While most San Francisco 49ers fans are still devastated by the loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship, incredibly, I was over it the day after. Don't get me wrong, that night I was in disbelief at what might have been. If only a call had gone our way. If only a fumble had not occurred. We were so very close to fighting for one more Lombardi trophy to add to the collection. However, the next morning, I was fine. I accepted the fact that we would not be playing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. I accepted the fact that the 49ers' season was over. Life went on.
So what made this devastating loss so much easier for me to accept? For the answer, we must go back five months. The 49ers had just been blown out for the second time in their first three preseason games. Their lone victory was against the Oakland Raiders, so naturally that did not mean much. I knew it was just preseason, but the team looked lost and headed for disaster.
The 49ers, unlike most other NFL teams, had a new coaching staff that was trying to install a new system after a very abbreviated offseason shortened by a lock-out. Obviously teams with established systems were going to have the advantage come September. To make matters worse, the coaching staff had inherited a 6 win team. Sure there were a few new faces on the team. There was a new kicker replacing Joe Nedney, a new corner replacing Nate Clements -- but this was still pretty much the same team talent-wise, right? Six wins in 2011 seemed optimistic at that point. Just look at their first 6 games. I was hoping they would win at least one of them!
As had become the norm over the years, my hopes were high but my expectations were low. Perhaps this was a defense mechanism after so many years of losing.
I realize that much of this new generation of Niner fans are pretty young. Many of them don't remember the years of consistent playoff appearances. For them, being in the playoffs is a new experience and they wanted it to continue. After all, this was a special team. I on the other hand, do remember the winning years. Let's go back a bit further in time. I remember how the 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons ended. The first three were at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, each year destroying my Super Bowl hopes. The last, after finally beating the Packers, running back Garrison Hearst breaks his ankle on the first play from scrimmage against the Falcons in the Divisional Playoffs. That team most likely would have won it all. Those losses were more heart breaking. Those losses were more devastating. Why? Because back then, each season you expected the Super Bowl. The 49ers had a "Super Bowl or bust" mentality.
Then there was the 1999 season, the 49ers first losing season in 17 years. In fact, the last time the 49ers had a losing season prior to 1999, I was four years old. So I only remembered winning. I was in shock that the 49ers would not be in the playoffs. I mean, wasn't a spot reserved for them regardless? They were the San Francisco 49ers after all. The playoffs was where they belong. How could there even be a postseason without them?
Fast forward to last weekend. It was the Giants going on to the Super Bowl and not the 49ers. And after a day or so, I was ok with that. After all, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that this team would win 13 games and make it to the NFC Championship game. Despite the flaws on this team (the wide receiver position immediately come to mind), they had done the unthinkable. No one even imagined that they would win the NFC West, yet here they were just one step from the Super Bowl.
The 49ers lost the game in dramatic fashion, but came so very close. I was so proud of this team. They were the underdogs all year and they thrived on it. They fought harder than any team I could remember. Players that some fans ridiculed were all of a sudden heroes. It was a team of example. It was a team with a great story. This young 49ers team believed in themselves and the fans followed. This was just the beginning. This was just the start of something very special. So where there should have been disappointment, there was only excitement for the future. The San Francisco 49ers of old were back.
Just Imagine what Harbaugh will do with a full offseason.
For those so called 49ers fans that felt the need to send Kyle Williams hateful and threatening messages via Twitter, check out this 7-year old's message to Williams
and realize that a child has more maturity than you.
By: Lucky Phil
Date: March 10, 2012 at 9:56 AM
Comment: Bye Bye Alex Smith. Unless you sign that contract with the Niners before tues. The Niners are going to sign Josh Johnson. You better jump on that three yr. contract quick. Because their is not a hell of lot of difference between you, J Johnson and C Kaepernick. You are not going to get M. Sanchez money and Baalke sure as hell isn't going to give it to you with J. Johnson out there.
