We take our football seriously here in northern California. How seriously? Well, when Enterprise High School varsity football players forced the junior varsity players to strip and run naked across the field earlier this year, hardly anyone batted an eye. Coach chalked it up to “knucklehead behavior.”
Just win, baby.
That was the late Al Davis’ motto for his team, the Oakland Raiders, and win baby they did, racking up Super Bowl titles in 1976, 1980 and 1983.
Across the bay, the San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl titles in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994. I lived in the city for those first four titles, delivered by the amazing arm of quarterback Joe Montana, and it’s safe to say I still bleed red-and-gold.
But here’s the deal: I’m sick and tired of all the losing.
I’m sure fellow 49er fans who’ve watched the team’s decline during the past two years share my pain. Such a fall from the promise of 2012, when coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick nearly knocked off the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII and were predicted to return the following year to collect their record sixth title.
Harbaugh is gone now, and what once seemed like a match made in heaven has become the season from hell. Kaepernick, who once ran wild through opponents’ secondaries, is struggling with defenses that have learned how to contain his scrambling, forcing him to throw from the pocket. It’s been sickening to watch him get sacked play after play. The Niners are 2-5 heading into Sunday’s battle with the 3-3 St. Louis Rams, who are favored to win by 7.5 points.
I know what some of you are thinking. R.V., you’re a smart guy. Surely you have better things to obsess about than football (not to mention watching it 15 hours every week). I don’t, which is why I’m so upset about all of this. I’m no fair weather fan, and breaking up with the San Francisco 49ers isn’t something I take lightly.
There are certain rules of fandom that must be taken into consideration before switching teams. Number one is geographical location. Since I live in northern California, the next obvious choice is the Oakland Raiders.
But here’s the deal with that. Before Al Davis died, he ran the Raiders into the ground. The 21st century has been a circus parade of inept coaches and oversold quarterbacks, all of whom have failed to return the Raiders to the glory days of yesteryear. Just lose, baby. I’ve never understood how so many northern Californians still bleed silver-and-black.
The latest QB savior is Derek Carr and he looks promising. Still the team is only 3-3 heading into Sunday’s showdown with the 4-2 New York Jets.
I went to high school in Washington state, so technically I could root for the Seattle Seahawks. Except that I hate, hate, hate the Seahawks for beating the 49ers in the playoffs the past two seasons. I hate the Seahawks more than I hate Tom Brady and the New England Patriots—in fact, I now like the Patriots since they beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl last season.
That brings us to Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s true, Wisconsin is a long way from northern California, and no one knows that better than Rodgers, born and raised in Chico and a star Butte Community College and U.C. Berkeley. Under the admittedly elastic rules of fandom, it’s totally permissible for northern California football fans to root for Rodgers and the Packers. You can even wear one of those cheddar wedges on your head.
The 6-0 Packers meet Peyton Manning’s 6-0 Denver Broncos in a primetime battle of unbeaten teams on this week’s Sunday Night Football.
Before I started writing this, I thought I was ready to give up on the 49ers. Each defeat has been more humiliating than the last, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll make the playoffs. But I have stuck by them through the dismal decades since Steve Young and the last Super Bowl championship. One doesn’t simply change their blood from red-and-gold to forest green-and-cheese, unless maybe you’re Keith Richards.
So here’s what I’m gonna do, San Francisco 49ers. I’m gonna give you one more weekend to get your game together. If you win, I’ll run across the football field naked.
If you lose, I’m going with Rodgers.