Hi everyone, I hope people read the post before villifying me in the comments. I'm hoping to inspire a serious, thoughtful discussion about the role of sports in our lives, but I fear that this may turn into a Team Alex vs Team Colin shouting match. Or worse, nobody reads it!
Long story short: Is it wrong for a 49er fan to root for the team to lose in the short term, so that Alex Smith gets a chance to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl?
On face value, this is absurd. A 49er fan should want the 49ers to win. It's the simplest thing in the world. The question most people would ask is, "What kind of idiot are you?" or "Are all Alex Smith fans this stupid and crazy?"
But I think the real question that needs to be asked is this: What exactly is the value of sports?
Here's the thing. My life does not change whether the 49ers win the Superbowl or miss the playoffs. Unless you or a family member works for the 49ers, the sports journalism business, or maybe sells bootleg 49ers merchandise, chances are a 49ers Super Bowl really doesn't affect your life. The specific trajectory of a piece of leather that David Akers kicks hundreds of miles away from me doesn't have any real meaning in my life, other than the human value I place on it.
The only effect it does have on our lives is that "we feel better, we become happy" when our favorite team wins. So, isn't it the role of sports, which is really a form of entertainment, to give us this feeling of happiness? If that's true, I think it's totally ok to root for the 49ers to lose badly with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, so that Alex Smith may get his chance.
Though I have vague memories of watching #8 at QB, I really started following the 49ers closely in 2006, which may have been the nadir of the franchise. Since then, I have watched the 49ers struggle year after year, watching every year as the "THIS year is the year the 49ers bounce back." Every offseason, it seemed they were the trendy pick to rise up, only to come crashing down to the cellar by week 4.
When the 49ers lost game 3 to the Brett Favre Vikings at the last second, I literally dropped to my elbows and knees and lay there for a good 30 seconds, in total devastation.
Maybe it was Stockholm syndrome, but for some reason, I'd come back every year to the team that punched me in the stomach and kneed me in the groin. This was not like the Lions or the Browns, where stagnant failure was the status quo. 49ers fans all knew we were close. Always so close. The team started adding talent, we were almost there. And yet we'd fail miserably every year.
We watched Frank Gore's prime slowly simmer away before our eyes. We watched a macabre carousel of Alex Smith, Troy Smith, Trent Dilfer, Chris Weinke, Tim Rattay, Shaun Hill, even "Just Turnovers" O'Sullivan, literally throw away the season, year after year.
The one constant throughout my time following the Niners has been Alex Smith. As sad as it may sound, Alex Smith is the face of the franchise for as long as I've followed them.The 49ers-Saints playoff game in 2011 was easily the best sporting event I have ever seen. Even for the impartial fan, it had to be one of the greatest playoff games in history. But for 49ers fans, particularly those who stuck with the team during the Nolantary Dark Ages (Dickerson was just before my time) it was cathartic. Beleaguered Alex Smith impossibly leading the offense to TWO comeback touchdowns against the mighty Saints?
Then of course, futility arose in the Giants game. Then some weeks later, a hit from Jolan Dunbar ended Smith's season. Now that the 49ers are back among the league elites, suddenly Smith is gone.
Watching Alex Smith lead a team to the Super Bowl trophy would give me twenty times the joy a Kaepernick Super Bowl would. If sports are about being entertained, finding inspiration in the athletic feats of the human beings partaking in them, why is fundamentally wrong for me to root for Alex?
First, a Kaepernick Super Bowl would be tainted by the stench of betrayal. After his heroics last season, all 49er fans came to see Jim Harbaugh as a god, a coaching genius who could do no wrong. Trust Harbaugh, the quarterback guru. He knows what he's doing.
We overlooked his quirks and strangeness. His contempt for the media was praised as coaching acumen. The stories of his childhood assholery were examples of his competitive fire. When he called Chilo Rachal a great player, when he touted Reggie Smith as standing out in practice, we assumed he was telling the truth. When he lied through his teeth about merely "evaluating" Peyton Manning, we gave him a pass.
But his handling of the whole QB controversy has shown to light that Harbaugh's simply a liar, whose words mean nothing. If you're going to bench Alex Smith, bench him. "Alex Smith is our starting quarterback, he hasn't done anything to lose that job. But at the same time, Colin is not a backup either....Colin Kaepernick will start this week against the Rams." As user Fred P Soft said, "Don't pee on me and tell me it's raining."
To many, it doesn't matter. "As long as he wins football games, I don't care how much on an asshole he is".
But again, why should I care if the 49ers win? That the 49ers win is not really the objective. It's the who and the how, the human story that draws us to sports in the first place. If the 49ers and the Broncos were to suddenly switch rosters this week, would we cheer when the Red and Gold Peyton Manning wins the super bowl? I don't think so. It wouldn't feel special, because it wasn't Patrick Willis out there, it was Von Miller. Watching Eric Decker score the winning touchdown instead of Frank Gone? SuperBowl #6 wouldn't be great at all. This is a stupid example, but I think it highlights the fact that "The 49ers" winning isn't as important as "our 49ers" winning.
I don't know how I'll feel watching the 49ers play the dolphins. If Kaepernick struggles, I'm not sure I'll be that upset. The Rams loss did disappoint, and I wasn't happy for the loss. And yet, that Kaepernick's mistakes may have opened a small window for Smith, was there value in that? Those who call me a hater or a traitor without asking themselves what the meaning and value of sports is, you shallow minded fools can go to hell. Those who DO ask themselves why we watch sports, and then call me a hater or a traitor, well, you might have a point.