Date: February 20, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Comment: Sorry -- but who cares? You were probably one of thousands who also didn't suffer prolonged disappointment. My disappointment was revealed in the 1st half when VD streaked down the sideline for a 75 yd td and acted like an idiot. I knew we were going to lose the game after that play. I slept like a baby that night and the rest is history. It's been three weeks already too, someone take down this article :)
Date: February 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Comment: The points you make about being uncertain of this team's direction coming out of the lockout just goes on to make the disappointment even greater. To lose on 2 Kyle Williams fumbles was a way that an Erickson, Nolan, or Singletary led team would've lost. As a season ticket holder Kyle Williams broke every 49er fans heart and is a disgrace to a franchise filled with some of the most "clutch" plays in the history of the NFL. Kyle Williams will forever be an eyesore to the 49er franchise and single-handedly ruined the 2011-12 season. This team was more than capable of winning close games and was leading another one in the 4th quarter until Kyle Williams chokes like he always had before. Yes the 49ers are back but Kyle Williams fumbled #6 away
Date: February 6, 2012 at 4:04 PM
Comment: The whole Bay area has become to accepting of losing sports organizations. Why? Just because we have a great lifestyle, excellent weather and all Green Bay has going for it is football, that's why we just accept losing every years. Bah humbug. I love Harbaugh and he made some dumb decisions this year but Kyle Williams be turned loose again after those mistakes should have cost Harbaugh the coaching award.
Date: February 6, 2012 at 8:58 AM
Comment: You have got to be joking. I have had Niner season tickets for 50 years so I can accept a lot. However Williams called for a fair catch with no one with in 20 yards of him, he fumbled a ball that he recovered himself, he ran near a ball that he hit with his knee and should have been no where close to it. Then there was the fumble. Niners would have lived in infamy and been know as the team who turned around and one a supper bowl with a first year NFL coach.
Date: February 2, 2012 at 3:12 PM
Comment: I was extremely disappointed straight after the game but after reflection what a great year. Even the most loyalist fan would never of dreamed of going go the playoffs. If anyone would of said that we were an overtime loss away from a super bowl I would of said you are a Cleveland browns fan on crack.
This team overcame a short off-season, a new coach and thousands of doubting fans to give us an amazing thrill ride which no rollercoaster can replicate.
I am so pumped for next year knowing this team is still young and building. The magic is starting to return to a franchise that is proud and will take nothing but perfection to be satisfied. So enjoy the ride my loyal 49ers fans the ride has just begun
Date: February 1, 2012 at 4:14 PM
Comment: Although I respect this article, I find this loss tough to swallow. Here's why: 1st, the Giants got 5 mulligans (2 Kyle Williams plays, 2 interceptions we knocked ourselves out of, and of course the fast whistle on Bradshaw) 2nd, Is Justin Smith going to have a year like that again? Is the whole defense going to have a year like that again? Last "THIS" Years team was good enough to win it all and 9 months is a long time away
Date: February 1, 2012 at 10:22 AM
Comment: It's a very pleasant surprise to find these positive sentiments in the above column and comments that followed. I actually found myself emailing Peter King the day after the game to express my disappointment in the fans who had to resort to sending messages of hate to a rookie wide receiver. It's almost embarrassing to realize there are 49er "fans" with less dignity than the dirt off the bottom of Kyle William's cleats. What has Harbaugh preached all year? "The team." I'm glad the 49er organization has reacted to the season and the loss how it should have, with plenty of class. Here's to a phenomenal season and a seven year old fan who's got more wisdom than many bay area natives ever will.
Date: January 30, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Comment: I wish I could say this lose didn't sting. The season was a surprise and it was a great ride but to lose like that hurts bad. On one hand I have faith in Harbaugh but on the other it is hard to host the NFC championship game 2 years in a row. Hopefully this makes a hungry team even hungrier. I can't stand watching Eli and the Giants. You hear lots of talk about Eli not turning the ball over but twice 49er DB's ran into each other on would be picks (the price to pay for guys who can get to the ball). My expectations were exceeded in 2011. If that happens again in 2012 we will be Superbowl champs.
By: Tim McGarry
Date: January 30, 2012 at 8:08 PM
Comment: I felt exactly like you did...and it took exactly one day. I was a kid when YA Tittle quarterbacked for the niners and my dad had season tickets, so it's real easy for me to put things in perspective. A comforting thought: The niners have an overall losing record in NFC championship games, but are 5-0 in Superbowls. The Patriots and Giants will never be able say that, as they have both lost at least one super bowl. Tim McGarry
Date: January 30, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Comment: NICE ARTICLE!
