I was a bit surprised to see this article yesterday. It details the plans of certain 49er fans who are renting a billboard upon which they plan on posting an image of the 49ers' five (count ‘em: five!) Super Bowl trophies.
My gut reaction was to chuckle and then feel a bit disappointed. It seemed needlessly antagonistic, especially since it seems to be a not-so-cute response to the tacky and classless plane stunt from a couple of weeks ago.
Don't get me wrong; I like the rivalry as much as the next guy or gal. But, I think strong rivalries are based upon exciting play between two good teams, passionate players and fans, and fans who can talk a little respectful trash but also engage in serious discourse. That's the best. A petulant billboard ad, at first, seemed to add little to the rivalry.
But, I soon got down from my high horse, only tripping on my soapbox once before I made it safely to the ground. Because, once I learned - as the article details - that the excess funds raised are going to Seattle's Children's Hospital, I immediately realized that this is exactly what a rivalry should be doing.
There are passionate fans in this rivalry, and sometimes that can be destructive. But, at the end of the day, we are all just watching really large men run into each other really fast. I don't mean to trivialize football - or sports in general, for that matter - but it is always helpful to keep things in perspective: there are a lot of children who need help.
And this is the beauty of sports; they can create seemingly artificial communities with ease. While Seattle and San Francisco share many things, it doesn't seem particularly likely that women and men from one town would spend money to help the children in another. Well, no more likely than the fact that they would spend money to help children in any other town. But, this rivalry has created a community, now. And, if we can continue to direct the energy this rivalry has created in a constructive manner, then more power to us.
And the billboard? Well, clearly, it demonstrates that the fans are passionate. What I initially saw as childish, I now think is commendable. It does help the rivalry.
So, I'll link to the Seattle Billboard Fund webpage HERE (and I think it prudent to mention here that I am in no way affiliated with the fund - I simply think it's a good story). If you can spare a couple of dollars during the Holiday season, they will go not only to supporting a blossoming rivalry, but also to help children in need and to fostering a community of passionate and generous people. This is why sports matter. This is the tangible benefit.