The San Francisco 49ers went into CenturyLink Field on Sunday night with the chance to erase a couple of previous shortfalls from their memories. While they played a sound game in the first half, missed opportunities and mistakes contributed to a rally by a Seattle Seahawks team that came from behind to punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII.
There are several reasons that reflecting on this game becomes difficult. Certainly, the loss alone is reason enough. Compounding this loss with the losses that ended the two seasons prior leaves one with a sense of numbness and hurt. The way in which each of those three defeats happened makes it difficult to not shake your head and have irrational thoughts.
But, let’s make something clear: The referees did not dictate the outcome of this game. Sure, there were some questionable calls — including two crystal clear misses by the zebras — that aided the Seahawks in their march to victory. However, did the Niners not benefit from any calls? Naturally, we block out the ones that leave us with a we’ll-take-it attitude, while dwelling on the ones that hurt our boys. That’s human nature.
The injuries to NaVorro Bowman and Mike Iupati were brutal. Did missing them down the stretch contribute to the loss? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know for sure, though, and won’t know until I digest this thing more. We boast about the team’s depth, so I’m left to presume their replacements did an adequate job.
Did Colin Kaepernick cost the team the victory? My knee-jerk reaction at the end of the game said yes. My day-after rational thinking reminds me that he did quite a bit to put the team in a position to win.
The fact of the matter is that a football game consists of four quarters, 60 minutes, over 100 players, a whole bunch of coaches and a handful of referees. You can’t point to any one individual on the field last night and hand them sole blame or the bulk of the credit for their respective team’s win or loss. They all played a part, but the sum of everything that happens in any one contest is usually the superior team winning.
We know how good our team is. We feel confident that our side was the better of the two on the field. But, boy, do these three consecutive season-ending losses, in the manner with which they happened, leave one with a weak stomach.
Judging the fandom of anyone else is an act none of us should engage in. Some of us root quietly from home. Others tailgate, paint their faces and lose their voices in the stands of the stadium. Some are happy to spend $100 on a piece of cloth with their favorite player’s name and number on it, while others see such a thing as a waste. Some read every blog post, listen to every podcast and dive deep into each comment about their team. Others ignore the noise outside of game day.
So, I don’t blame anyone for losing themselves at the conclusion of the game.
When you dump so much time, emotion and money into something, you can’t be expected to not think about the moments that caused the team to lose. The word fan is, of course, short for fanatic. We are fanatical, screaming-at-the-top-of-our-lungs, rival-hating sports junkies who toss our logic compass out the window in the heat of the moment.
I more closely reflect the fanatic than the calm, casual observer. I’m somewhere in between, but with a strong lean to that side of the fence. I sat in silence, rally towel draped over my head. I didn’t shed a tear, but I may as well have. The emotions felt the same. If your eyes welled up, there’s no shame. Love for something — even something as trivial as a football team — leads to emotions.
None of us are better than the other. Neither of us loves the team more.
We’re all 49ers fans, and regardless of what happened to conclude our last three seasons, I still don’t think anyone has it better.