I was just thinking about why I'm a 49ers fan, and then I decided I might as well share. Even though it's not tied to some spectacular or even life-changing event, I'm thinking that if nothing else, it should provide a nice little comment space for anyone else willing to share a much better story about their own fandom. So I say to you; attempt a jump then share yourselves (after reading what will probably end up winning me a Pulitzer prize, somewhere in my head maybe).
Before getting into my own mini-saga, I might as well point out that I'm a third generation 49ers fan, as my father and his father before him were both 49ers fans as well (I'm not even going to hide my jealousy that my father was the one to get the memorabilia from my grandfather's den after his passing, but I will say that all I need is patience...). I can't talk to my grandfather about how he came to love the Niners, but given the time frame of the late 60's, I'd wager that most of it had to do with Dick Nolan's sharp appearance, and a little bit of it the 10-3-1 season we enjoyed in '70. My father, as I've heard him recount it, was in a bar with some friends and family (not my mother though, for reasons soon explained) on Sunday, January 10th, 1982 (ten days after my older sister was born), and fell in love with the scrappy San Francisco team featuring Joe Montana starting a dynasty with Dwight Clark making the catch.
Now, coming to myself, I was born in between the 2nd and 3rd Super Bowl victories for the 49ers, and came into a household where although it wasn't forced, I was expected to carry on the tradition of rooting for our beloved 49ers. Unfortunately for that plan, at least initially, when I was a very impressionable three year old our family picked up and moved to Denver, where the Broncos were fresh off one of their many "we were great until we played in the Super Bowl" runs at the time. And to go with that, there was only one thing on the minds of everyone in Denver (hell, if you go to Denver today, you'll find that the only two things on anyone's mind at any given moment and it's either the Broncos or snow, and snow isn't on their minds year round). We only spent two years in Denver, but I came away from it as a five year old knowing I wanted to to be John Elway when I grew up and that blue and orange was the coolest combination of colors. Ever.
My journey now needs to fast forward to the year 2000. My beloved Broncos had won two Super Bowls, which was great (especially the first one against Green Bay because I was able to root with my dad that year more than ever, thanks to the household hatred for Brett Favre and the color green [thanks also in large part to Brett Favre]). But, as a young fan, I was learning about turnover. The Broncos on the year in 2000 were missing my favorite player of all time (up to this point) in John Elway, along with my favorite target for him in Shannon Sharpe (I was like 10 during this phase). Essentially, I was too young for serious fandom, and I wasn't ready to handle the change from John Elway to Brian Griese. So I lost interest, and at the time switched my attention over to Baseball, where I was able to root for Barry Bonds, Kirk Reuters and my Giants who took over the void left by the Broncos in my heart, at least until October 28th, 2001.
On October 28th, 2001, I was still reeling from a Giant's season where we hadn't lead the division since late April, and ready for something to do instead of wishing we had gone on a 10 game winning streak to end the season and pushed the Diamondbacks out of the playoffs (as they had just beaten the Yankee's the day before in Game 1 of the 2001 World Series). So, to get my mind off of the Giants, I decided what better to do than to practice pitching with my friend Marc, who happened to be as big a Giants fan as myself, though as these things happen, he was also a huge Niners fan and wanted to watch the second half of their game against the Bears that day, so, with nothing else to do I hung out with him in his living room as we watched the sixth game of the 49ers 2001 season against the Chicago Bears.
For anyone who already remembers this game, you may want to skip ahead because opening old wounds can't be good for you. For everyone else, I came in halfway through the second quarter with the 49ers up 14-0, and the game under control, until the first play after the two minute warning. A punt attempt gone horribly wrong, leading to the first safety I can remember seeing and understanding at the same time (I'm sure I'd seen plenty before then, but understanding how safeties work has to be difficult to teach a seven year old when he isn't going to see another one live for two years). The Niners then proceeded to let Shane Matthews roll down the field (with help from a 15 yard personal foul penalty) and score a touchdown making the game a much closer 14-9, still in favor of San Francisco, at the half.
The second half of the game opens up nearly identically to the first; a big play by Garrison Hearst turned into a touchdown along with a turnover returned for a touchdown. Then the Bears came back with one more touchdown on an 8 play drive that required a 4th down conversion. Going into the 4th quarter, the 49ers were beating the Bears by a score of 28-16, with the momentum somewhere in between the two teams. The 49ers had shown that they could force a turnover at any point, but the Bears were looking like a team that could throw all over the 49ers if they'd stop giving them touchdowns in the process.
It's at this point in the game that I make the one mistake that every 49er fan has made at some point in their life, especially those of us who grew up knowing the 49ers as the greatest team ever to play on a football field. I looked over to my friend Marc and said, "Hey dude, we can go throw some pitches now, there's no way the 49ers are going to lose this one." Blasphemy. Believe me, if the lesson didn't sink in from this game, I had enough time in the following 10 years to figure it out (Even the Harbaugh-era has the Cowboys game from last season).
To gloss over the rest of the game, the 49ers scored one more field goal, before giving up another two touchdowns, one including a 2-point conversion. The tied game then went to overtime, where on the first play of the overtime period Jeff Garcia through a pick six to lose the game, in miserable fashion. But, by the end of the game I was rooting for the 49ers, I was now a fan, after having shared one of the most heart-breaking losses I can still remember to date (excluding the Giants game this year, the only loss that was more devastating I can think of since then was the Brett Favre Miracle game against Minnesota in 2010.. ugh).
So while my rooting for the 49ers certainly didn't come at any pinnacle moment of glory, more like a minor speed bump en route to a great regular season (playoffs be damned that year), it was a deep enough moment and game for me to stick it out through the destruction of the team, followed by Erickson years, then the Nolan years and then finally the Singletary years before we've garnered respect again. So if you've made it through my thousand something words, toss out why you root for the 49ers in the comments, or even better, why you stuck with the team post-Eddie D. til now. Thanks much for reading~