I'm lucky to have been a veteran 49ers fan for every one of their Super Bowls. This morning I was thinking about which 49ers Super Bowl this one feels most like. I realized that it was the first one, Super Bowl XVI in January of 1982. Here's some reasons why:
- Championship drought. My first year as a football fan was 1972, with that horribly painful Cowboy comeback in the NFC Championship game. After that, the Niners sucked for a decade. That first win felt unbelievably tremendous.. It was the first San Francisco major sport championship ever. The only way you had a taste of it before is if you also rooted for Oakland teams (which I admit a lot of us did, as a second resort.) After that, there was always some expectation of winning. The Super Bowl drought is up to 17 years now... that's long enough to cleanse the palate. Current Niner fans have suffered through some bad years. We can believe in the Niners chances tomorrow, but it's different from feeling almost entitled to it
- Rising star miracle coach from Stanford. To this date, I have never really paid attention to college football with one exception... I used to go to Stanford football games in the late 70's. And I couldn't believe how well those teams could perform (especially on offense) with nobody on the team the NFL coveted, with the exception of Darren Nelson. So when Eddie D decided to hire Bill Walsh, I was fired up. Jim Harbaugh (who coincidentally was going to high school across the street with me back then) worked even bigger miracles at Stanford and also has brought stunning, immediate credibility to the 49ers.
- Rising star miracle quarterback taking very little NFL experience into the Super Bowl. Joe Montana hadn't been a starter long before SB XVI. Colin Kaepernick's done even less. As much as we loved Joe back then, it was still a crazy long shot to think he'd ever have a credible case as the greatest quarterback ever. We don't know Colin's future yet. But his debut is at least as splashy. Maybe the biggest difference is that nobody is questioning Colin's tools. That guy is a specimen! Every other Super Bowl we knew we were going into it with an MVP-quality QB.
- Young new owner of the team from the DeBartolo family. It's still so hard to quantify how much ownership matters, except it's pretty obvious it matters! What a glory run we had with Eddie. If it wasn't for the damn move to Santa Clara (really screws me), I'd be 100% behind what Jed's done so far.
- A new offense no one can figure out how to stop. That Bill Walsh offense (WCO is just a misnomer, plain and simple) was unstoppable because it just had so many options, the defense can't cover them all. The pistol/read-option is the same way... there are just too many places for the ball to go. I am really excited to see what the Ravens are going to try and how the Niners are going to react.
- The defense has the horses. Walsh used to say that a great offense scheme can move the ball with inferior personnel. But on defense, there is no substitute for talent. When Bill drafted three rookies to start in the secondary, he brought in the game-changing talent. This Niners team has been building up steam for several years now. The sheer talent on this side of the ball is truly remarkable. Fred Dean and Ronnie Lott would start for this year's team... not sure that anyone else would.
I'm gonna stop there, because my first five are comparisons that only hold up for these two teams. The sixth is true of all those 49ers teams, and that undermines the point I'm making. This franchise is having a rebirth. This is a clear new generation. I am really excited for the game, but I'm even more excited for you young fans who didn't get a chance to experience the 1995 Super Bowl. This is your first time, and I realize a lot of older fans have not recognized that.
YOU WILL FREAKIN' LOVE IT!
See you at the damn parade!