Been A While, But There They Are Again

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized
                      Here they go again, San Francisco 49ers heading for their sixth trip to the Super Bowl, scoring the winning touchdown in the final quarter to win 28-24 after at one point trailing 21-0. Sometimes it just appears to be destiny. You knew this team was good, but playing on the road against a team with a better record, you started to wonder how resilient they could be. They pulled it out, maybe not quite as dramatically as the 28-27 win over Dallas in 1982 featuring the play that every San Francisco fan, even those that weren’t born at the time, know emphatically as “The Catch,” but the defense this time held host Atlanta scoreless in the second half to allow the team to rally, stifling a late Atlanta threat in the process.
                      This is an amazing time to be a San Francsco sports fan, even for someone like myself 1000’s of miles away. When I first moved to The City in 1971, I rediscovered my interest in baseball, became a Giants fan, and both Bay Area teams made it as far as winning their divisions, but neither made it to the World Series. The 49ers and Oakland Raiders also won their divisions, and were knocked out in their respective first rounds as well. I thought this would happen every year, though it did for the Oakland A’s, as they were baseball champs for the next three years, but the Niners, Giants, and Raiders would have to wait a while.
                      At the same time, my duo act, Rick & Ruby, had started working, entertaining two nights a week at an SF club that was co-owned by two of the 49ers. Many of the team’s players came into the club, and we even befriended enough of them that we could have gotten free tickets to any game, but in spite of how nice many of the players were, we just really didn’t know or care enough about football to bother. We even once did a private party for the team on a Sunday night, but unfortunately it was the night after they’d just had their asses royally kicked by a last-place New Orleans team. Spirits weren’t too high, but spirits sure flowed!
                        This apathy toward football remained for the rest of the time I lived in San Francisco, not helped by the Niners getting worse each year, culminating in 2-14 records for both the ’78 and ’79 seasons. In 1980, they improved to 6-10, using a rookie quarterback named Joe Montana, whom even the Brits have heard of. I moved to LA in 81, and that’s when everything jelled for the team. I can’t say my departure played a part in their success, but what the hell, of course it did!   
                       They proceeded to win the Super Bowl in ’82, ’85, ’89, and ’90 with Montana, then became the first team to win five when they won in ’95 with Steve Young in charge. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six, and several other teams have won five, the Niners are still the only team to win as many as five with no defeats. Too early to predict a sixth victory, but oddsmakers did favor them in the just completed win over Atlanta, so it wouldn’t surprise if they’re favored in the Super Bowl, whether it’s New England or Baltimore. I’m writing this at 11:30 London time, so that match hasn’t started yet, and I don’t plan on staying up til 3:30 or 4 just to find out.
                       It does feel like 1971 again, but with a lot more swagger. The Giants won the World Series last October, the Oakland A’s won their division, the Niners are back in the Super Bowl, and though the Raiders missed the party, even the perennial crap basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, have so far performed way above anyone’s expectations. The rest of my time here, I celebrate most things English, even root for a Premier League soccer team (West Ham) who will be underdogs for time immemorial. But when my favorite area of the entire USA is producing championship calibre clubs in all the major sports, it’s a bit disappointing to have no one here to bask in the glory with. From across the pond, a big fat GO NINERS!   

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