Naturally, I spoke too soon.

When I wrote on the eve of training camp that all the offseason "noise" was gone, I couldn't have known that the worst was ahead. After a preseason that was drab by even preseason standards, the noise got almost deafening. Desperately seeking to make amends for fumbling the Ray Rice scandal, Roger Goodell lowered the boom on Aldon Smith, who deserved a suspension but nothing like that. And then, only hours later, Ray McDonald became the face of the league's enlightened post-Rice world. And now we lead the league in arrests, over the course of the last three years.

The last three years. Basically, Jim Harbaugh's reign.

As I've said, I don't care how "classy" the Niners are. I don't like their crimes any more than you do, but I've come to accept what fandom means. As a wise man once put it, we're cheering for laundry. We might claim to love these guys. But we don't even know them. We've got no idea how "classy" they are, whether they've been arrested or not. So we can't love them, and really, we don't. What we love, instead, is the color they wear, and the spectacular things they do while they wear it.

Hence the Faustian bargain we make. When Niners do wrong, we shake our heads, we gnash our teeth, we spew all kinds of moral outrage. But come Sunday, we cheer. Not for who they are as men. Just for who they are as Niners.

So ultimately, the Niners' "class"—or lack thereof—doesn't matter to me. But rest assured, it matters to Jed. Sure, he's publicly gone the "due process" route, but he's proven he cares about his team's image. And privately, I think he's pissed. And I think I know where he places the blame.

The report that the Niners allegedly considered trading Harbaugh to the Browns was based on alleged tension between Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke. (Allegedly.) Shortly after, a different report alleged tension between Harbaugh and some of his most significant players. As the season approached, Harbaugh and Jed agreed to table their contract talks, meaning, of course, that they'd reached an impasse. And finally, on opening day, another report alleged that Harbaugh was "losing the locker room."

Can't you read the tea leaves here?

Harbaugh's high-strungness, and thus his propensity to wear out his welcome, is hardly a secret. But three straight NFC title games would take care of that, if mere high-strungness were really the issue. Combine that tension, though, with a team that leads the league in arrests? For an image-conscious owner, that's when you start to say, enough.

Naturally, it wouldn't be smart. Despite his faults, Harbaugh's a genius, much more valuable than an image of "class." And who knows, Jed might realize this, especially if it's a Super Bowl year. But when the Niners took the field in Dallas, there was a feeling like these were the last days of Rome.

Yet if indeed this is Harbaugh's last ride, he certainly got it started off right.

No question, the absence of Smith (and NaVorro Bowman) was disturbingly noticeable; Tony Romo was generally comfy, while DeMarco Murray repeatedly sliced through the middle. When both starting corners went down early—though after a gift touchdown by the non-classy Chris Culliver—things looked rather bleak on the defensive side. But with Romo helping by being himself, the Niners at last exploited their depth, as their secondary reserves—rookies Dontae Johnson and Jimmie Ward, and the non-classy Perrish Cox—filled in beautifully. It's utterly unknowable why Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial haven't broken into the D-line rotation, but the D looks able to weather the storm.

Meanwhile, the offense shook off its preseason doldrums, with a perfectly executed pass-first scheme. The first two drives were exemplary. Starting at the 20: pass short left, pass deep middle, pass deep right—touchdown. And then, after Eric Reid took a pick to the 2, play-action pass—touchdown again. With this approach, with our dangerous two-headed third wide receiver, and with Colin Kaepernick looking like anything but a one-read QB, this offense seems ready to take flight at last.

Naturally, there are signs of trouble. Though Phil Dawson's first year was much like David Akers', his second year might be like Akers' as well. The officials' "emphasis" on throwing even more flags—especially flags that are total horseshit—will give Harbaugh weekly embolisms, while making each game a struggle to watch. And perhaps most menacingly, the Seahawks don't look like they're going away.

But the Niners look like they're here to stay too, and that's the most impressive thing. Harbaugh has been here for only three years, yet they feel like a hundred. Off the field, it's been constant drama; and on the field, each year has ended more painfully than the last. By now, Harbaugh's become an unsolvable paradox—his ultimate success seems inevitable, but it also somehow seems impossible. He's produced unforgettable exhilaration, matched only by unsustainable exasperation.

Yet he's still here, at least for now. And he won't quit. He will fight.

And so, of course, will we.

There are times when being a fan is hard. Naturally, during the dynasty years, it was easy. The lean years that followed made it tougher, of course, but those teams carried an almost joyful badness, a cartoonish buffoonery that was almost endearing.

In a way, the Harbaugh years have made it the toughest. Each season seemed to promise the Super Bowl title, with total certainty. Each presented a golden chance, which the Niners squandered at the last minute, literally. And beyond that unendurable heartbreak, the Niners now seem to be causing enough trouble, off the field, to make any fan question his Faustian bargain.

But as I've said, there's no escape. We're Niner fans, so we cheer for the Niners. And if indeed this is Harbaugh's last ride, then we will ride with him.

All the way, to the bitter end. Or, perhaps, to the glorious one.