I was 6 years old in 1980, and was a "niner's fan" by virtue of my proximity to San Francisco, and my Dad's penchant for siding with local teams. As I got older, that love continued to develop, and then to fully blossom as I watched in wide-eyed wonder as Joe Montana marched down the field to come back and win against the Bengals Super Bowl XXIII.
I grew up with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, and so many other 49er greats.
When Joe was under center, I never wondered whether we would win or not. In point of fact, when we lost I was more surprised than upset.
They were (in my estimation) my team. My 49ers. I grew into a life long fan of the team. The San Francisco 49ers.
I have to admit being a little slow to accept Steve Young. After Joe, it was really difficult to envision anyone else under center. However, come the 1994 season, I was fully on board (although Joe would always, and still does occupy special real estate in my football loving consciousness) and loving every minute of football with my team. That season I devoured content in newspapers, what little was then online, and anywhere else I could find tidbits regarding my team, and it's eventual win in the Super Bowl over the San Diego Chargers.
Then came some very dark years, which I will decline to recount here, except to say, that I never wavered in my love for or support for the San Francisco 49ers. Loved BY, Garrison Hearst, etc. One of my favorite memories at the `Stick, as I never got to go for the Montana years, was watching Garrison Hearst win it for us from 96 yards out against the Jets. Oh, the chants of J-E-T-S, we let fly after that, mocking...well, I digress.
I, through all the lean years and down to today, wear my 49er hat at work. My boss says, "Ya gotta give Dan one thing, he's a die hard 49er fan." Coming from a Packers fan, it always makes me smile a bit. I've got him wearing my Roger Craig throwback in Vegas for the Super Bowl this year by the way.
However, even though I loved my team, through those lean years, and certainly loved some of the players, my connection to the team felt different.
Until last year. And even more strongly, this year.
I love the cast of characters on my team this year. I love watching Jim Harbaugh go monkey stomp crazy on the sidelines(mostly because that's what I'm doing as well). I absolutely love the Cowboy, and his tougher than nails quiet invincibility. Love so much, Frank Gore, his perseverance, through so many rough years and taking a pounding most running backs would have folded under, all after having both his knees surgically repaired before even taking a snap in the NFL. Love Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and the unselfish way they dominate the middle of the field, and my heart on defense. The linemen, who toil with minimal praise, but make the team look unstoppable at times. Michael Crabtree and his hands that remind me of Jerry Rice, and his YAC ability. Vernon Davis and his maturity after his first few years of thinking the logo for the team should include an 85, has become the model of a teammate. Randy Moss, who many thought would come in and at best be a distraction, and at worst, a team cancer has become a contributor, and elder statesmen for a team in need of that kind of on field leadership.
I could go on, but suffice to say I love all the 49ers on this team. My San Francisco 49ers, and hope that come February 3, they will all have a Super Bowl ring to either set proper expectations for their career, or to cap it off. So let's win one for our team...