A 49ers love story: Why San Francisco’s 2019 season will forever be special for me

Feb 3, 2020 at 6:56 AM


A Super Bowl win or loss wouldn't have changed the fact the San Francisco 49ers' 2019 season was one to remember.

Especially for me, someone who started off casually blogging about the team way back in 2011, only to find myself in a position I never thought I'd be -- someone who actually gets paid to write about this 49ers squad and someone who has the fortunate luxury of being part of the credentialed media.

It's hard to figure out where to start with this. So I'll just begin with that 2011 season, which was the very same year I met my wife, Kristy. It helped she was also a die-hard Niners fan, someone who could easily call out the numbers worn by all those 49ers greats over the years, including players many of you have long forgotten about. She'd tell me stories of her and her grandmother going to Candlestick Park way back in the day, seeing quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers end the 49ers' postseason runs seemingly year after year, only to have the Niners get their vengeance in 1999.

Kristy and I bonded over many things: our love of dogs, fondness to travel and especially our 49ers. Game days were always fun in the Panacy household. I'd be writing about the game as it happened, then for hours afterwards. Kristy would make all kinds of snacks, then cheer louder than I ever would. Afterwards, once the coaches film came out, we'd watch the all-22 game tape together.

And I'm not ashamed to say she'd point out things I missed.

More importantly, Kristy pushed me to work harder in my writing. It started with Bleacher Report, then FanSided and eventually included 49ers Webzone. The opportunities began to open up. I still remember that moment when B/R called upon me to go interview Hall of Fame greats Jerry Rice and Steve Young back in 2014. I asked if Kristy could join me -- Rice and Young were her absolute favorites, after all -- and permission was granted.

The best part of that? Young introduced himself to Kristy first, then the rest of the media team there. Even more amusing and fitting, Kristy actually ended up beating me to Levi's Stadium, getting an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the entire facility, press box, locker rooms, field and the 49ers museum.


Along the way, Kristy and I shared so many moments and memories. I surprised her with tickets to the 2013 Candlestick Park finale on Monday Night Football, when the 49ers clinched a playoff berth with the famous "Pick at the Stick." We must have watched that replay, when linebacker NaVorro Bowman intercepted Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for a pick-six touchdown, a hundred times and always saying, "we were there, we got to see it." Kristy then surprised me with tickets to the Niners' first ever game at Levi's Stadium. While it was a 2014 preseason bout against the Denver Broncos, it was still the 49ers' first game at their new venue.

I never thought that would be the only time we'd ever make it to Levi's Stadium together.

In 2017, there was talk of me getting credentialed. As Kristy's health began to fade, she still would brag and boast about how, one day, I'd be up in the press box writing about games. She'd tell everyone, friends and family, I'd be up there. She wanted it for me, and it was her dream for me, too. You can't even imagine how it felt when Kristy would talk of my path and say, "I'm so proud of him."

I didn't get any credentials that year, instead covering games and news from home like I had done for years up to that point. But there was always next year.

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 was a day that changed me forever. I remember receiving that email, the likes of which I had never received before.

The 49ers had extended press credentials to me. I was going to the Niners and Arizona Cardinals' Week 5 matchup the following Sunday, doing everything from the press box, attending the postgame press conferences and the like.

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 was also the day Kristy passed away. Instead of coming home from my day job to share the exciting news, I came home to something that shook me to the core, forever shattering my future. The tragedy of death, especially for a spouse so young, will haunt me for the rest of my days. The gut punch that was and is will remain forever. There are no words adequate enough to describe the pain, agony, heartbreak and sorrow.

I wasn't going to go to the game that Sunday. How could I? It was hard enough to walk, let alone drive and do my work. I spent that night at Kristy's parents' house nearby, not wanting to be left alone and still suffering from the shock of it all. Kristy's mom, also an ardent supporter of my sports writing, comforted me in ways few could. But when I told her I simply couldn't go to Levi's Stadium that weekend, she challenged me to do it.

"What do you think Kristy would say if you turned it down?," Kristy's mom asked me while also somehow dealing with the grief of losing her daughter.

