In talking about major league baseball with friends, a common argument falls into the following question: As a fan, would you rather be a fan of the Atlanta Braves and be consistently successful, winning the division so many years in a row and having only a single World Series to show for a decade-plus of domination?
OR, would you be a fan of a team like the Florida Marlins? You've been to the playoffs twice in your 15-year history and won the World Series both times. The rest of the time the team has been pretty abysmal with fire sale after fire sale.
My thoughts today aren't completely in the same realm, but it's kind of what inspired me about the 49ers and this post. Following a phenomenal offseason with a solid draft and great free agency period, the 49ers have officially become the "sexy pick" amongst national media. Obviously they're not being picked to win the Super Bowl, but they're officially the team people think will make the leap into playoff contention after some down years. The last year or two has seen that distinction bestowed upon the Arizona Cardinals among others and clearly that did not work out so well.
On the other hand, during the Bill Walsh/George Seifert years, anything short of a Super Bowl visit was a disappointment. The team had a swagger, but with that swagger came a bit of unease when the team did not win Super Bowls.
Then you have the late 90s and part of the '00s (minus a couple years), when the team was good, but never a real Super Bowl contender. They would make the playoffs but were not quite good enough to take the championship step.
So what is this all leading too? Well, after I post this, I'm going to throw up a poll asking the question I'm about to put forth. As a fan of the 49ers, what type of attitude do you prefer by yourself, the national media and the rest of the league?
- Obviously it would be nice to be a Super Bowl favorite year in and year out, but as is often the case, that can create a lot of stress around losses.
- On the other hand, being a good but not great team can actually be quite boring. Often times you know there are better teams that will probably beat you in the playoffs, so it's almost like a sad inevitability. I always hoped the 49ers would beat the Packers, but until they did, it just seemed like a sick cycle.
- There is of course the "sexy pick" option, where the team finds itself presently. This creates a set of expectations, a little bit different than being a Super Bowl favorite. If you finish the year .500 and on the outside looking in, it's a busted year and people turn on you just as fast as they jumped on the bandwagon.
- Then there is the option that makes college basketball's March Madness what it is: the Cinderella. As a Cinderella, there is no pressure to win because you're not even supposed to be there in the first place.
So, what are your thoughts on the topic? While I'm not saying it will happen, if the 49ers were to win some games and somehow make the Super Bowl, they would make a quasi-leap from Sexy Pick to Cinderella, which doesn't happen to the sexy pick all that often. It's simply a matter of team perception. Obviously I could care less what some schmuck in the sticks thinks of my city on a person-to-person level. However, it can be fun to be the big bad team that people dislike, but still manages to stomp the opposition. Growing up in Las Vegas, I have always been a UNLV fan. When the national title in 1990, they faced a team that became one of the great Cinderella stories of all time: Loyola Marymount. While I felt bad for what that team went through, I was also a UNLV fan and enjoyed the thrill of victory. When the 49ers were laying waste to the Chargers or the Broncos, it felt gooooood. So in the general sense, what kind of attitude would you prefer to be around the team on a local, regional and national level?