The 49ers are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. During the Super Bowl era, only two teams have won more Super Bowls than the Niners. But, it’s been a while since San Francisco has hoisted a Lombardi Trophy. Their championships came in bunches. From 1982 to 1995, your beloved 49ers won five rings. But have failed to get over the hump since.
For the younger crowd, you’ve never witnessed the 49ers win it all. Everything you know is history. So, with that in mind, our question of the day is would you root for the Niners if you knew they’d never win a Super Bowl again?
Think about it; you know how the story ends. They’d get close, perhaps even closer than in 2019, but still come up short. You’re rooting for inevitable heartbreak. Would that stop you? Here’s what our staff has to say.
Rob: Hell no
As maybe the only Niners Nation writer old enough to remember the 49ers’ last Super Bowl title, I can tell you from experience how incredible it was. Despite the fact that I was nine years old when the Niners beat the Chargers to win Super Bowl XXIX, I’ll never forget that feeling. But, truth be told, I remember the NFC Championship Game that year a lot more than the Super Bowl.
In each of the two previous seasons, the 49ers had lost to the Cowboys in the NFC title game. By the time 1994 came around, the entire regular season was simply an annoyance that had to be dealt with before another 49er/Cowboys NFC Championship Game. When Steve Young hit Jerry Rice for a deep touchdown right before halftime, I knew this game wasn’t going to end the way they did in 1992 and 1993. After the clock finally hit zero and Steve Young was doing his victory lap around Candlestick Park, I was running around my house screaming right along with him.
In fact, looking back at my time as a fan, the games that stick out in my mind the most aren’t Super Bowls. The ‘94 NFC title game. The Catch II against the Packers in the 1998 Wild Card. The 24-point comeback against the Giants in 2002 and the 2011 Divisional game against the Saints.
Sure, most of those seasons didn’t end with championships, but if that’s the only thing that makes watching sports worth it for you, you’re going to be unhappy most of the time. Tom Brady and the Patriots were the most successful football dynasty of all time, and they still failed to win a Super Bowl 13 times in 19 years.
It’s not always easy, and god knows the Super Bowl losses will stick with me forever, but you’ve got to appreciate both the journey and the destination to make watching sports worth your time.
Yinon: What other choice do I have?
The sight of those red and gold jerseys on a Sunday morning triggers something in me. It’s irrational and emotional and something that Jed York is very happy about because the 49ers give me a sense of stability in my life that I wish a corporate entity didn’t give me. But they got me good, and I can’t deny it. I can’t imagine rooting for any other football team, especially if they’re in the Super Bowl.
Now, I'd likely tune in a lot less in this scenario where I have the foretold knowledge of their futility. I’d probably pick up some favorite players, as I love the game of football too much. But there won’t be another team I’ll actually care about, a team that could dictate my emotions for the rest of the week (outside of gambling).
Maybe I’ll learn to embrace the misery if anything. Switch up my mindset from “Super Bowl or bust” to “I just hope the guys have fun and learn about themselves.”
Humans are adaptable. Irrational, yes, frustrating, absolutely, but certainly adaptable. I can adapt.
While I ended up spoiled early in my life by the SF Giants, Golden State Warriors, and 49ers' eventual success, my early years of fandom (2004-2008) were defined by below-average mediocrity. Sure, I wanted the 49ers to win a Super Bowl, but when you think the best quarterback on your favorite team's roster is Ken Dorsey or Shaun Hill, that’s not really a make-or-break proposition.
In some ways, I think it would be easier being a fan if I truly knew the 49ers had no chance of winning the Super Bowl. The stakes would be gone. Losses wouldn’t hurt as much, and I could focus on enjoying my favorite players on the team. Sure the wins would probably be less thrilling, but I would happily trade that for more even-keeled Sundays.
The problem would be I don’t think I ever would completely believe. There’d still be a part of me thinking that whatever curse I had accepted could be undone in a great twist of football magic. And then, like that, I’d be right back where I am today.
Xavier Dixon: Sure
In the last ten years and beyond, the 49ers had highs, lows, and downright unacceptable rosters. San Francisco has built me to withstand anything this franchise can throw at me. At first, I had Rob’s reaction, but I settled into Marc’s mindset. I would have less to stress about if the stakes were gone and expectations would be nonexistent.
However, Jim Harbaugh and Kyle Shanahan were so close to winning a Super Bowl that it's hard to brush off the idea of never winning one. Especially with the recent success of two NFC championship games in three years. So let’s hope Shanahan can get the job done soon because the pressure is there.
Jordan Elliott - Yes
I am a San Jose Sharks fan and a California Golden Bears fan, so I already have plenty of experience rooting for teams that I know are never going to win anything. My greatest pride as a sports fan stems from the unbridled loyalty I have for the teams I support, even if it could be described as loyalty to a fault.
Would it suck knowing the 49ers would never win the big game? Sure, but it would suck even more to jump ship and feel like I cheated my way to super bowl glory by bandwagoning another team. Also, I would add there is a bit of poetic bliss in knowing that you’ll never be let down on the biggest stage.
This is the kind of existential, hypothetical question that could keep me flipping-flopping back and forth for weeks, months or the rest of my life. Obviously, my immediate answer is yes. I love this team, my father loves this team, my family loves this team, and my friends love this team. How could I turn my back on all that? When I reminisce on my time as a Niners fan, memories running the gamut from pure joy to sheer exhilaration to utter heartbreak race by my mind’s eye in an instant. Could I possibly give that up?
However, knowing a team will never win the big one once you get into the territory of knowing it complicates things. First, there’s just the fatalism inherent in this knowledge. Investing myself in every game, quarter, and snap would always bring the dark cloud of Sisyphean hopelessness. The beauty of sports is never knowing what’s going to happen, and sure on a play-by-play basis, I wouldn’t, but slowly over time, wouldn’t the growing dread of the eventual loss drive me insane? Each deep playoff run would be soured. There’s no room to imagine what winning it all might look or feel or be like between games. Only the gnawing certainty that whatever special team-of-destiny chemistry that the current group has will eventually be extinguished.
Mmkay, so that’s a pretty depressing paragraph up there, but, frankly, this is a really depressing idea. Especially when you consider the time and effort you invest getting to know and rooting for these players and coaches. The idea they’d never achieve the ultimate goal sucks, but I already have invested so much. I couldn’t possibly turn my back on them. I’d absolutely have to remain a fan while every current-day player remains on the team. It’s impossible NOT to cheer for guys like George Kittle, Fred Warner, Deebo Samuel, Kyle Jusczycyk, and so on, etc. Thus, I’d have to stick around for their careers, at least.
The real question is, how long would they want to stick around? How long would Kyle Shanahan or John Lynch? I mean, clearly, there’s some sort of horrible curse on the franchise to never win a championship again. That’s gotta hurt when it comes to holding onto premium talent or recruiting premium free agents. Do the Niners lead the league in trade requests?
Furthermore, and this is really the most important part, what do I get out of this deal? To have this foresight into football’s future, I must have agreed to some kind of Faustian Bargain with a genie or a soothsayer who could offer me something in return, right? Not exactly sure what my price would be, but it’s high. A magic piece of memorabilia that morphs into a different authenticated poster signed by whichever player I’m most excited about that day? The physical attributes necessary to make a late in life run at making the PGA Tour? Free Niners’ season tickets? It better be something good for how I’m torturing myself, is all I’m saying.
Anyways, my answer is maybe.