Lochner and Eve Mitchell contributed to this column.