On Monday, I turned 22 years old. It was fun to do that. The best part of my Birthday, however, was obviously the win. Such a good gift.
I have never hid my age. I mean, why would I? In fact, in the comments to my first post here at NN, I was given a hard time for my youth. A poster decried my youth saying that unless I remembered certain key moments in 49er history, my opinions were invalid. Whatever. Saturday is why that doesn't make any sense.
On Saturday, my Dad, who was about my age when The Catch happened, sat to my right. My younger brother (in the nascent years of his teens) sat to his right. He is about three years older than I was when the 49ers beat the Giants in 2003. I went back to the Bay for the weekend to celebrate my birthday, watch the game, and try to work on my Honor Thesis (which only happened after a two and a half hour game of Catan).
So, on Saturday, I feel a bit as if the torch was passed. If you have read even one of my rivalry posts, then you know that I have a passing interest in 49er history. Read: obsessive interest. This all comes from my dad. He claims that my first words were "Joe Montana." My mom doesn't like that story. But, the fact is, from a very young age, I have been taught who the 49er greats are. I was taught to revere them and to hold them up as heroes. I was taught that when I watched Steve Young play, I was getting a glimpse of 49er glory, even if he wasn't quite as good as Joe.
But watching the game with my Dad just felt like I was taking part in his 1981 life. I felt like I was watching a team break out just like my Dad did. It was really cool. So yeah, I remember the 2003 wildcard game. I remember a lot of great games. I have watched all the Super Bowls the 49ers have won. I can still say, though, that this last game was the best game I have ever seen.
I will talk more about my experience watching that game later this week. I am going to do a rivalry post on the 49ers and Giants (spoiler alert!), and because those have traditionally been personal articles for me to write, I feel that it is appropriate if I intersperse some analysis of the rivalry with the story of watching that game.
The reason I bring this contention that it was the best game I have ever seen is to illuminate the following: the momentum this game has given me as I look to next week has just been immense. Normally, I spend about an hour or so reading up about the 49ers a day. Sometimes way more if something newsworthy is going on. Since Saturday, though? I have been in 49er land 24/7. I've been reading about them, talking about them, wearing my Frank Gore jersey (daily) - heck! I've even dreamt about them!
In my life, right now, I have tons of momentum.
Apparently so too do the Giants. The main reason I have noticed that talking heads have been saying that the Giants will win is because they are genetic clones of the 2007 team and have the "intangible" of "momentum" that will carry them to a Super Bowl. Intangibly! Like Magic!
It's as if Antrel Rolle dove to the ground, transformed into a gigantic ball, screamed out "I'm a literal representation of a pun!" The Giants players got up from contemplating 2007 and set aside their ice cream cones of awesome so that they could get on him. They then had some force applied to them and either increased in speed or changed direction. Rolleing around with all sorts of momentum!
Yeah, this is crap. I don't believe in intangibles or momentum in sports. Tim Tebow is not a possessor of some intangibles because he wins in the fourth quarter sometimes. First off, it's a super small sample size which says that he is better in the endgame. Second off, it's not intangible; there is some sort of rational explanation for it. Just because we don't necessarily know what that explanation is does not mean it doesn't exist. In this case, I think their predominant run game tires down opponents and invites sloppy coverage which is best exploited in the end of a football game. That or [insert stupid religious joke that everybody is tired of here].
So what is the difference between me and the Giants or 49ers. Well, while we may all share incredibly sculpted physiques - they use theirs as professional athletes. I maintain my momentum by being an obsessive fanboy and by watching highlights of the 49ers-Saints game (because it was TEH AWESOME!!!1). They go to work and work out ridiculously hard because that's their job. Hearing "who's got it better than us?" pumps me up because it is the signifier which signifies a winning sports team which I root for. It pumps them up because it signifies the familial bond they have developed with their fellow professional athlete.
In some individual cases, this breaks down. Alex Smith, for example, should feel more confident after his big performance Saturday. That is a certain degree of momentum; and to be honest, he is so mentally confident a dude already, that this may just be confirmation of what he already thought. Professional athletes are confident in their abilities, since, you know, they are the best in the world.
But things like "intangible team momentum?" I just don't buy it. I trust that Vernon Davis is going to work out and train like a mad man this week because it is his job: he is the type of person that thrives at professional sports because his job feeds off his natural propensity to compete, and I love him for it. If he wasn't that type of person, he wouldn't be in professional sports. He also has a certain degree of financial incentive, which doesn't hurt at all.
So I hope that the 49ers study team history and find a way to situate their achievements Saturday within a larger picture. A) because they deserve to recognize how much history they made on Saturday, and B) because it serves as a motivational tool that unifies a team, not because it endows some ill-defined sense of momentum.