I am a 49er Faithful. But it did not start out this way.
I remember being 8 years old. It was 1982. I remember my dad watching something called football on television. It was the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and Cowboys. It was the game that featured "The Catch". Dad was screaming and yelling at the TV. But not in an angering manner. He was excited. I did not understand how something on TV could cause such an emotional roller coaster. This began my exposure to football. As with any 8 year old, I was very impressional...and indecisive. I decided I wanted to be like dad and watch football too. But I wanted to blaze my own trail. I was feeling rebellious and actually chose to follow the "other" local team...the Oakland Raiders. Dad was not happy when I secured a Raider sticker and stuck it on the family van. However, being the good father he always was, he decided to bite his lip and let his kid be a kid. The sticker came off a year later at my own hands.
It didn't take long for me to change my loyaties. That same year, the Raiders decided to move to LA. As an 8 year old kid, I was crushed. I couldn't understand why the team could do something like this to the fans, or even worse...TO ME!!! (It wasn't until years later that I learned about Al Davis and the politics of the NFL). At this point, I was so mad at the Raiders for moving that I decided to follow the 49ers. Dad was happy too.
I guess I really didn't appreciate football all that much until after high school. Life between the ages of 8 and 18 can be very distracting. Although, in high school rivalries are born. The majority of the kids were following the 49ers or Raiders. There are the few that don't follow the norm. We had one die hard Bills fan, one Lions fan and a few followed the Packers or Cowboys. I remember one girl liked the Broncos because she liked horses. Whatever works, I guess. There were always good conversations about the 49ers. After all, these were the years between 1988 and 1991. There was a lot of talk about Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott. The 49ers were blessed with many great players. After high school was a different story.
The next 10 years after high school was about working and going to college. I really couldn't get my act together until 1997. But one thing I did start doing after high school watch watching football on a regular basis. It was like a flip of the switch. It was a night and day difference. Every Sunday was spent watching football from start to finish. I would try to watch as many Niner games as I could with Dad. Other games were watched with friends or by myself. I don't know what intrigued me the most...the scoring, the physicality, the schemes, the players. Maybe it was all of them. I mean the the 49ers had it all. We had a high scoring offense with players like Montana and Rice. Bill Walsh's West Coast offense was the talk of the NFL and we had a fearless hitter in Lott (Mr "Woooo" hit). I like to drink beer too. When I turned 21, I would spend the next 3 years of my life at the local pub (Brewpub on the Green/Fremont Brewing Company) for every Monday night football game. These 3 years were the most educational in football for me. I watched so much football that I could name starting rosters and most backups. I knew who the head coach, offensive/defensive coordinators were for each team. I learned schemes such as the West Coast offense, Run and Shoot, 4-3, 3-4, 4-6 just to name a few. I learned the various formations, everything from an I-formation to spread. I learned to read defenses, safeties cheating up into the box, zone blitzes, etc. These were pluses that would eventually pay off in fantasy football. In short, Monday Night Football was very valuable to me.
All of this just made me appreciate the 49ers even more, AND we were winning. Eddie DeBartolo (team owner at the time) always found a way to make the team competitive. The 49ers were winning a lot of games and were a playoff, if not a Super Bowl, contender every year. We were fortunate to have very little dropoff from Joe Montana to Steve Young. We had 5 Championships between 1981 and 1998.
It's easy to call yourself a fan when your team is winning all the time. The true test of being a fan is how well you handle your team losing season after season. I had been spoiled with 17 winning seasons. After that, winning became a little more sporadic. I handled it pretty well after the retirement of Steve Young. Jeff Garcia came in, had a couple of losing seasons and then (with the help of T.O and a solid Mariucci running game) brought the team back to the playoffs. Then 2003 came and losing became a lot more common. I struggled with the Terry Donahue era. What DeBartolo helped build in the 80's and 90's was ripped apart in 2 years under Donahue and new team owners, the Yorks. I see the hiring of Nolan in 2005 has the team heading in the right direction but the 49ers are still a below average team. Through all of this, I still manage to catch every game, win or lose.
I've come to the realization that even the losing cannot take away the greatness that the team has already brought us. Therefore, I am prepared to accept the losing to any capacity and to the day I die. I would hope that the 49ers can once again rise to the top. But it is not the most important thing to me. What is important is that every Sunday between the months of August and December (and sometimes through January) for the rest of my life, I have a team that I can call my favorite.
I am a 49er Faithful.