Kristy would be pissed at me. I knew that. Even in death, Kristy was still urging me on to do something I didn't think, mentally or physically, I could do.

"This was Kristy's dream for you, Pete," Kristy's mom continued.

It was, she was right and I knew it. And thanks to the best man at our wedding, Jeremy, who flew in from Colorado to spend time with me after Kristy's death, I didn't have to drive that Sunday to Levi's Stadium. But I went. It was the hardest, best thing I ever did.


San Francisco lost that game. And the team finished the season 4-12. But that didn't matter. The rest of 2018 was a complete blur. Being in the press box at remaining 49ers games didn't feel real, just like Kristy's passing didn't feel real. None of it did. It was all just a dream, one from which I'd never wake up.

The 49ers' 2019 campaign was different. That year was different for me, too. I had found some footing and managed to cope a bit more, thanks largely to the efforts of people like Kristy's mom, my friend Jeremy, 49ers Webzone's David Bonilla and a large number of Niners writers and bloggers, who supported me in ways I can't begin to describe or give thanks in return.

And the Niners started winning again. Winning big. A 4-0 record, then 5-0, demolishing the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. 7-0, 9-1, 10-1 after throttling the Packers on Sunday Night Football. There was the playoff clincher, albeit a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, then the two dominant postseason games against the Minnesota Vikings and Packers.

I was there.

In many ways, Kristy was right there with me, too. Every time I walked into the press box at Levi's Stadium, I'd quietly say hi to her under my breath. Every time I went into the 49ers locker room, I'd joke to myself how she had been there first. But I'd always think to myself, "I hope she's proud of me." Then, when I'd be back at my work station in the press box long after all the fans had departed, I'd look out over a lighted and completely empty Levi's Stadium and think of my wife again.

I miss her dearly.

Sure, it would have been a Cinderella story if the 49ers had won Super Bowl LIV, capping off a season in which Kristy would have been ecstatic. All of us would have felt the same way. But like many things in life, the ending isn't always perfect. Instead, you look back at all the memories along the way, cherishing what was instead of what could have been. Like my marriage, the Niners' 2019 season ended in heartbreak. Although there are far too many good memories and moments to cloud the bad ones. Maybe that's the lesson.

It's a lesson I think most of us could appreciate. Cherish those moments and memories you create, whether they be in life, at Levi's Stadium, home watching the games with loved ones or whatever. You never know how many more moments you'll get.

For me, the 2019 49ers carried me through some dark times. They gave me something to look forward to, to celebrate and cherish, all the while knowing Kristy wanted me here, doing this. I'm living her dream for me.

Live yours.

I love and miss you, Kristy. Go Niners!
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


4 Comments

  • Bill
    What a beautiful lady, Peter. I had no idea you were silently struggling. I am very sorry. Makes my problems seem minimal. When my wife left in 2016, a part of me died. Of course, she’s still alive. She’s not dead. She just no longer wants any part of me in her life. Take care.
    Feb 3, 2020 at 9:05 AM
    1
  • Kt49er
    Thank you for sharing your story. I've read a lot of your reports but I didn't know about you losing your wife. It takes a lot of courage to write a story like this and to be able to persevere and carry on the way you have. I enjoy your work so please continue doing what you are doing!
    Feb 3, 2020 at 8:04 AM
    1
  • Gilbert Brink
    Peter thank you for sharing this story of you and your wife. I just started writing for the Webzone and your piece brought me to tears. I had a very similar feeling to that which you expressed so beautifully. As much as we all want to win that trophy, life doesn't go as we hoped. As I held my daughter last night, laid with her in bed that was my lesson to her. As much as things go wrong, we have to stick with it. Thanks for sharing and you deserve to be where you are in that press box
    Feb 3, 2020 at 7:45 AM
    2
  • Lucky Phil
    Thanks for sharing your life with us. It sounds like her love was a great inspiration to you. It’s nice to know that you are doing something with your life that both you and her love so much. Thanks for doing what you do. Your writing is great and Niner Nation appreciates it.
    Feb 3, 2020 at 7:15 AM
    2

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