Football fandom in Los Angeles is very dysfunctional.

It’s getting hard at this point to remember having an NFL team here. The Raiders and Rams left around the same time: ’95. As such, it’s very random what flavor of NFL fandom you’ll encounter. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve talked to Los Angeles-dwelling fans of 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Chargers, Packers, Seahawks, Broncos, Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins, Patriots, Steelers, and Texans.

We’re all over the map. Seriously.

Back when it came time to choose sides, my brother and several classmates were all about the Rams, and of course I had to be different. The year I chose to start rooting for the 49ers, they won their first Superbowl.

Recently, I was told by a 49ers superfan that I am good luck, after relating that story and then talking to him in the parking lot of Candlestick Park after the 49ers win over Green Bay this past Saturday. Oh, did I mention I was THERE FOR THAT GAME?

The Game

As I mentioned in the past, I’m a long-time 49ers fan. I actually got to GO to an NFL playoff game this year. I flew up to SF for Saturday evening’s Packers at 49ers for the Divisional playoff round. I have never attended an NFL game in my life, but i’ve been a 49ers fan since second grade. In a very interesting set of circumstances, I came up on a ticket to the game. A really good ticket. Here’s a shot from my seat.

I got to go with a work acquaintance, and he turned out to be super nerdy just like me, and a pretty hard core 49ers fan, just like me. He had some friends that were even more hardcore 49er fans, and we rode in with them and tailgated.

When the 49ers came out of the tunnel at the start of the game, Gore ran all the way down the field to the corner we were in and yelled at us, getting us pumped up. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to him. He couldn’t have been 25 feet from me.

Kaepernick‘s first rushing touchdown was right into our corner as well. We had a perfect view of the play breaking down and Kaep’s sudden surge toward the end zone. It was almost as if Green Bay accidentally let him out the front of the pocket in their effort to contain his rollout.

It should be noted that no quarterback has ever rushed for more yards in any NFL game. Kaepernick did it in his very first playoff appearance. I was never in doubt once I saw him perform on that Monday Night Football game vs. Chicago. This dude went out and HANDLED one of the NFL’s top-ranked defenses this year. On Monday Night. His first start ever in the NFL.

I got very, very lucky for this to be my first NFL game ever. I basically got everything I could have wanted from a football game:

  • the emotional rollercoaster that ends on a solid up-note
  • win or season is over stakes
  • amazingly tough and respected opponent
  • new exciting key player, untried on the playoff stage
  • super-costly early mistake was overcome by a record-setting performance
  • every single big weapon on both sides of the ball made key contributions

The crowd got really quiet after that first pick-6, but Green Bay gave it back on that muffed punt and Kaep seemed to be unaffected by his early mistake, playing through it like a champ, connecting on key passes with just about EVERYONE and setting a record for an NFL rushing performance by a QB. I’m positively buoyant after that win at home, and only moderately bummed we don’t get a Seahawks rematch.

More Thoughts

It’s very fun to be a 49ers fan in the new Harbaugh era.

I know that there is some evidence to suggest that changing coaches has little effect on player stats, but as a sports fan I’ve witnessed lots of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it doesn’t actually affect the numbers, but it certainly changes the championship success picture.

If you’ll hang with me while I talk basketball briefly, consider the late 90’s Lakers. Superstar team, but couldn’t get it done under Del Harris. Phil Jackson comes in for ONE YEAR, with almost zero personnel changes (Ron Harper iirc), and bam. Championships. Consider the 80’s/90’s Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. Almost an identical situation. They have a superstar team, can’t get it done. Phil Jackson comes in, couple years later BAM, several championships.

Getting more relevant, what about the hire of Bill Walsh by the 49ers in 1979, leading to the drafting of Joe Montana. The 49ers were terrible then too (2 wins the season before Walsh arrived). He didn’t win right away (in fact got only 2 wins his first season), but only 2 years after the 2-win season the 49ers beat the Cincinatti Bengals in Superbowl XVI. Walsh went on to win 2 more superbowls in the 80’s with the 49ers.

The 49ers had been struggling, by my book, since the mid-90’s. The defense had been OK, even decent at times, but the offense had been miserable most of the time. I was super-excited the year Singletary was hired, and somewhat disappointed at the mediocre 8-8 record in the 2009 season (Singletery’s first full season as head coach of the 49ers). I guess it was better than the previous 7-9, which was better than the previous 5-11, something I had a hard time noticing when sad about my team.

Last year I made my feelings pretty clear in a pair of blog posts that bracketed the NFC Conference Final game between the 49ers and the Giants.

This year is quite a bit different.

My beloved 49ers are now one win from the Superbowl, just like last year. Our offense has gotten significantly better than last year, and our defense is still tough, physical, and scary.