I TOO GOT OVER THE LOSS QUICKLY, YES I WAS UPSET AND HEART BROKEN;BUT I GOT OVER THE INITIAL SHOCK. THE NINERS WERE NEVER EXPECTED TO GO THIS FAR,NO ONE EXPECTED ALEX SMITH TO TAKE THEM THIS FAR.THE SCARY PART-THEY CAN ONLY GET BETTER. I'M PROUD OF THE SEASON, AND PROUD OF MY NINERS.
Date: January 30, 2012 at 8:58 AM
Comment: I feel the same way, David. I've been a Niner diehard since '57...when the likes of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, R.C. "Alley Oop" Owens, Joe "The Jet" Perry, et al were our stars. Fast-forward to this season...after a long drought, the Niners were back, in fantastic fashion. I knew Harbaugh would have a positive impact on the team...but I didn't expect it this soon. He'll no doubt be NFL Coach of the year. Next season's schedule is very tough...but the thing Niner fans have to realize is, this off-season will enable Coach and his sterling staff to fully implement the entire offense and defense. Opponents will be surprised by a lot of it...because they simply haven't seen it before. The key will be to retain as many of their FA's as possible...because we'll need them all to get to the playoffs next year. I'm very optimistic about next season...for sure, we won't sneak up on anyone, but with a shored up receiving corps, there's absolutely no reason we can't make it to the Super Bowl next year. For real.
By: Patrick, Orlando
Date: January 30, 2012 at 7:15 AM
Comment: I started cheering for the 49ers in 1970. My dad took my brother and me to games the last time they played in Kezar Stadium. Early 70's were fun and frustrating, the rest of the decade was forgettable. I have ALWAYS been a 49er faithful, but have learned to put sports in perspective. This was an amazing season that certainly ended in disappointment. But it also provided some great life lessons... beginning with "what a difference a great coach makes!" Enjoy the off-season. We have a lot to look forward to in 2012. Go 49ers!
By: Scott, Idaho
Date: January 29, 2012 at 8:01 PM
Comment: It still stings, but I couldn't agree more.
Date: January 29, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Comment: On one hand, we had an amazing season that kept building and building. Harbaugh took a team that underachieved in every game and outcoached the other teams into an amazing turnaround. We beat the Saints at home and we had the Giants at home. Everything was going according to plan. We were leading the Giants 14 to 10 and Eli couldn't move the Giants past the 40 yard line. Then Kyle Williams blunders the first rule of punt returner, if you aren't catching it, GET OUT OF THE WAY, and we know what happens. And later on we finally get the turnover that we usually get during the game and the ref calls it "forward progress." To be that close to the Superbowl and not get into is maddening. I saw the Roger Craig fumble to cost us the three-peat. To say the season is a loss because we didn't get to the Superbowl is out of their minds but to be that close, is frustrating because you never know when you are going to be there again. It's called missed opportunities. The giants didn't beat us, we lost the game. I'm sure that the Niners will have a great offseason, but so will all of the other teams. But I'm sure the players are stoked they don't have to learn a new system.
Date: January 28, 2012 at 9:13 PM
Comment: Thanks David, I go back to the 57 loss to the Lions and Tobin Rote that cost us our first Championship game appearance. This one has been tough to get over because it seemed like destiny. So few times in sports does that happen and to have the game and give it away still hurts.
Date: January 28, 2012 at 2:06 PM
Comment: It's funny how 49er fans who remember the glory days share this positive attitude, and younger fans who have lived through the last 10 years of misery believe this was our only shot and thus can't get over it. A bit ironic.
Date: January 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Comment: Great points. It's unfortunate that we didn't get that storybook finish we were all hoping for, but you can't knock a 13-3 season. We have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming draft and another building season under coach Harbaugh. As the new 'IT' team on the block, you will read and see more of our Niners than you have since Steve and Jerry ran the show. Go Niners!
By: robert long
Date: January 28, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Comment: Right on !
Date: January 28, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Comment: I feel as if the season was a success and far beyond anyone's expectations. But it is so difficult to get to the Superbowl and a team's chances are few and far between. Look at the 80s and 90s teams, as great as they missed many oppurtunities (vs. Washington for one). Hope the 49ers get to another NFC championship game soon. I think it will be hard for the fans to wait too long-their expectations have been raised exponentially.
Date: January 28, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Comment: Your feelings echo mine. Anyone who votes against Harbaugh (and his staff) for coach of the year should be permanently removed from voting in the future. Some sharp sports writer should write a book about this season, and it would be an instant best seller. Last July I would not have permitted myself to even dream about a season like this one.