A loser’s lament for the Niners
I never thought I’d see the day when the San Francisco 49ers’ name and record matched.
The day came Sunday, when the 49ers finally played a worse team, the Atlanta (Mylanta?) Falcons, and raised their season record to 4-9.
How the mighty have fallen.
I was starting to think that the 49ers’ last previous win, back in October against Tennessee, would have to tide the 49er faithful into 2000.
I have denied this very bad 49er season as much as consciously possible, picking the team to win every single week, sure that all the losses were just flukes, and the real 49ers would arrive shortly.
A true, committed sports bettor would never allow emotion to rule like that. But I can’t help it. I’m a true, committed 49er fan who just can’t bet against the team, even during a lousy season.
I know the Niners may lose to Carolina Saturday. I know things probably won’t look much better a week later when they take on Washington.
But what if they win? Then they would be 6-9, with a chance to finish at 7-9. So I will continue to pick them, and continue to set aside time to sit and watch the games, disappointing as they often are.
This is uncharted territory, for me, anyway. I don’t remember when the 49ers weren’t the premier football team, or at least among them. All I know is that when I started following football, the 49ers were easily winning games, and my allegiance.The games were like a real-time highlight film, with happy endings all but guaranteed.
Which is why this awful season has been so hard to take.
All those spectacular seasons and plays raised the expectations of us 49er fans.
Playoff victories were the status quo, and Super Bowl appearances routine. I mean, we were following San Francisco, not Seattle or New Orleans or some other team that’s happy to post two winning seasons a decade. We had standards.
Now, the unfathomable is occurring. The 49ers aren’t just going to miss the playoffs or post an average record. They’re scrapping with the likes of Cincinnatti and Cleveland in that euphemistic exercise called “playing for pride.”
The reality took a while to set in. I’ve always regarded any team that beat the 49ers as one that must be good. That mentality led me to think maybe the New Orleans Saints had a chance to be good this year when they almost beat my Niners back in September.
After watching the Saints (now 2-11) whip the 49ers two months later, I realized the Saints weren’t that good. It was the 49ers who were that bad.
The red-and-white patch on my 49er jacket is starting to resemble a target. Even the faithful are turning on their team. My dad, who I always thought raised me right, or at least showed me the light as far as professional football teams were concerned, announced the unthinkable: He was watching the Oakland Raiders.
This stunning revelation was made casually, over the phone one Sunday afternoon. Dad first asked me what was happening to the 49ers, and because this was before the really abominable losses started, I explained my theory about aging players, injuries, poor pass defense and the other relevant factors.
Dad listened politely. Then, matter of factly, he just outright said it.
“I’ve started following the Raiders.”
This was heresy. How could he? I shouldn’t have asked. Dad said he liked the Raiders’ coach. The guy seemed to know what he was doing. And the Raiders, he added, were playing pretty well. They looked promising.
We haven’t talked football since.
Some day, we will look back at the 49ers’ 1999 season as the aberration that it is. Some day, I will shake my fixation with a transient game that means little in life’s big picture, leaving few significant impacts except for the millionaires it makes and breaks.
But now, I’ve got to wrap this up so I can finish my other work, go home and do chores to ensure that Saturday afternoon is free.