As of recent, two NBA All-Stars have departed from the teams they called home for quite some time. Ray Allen and Steve Nash have left Boston and Phoenix, respectively, and signed on with long-time rivals in the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. This is has left a bad taste in the mouths of fans who worshipped them, committed their hearts and paychecks to them.
The fans feel betrayed.
It's heartbreaking for fans to see a player that meant so much to their franchise, not only depart, but for a division or conference rival "because it's in their best interest." The majority of fans can't cope with or understand such a move, but they must because there is nothing they can do about it. The easy way out is to hate on that player for the rest of their career, which is what a number of Celtics and Suns fans will likely be doing.
But how would the San Francisco 49ers fan base if faced with a similar decision by a player?
Given the age and reason for the departures of Allen and Nash, the closest example on the 49ers would be running back Frank Gore. Gore is San Francisco's all-time leading rusher, but nearing the dreaded age for a tailback (30), and with plenty of new blood in the backfield, there is always the possibility that Gore's last years are not spent with the Niners.
In 2011, Gore re-signed a three-year deal with the 49ers that should see him in red and gold until 2014. But as we've seen in the NFL, contracts don't always hold up as the verbiage often contains low-penalty out-clauses. With Gore's age and medical history, the 49ers leading rusher could be shoved out before the final year of his contract.
So, hypothetically, would fans revolt and turn their backs on Gore?
What if he signed with the Seahawks, Cowboys or Giants -- could you hate on Gore?
Jerry Rice leaving for Oakland, or more recently, Julian Peterson leaving for Seattle are examples of 49ers that left for rivals (no one really misses Michael Robinson or Kentwan Balmer). For 5 seasons, Peterson was one of the 49ers' better defenders on a struggling team. He left for Seattle after the 2005 season and in his first year with them Peterson registered double-digit sacks for the first time in his pro career.
I was more frustrated with Peterson because of his potential, and the fact that San Francisco couldn't afford to lose him at the time. When Rice left, he seemed to be more at odds with the franchise as they were looking to go in a new direction. I personally never had any sour feelings toward Rice as he wanted to continue his playing career; it just simply couldn't continue in San Francisco.
So, of course the franchise's approach matters, but more often than not, the departing player becomes the target for fan's aggression.
Getting back to Gore, he has been the model football player for the 49ers - humble and productive. He never made a stink when San Francisco suffered through their losing seasons, and was the only bright spot in the Niners offense. Now that San Francisco is back on top, it'd be nice to reward him with a Super Bowl ring.
It would be impossible for me to have a negative feelings toward Frank Gore, and not just because I am a Canes fan. When you see how easy and how frequent players conduct themselves inappropriately, either by publically venting about their team or finding themselves in some legal trouble, you have to respect the career Gore has made for himself.
Gore, like Allen and Nash, has given his all to the organization that believed him but eventually there comes that next chapter in a player's life. It's like a bad breakup -- sure, it stings, but its reality and we move on. It would pain me to see 49ers fan turn their back on Gore the way Boston and Phoenix fans have with Allen and Nash.
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