Even though my family weren't real fans of sports, much less football, we, like most, always tuned in to the Super Bowl. We ate crackers and cheese and watched the games with enthusiasm even if we didn't give two shits who won. My parents being from the Bay Area, always rooted for the 49ers and with them I got to see the magic that was Montana, Rice, Craig, Lott, Carter, etc take the field and make the sport of football look easy. There was an element of grace with those teams, and they dominated the league. My family watched the best ever play and win, and it made for wonderful memories.
After the 49ers beat the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, the organization collapsed for many reasons and soon became the laughing stock of the NFL for many years. The Team of the Decade (80s) morphed into the something resembling the Detroit Lions. It was painful, but I persevered and continued watching the NFL, enjoying the many great games the league offered.
In the late 80s and early 90s it seemed everyone was a 49ers fan, even in the Northwest, and it's not hard to figure out why. They were winners and they had some of the best players of their time, and even some of all time. But as the team from Candlestick started to suck more than a gay hooker at the Republican National Convention, you saw less and less people wearing San Fransisco attire. I was alone in my fandom. Not one friend was a fan of the Bay Area team anymore.
Then came the restructuring of the NFL divisions. Seattle, who enjoyed a decades long rivalry with the Raiders in the AFC West, were moved to the NFC West and no one was happy about it. Emerald City fans were rightfully bummed about losing out on their rivalry, which they enjoyed year after year. NFC West fans were puzzled as to why the Seahawks, who have long been known to suck horribly, needed to be in the NFC, much less the NFC West. The 49ers enjoyed a long rivalry with the Rams, but that soon gave way to a new bitter enemy, the the team residing in the town I lived in.
I was personally annoyed. I was living in the Seattle area and found myself the only person in my circle of friends as a 49ers fan, and was out numbered by those who worshiped at the ground of a tax funded stadium. The 49ers were horrible, and I knew I would catch hell every time they played. I was not disappointed. I went to my first 49er-Seahawk game at what was then called Seahawk stadium, a beautiful place really, by myself as my friend got sick, and had the worst sports watching experiences of my life.
As the second quarter came to be, after hearing a bunch of jeering lobbed my way, I felt a bottle hit me upside the head. I turned around and screamed my demand for the thrower to fess up. As expected, no one did. For folks who aren't familiar with Seattle, the citizens are famous for being passive/aggressive. I waved security over to discuss the matter, and he commented on how brave I was showing up alone wearing a 49ers jersey.
The 49ers lost, and I congratulated the fans sitting next to me. They responded by giving me shit, and one guy even started to posture and talk tough about how he'd like to kick my ass. I told him I'd oblige happily, but he responded by saying it wasn't worth it. As I made the long walk down out of the stadium people gave me all kinds of hell for rooting for a team that wasn't the Seahawks, but I just smiled and said some version of "the Seahawks played really well tonight".
Of course, that experience could be typical of any nosebleed seats in any sporting event when someone rooting for a visiting team can expect, but I was naive enough to think that Seahawk fans wouldn't act so Raiderish. I went back a couple more times to a hostile crowd, and they were more verbally childish when the 49ers actually won. Finally I just gave up and decided watching the 49ers play the Seahawks would be best done in front of the tv, home, alone.
As the Seahawks started to resemble a team that was worthy of respect I caught more hell, but again to be expected. Seahawk fans really started to annoy me though. I never met a single one that actually new the actual mechanics of the game, or could even tell me what a 4-3 defense was. They'd love Hasselback and Holmgren one minute, only to proclaim them as the wost thing that happened to the organization the next. It was tiring.
Then came Super Bowl XL. I was happy the Seahawks made it and hoped they would win, but had my doubts they could pull it off against a superior team as the Steelers were. If they won I could finally see some consistency from their fan base. They would be happy for a year and I could stop listening to them whine. We all know the results of that wretched game and the fans to this day bitch about how the refs cost them the championship, never mind that Seattle was out played that day, and it's arguable they deserved to even be there. (Oh yeah, I'm part of the East Coast biased media!)
Sunday promised to make this year the best year for football I've ever experienced. I won the championship in both my fantasy football leagues, and if my favorite team won the Super Bowl I would be ecstatic. So I sat in my friend's media room watching the first half and saw Raven's Cary Williams clearly shove a ref after he inserted himself into the scrum and threw a few obvious punches into a 49ers midsection.
"What..what the hell?" I said to anyone listening. "How the hell is that not a penalty, much less an automatic ejection?"
My friends nodded in agreement, but probably just to be polite. I imagine they noticed my ever growing frustration at the inability of the NFC Champions to actually move the chains. I saw blown calls on both sides and was growing impatient with professional referees' inability to simply do their job.
It was then it hit me. I sounded like a Seahawk fan. Here I was, rooting for a NFL organization that has a long storied history of excellence, whining like someone from the Northwest. I was ashamed of myself.
I watched the first half end, and decided the 49ers deserved to lose this game after playing like they had Dave Krieg helming the offense. The lights went out, my daughter started getting tired, and the wife signaled it was time to go home, to which I agreed.
My wife complimented me at my lack of consumption of alcohol, as I only had two beers. She was impressed, as normally I my beer drinking during Super Bowl is something I've never held back on, but I was the driver and I needed to get the family home safe. How times have truly changed.
After we got home I turned on the TV to see the 49ers had scored seventeen points. What the hell? They could win this? I was delighted to see this actually turn into a game. Then of course, the 49ers blew every opportunity that came there way, and lost what could of been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
I dropped my remote and swore a little. My wife reminded me it's only a game, to which I had to agree. I got texts and FB messages from newly formed Baltimore fans giving me hell, because for some reason people have no problems seeing Ray Lewis get a ring, which is just baffling to me. I know he found Jesus and all, which in a weird bit of logic makes the most horrible person somehow a fan favorite, but seriously it's like wanting Roman Polanski or Mel Gibson to win an Oscar. Still they were happy and all the way from Dallas I could hear the cities of Clevland and San Fransisco collectivley wail with sadness. Since Jim Harbaugh is the most hated coach in the league for actually showing passion during a game, haters have another reason to mock and despise him.
So I now understand the misery that was laid upon my Seattle brethren all those years ago. Consequently a lot of 49ers fans are earning the none too clever nickname of forty-whiners, which is dripping with dramatic irony considering it was likely Seahawk fans who coined it. It makes sense as some lack the maturity to football knowledge to asses the real aspects of why their team lost. Makes me sad to see fans of the same team act in such a manner.
I can't really complain though as the team from San Fransisco showed greatness this season, and gave me some great memories that hearkened me back to their old days, when watching your favorite football team play really well was an exciting event. While I'm dissapointed in the loss, I'm glad I got to see them have a succeful season and congratulate the Ravens and their fans on a great win.
Now that I live amongst Dallas fans, who strangely enough aren't as bitchy as those on the west coast, I'm still alone in my fandom, but I'm in classier company surprisingly enough. The Cowboys are hated the league over for reasons that I find odd as that team has delivered some great football over the years, but they've made me very grateful I'm not an Eagles fan.
"Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser" - Vince Lombardi