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Well played, you diabolical Football Fates. Well played, indeed.
You think this is hilarious, don't you? Of course you do. What an ingenious little plan. You spend the preseason setting us up to think that we're due for a "regression to the mean"—that the Super Bowl chance we'd botched last year would be the best chance we'd see for a while. But then you decide, why not raise their hopes a bit? Won't that make crushing them all the more fun?
So you start us off with two solid wins, against two of last year's playoff teams. All of a sudden, we're ranked #1. But then you send us to Minnesota, where we come out flat and get steamrolled. Worst loss of the Harbaugh era, all the pundits say as one. And the doubt creeps in: maybe we're really not that good.
But that wasn't enough for you, was it? No. So you give unto us the Jets and the Bills, whom we crush by the score of 79 to 3. You even throw in the first (and last) ever double-300, just for good measure. (Nice touch, by the way.) So once again the hopes go up, just in time for revenge on the Giants. But you couldn't have that, now, could you? So the Giants deliver a new worst-loss-of-the-Harbaugh-era. And the doubt returns, a bit louder this time.
And then you decide to get a little creative. After two more wins, where we give up nothing but three field-goals, you decide to take out our quarterback. Ah, but little do you know: though most teams can't go 10 minutes without their QB, for us you merely open the door for a better QB. But if nothing else, you've proven that you can adjust on the fly. Okay, so the QB change didn't have quite the effect you desired? No problem, you say. You'll just screw with a different guy.
How about this David Akers? Yeah, that'll do.
So against the Rams, you let our new QB drive us into position for a winning field-goal, and we send out Akers, who last year set every record there is. But now, thanks to you, the guy can't hit the broad side of a barn. He misses, and we end up with a tie. (It isn't a loss, but as you know, it might as well be.)
And back to raising hopes you go. With the new QB starting, we notch two of our most impressive wins. We crush the Bears, then go on the road and silence the Saints. (Though not without a heavy price: again, nice touch, taking out two of our guys on one play.) So once again we're on a roll; time to take some revenge on the Rams. Or not, of course. Offensively we can't get out of our way, yet still we manage to set up Akers for yet another winning field-goal. But thanks to you, he misses again, and this time you see that we're pinned with a loss.
Yet all these wacky highs and lows, as dazzling and demoralizing as they surely were, were just a prelude to the main event. On both fronts, you were about to raise the stakes.
After allowing us a routine win over Miami, you send us off to New England, where, in December, the Patriots are simply unable to lose. Surely the WWLs will end here. But no: you let us get out to a crazy lead, and though you make us sweat it out at the end—by taking our D's MVP off the field—we end up with our greatest win yet. And once again, we're #1.
Ah, but you're not done with us, are you?
Off we go to Seattle. Sure, the initial prognosis doesn't look good. After the exhaustion of the New England game, we go to a venue that's even more daunting. The Seahawks are on an amazing roll, and their crowd is truly intimidating—not just to opponents, but also to officials. The Seahawks' strategy is simple: commit several penalties on every play, and dare the refs to enrage the crowd. It's not the most sporting, but it's quite effective, as shown by their unbeaten record at home. Add their virtual obsession with knocking us from our divisional perch, and this game would be their Super Bowl.
Oh, and once again, freezing rain.
But it's time for us to screw with you. There's so much for us to win here—not just the division but the first-round bye, more crucial than ever. And with so much at stake, do you really think that Harbaugh is gonna let Pete Carroll do his silly fist-pumping at our expense? No. It's over, Fates. The trend ends here.
And yet there you are, just shaking your heads.
We never had a chance, did we? A three-and-out, a personal foul, and a touchdown run where virtually every O-lineman is holding, and that's pretty much it. But as if to hammer home the point, you give one more twist of the knife to Akers; no longer content with his constant misses, now his misses are returned for touchdowns.
Never mind what we stood to win; none of us seemed like we wanted to be there. Our O was rattled into incompetence, and our D gave up play after play after play. The score was 42-13, and the game itself wasn't nearly that close. Yet still that wasn't enough for you: two more crucial players down, one for the season.
For the fifth time this year, WWL. And for the third time this year, the L is the worst of the Harbaugh era.
Most disturbingly, Harbaugh couldn't even attempt an explanation, instead relying on the silly platitudes that make him sound like the man he'd replaced. And our intrepid beat-writers are all too happy to accept them, before going back to their offices to wait for ESPN guys to break real news. As a result, we're left again to wonder just what's going on—to wonder just how good we are.
Then again, by now it's clear what you've got planned. You needed us to lose that bye, to set us up for one more round. Next week, we'll beat the Cardinals, as any average high-school team would. And then we'll play a first-round game, finding a way to win at home. And then you'll send us off to some frozen tundra, for what would be the perfect ending....
You really are bastards, you Football Fates, raising and dashing our hopes like this. Getting us to think we're the league's best team, just to then make us look like the worst. But we know your plan, and we won't give up.
We've still got a different ending in mind. Two wins, yes, but then three more. MMXII, the Year of WWL, will end with a W in XLVII. Somehow we will find a way.
Somehow let us find a way.