Let’s Go Niners! Let’s Go Niners!

My 1981 Topps Joe Montana rookie card

It’s been a long time since Bay Area football has been this good.

For about a decade, football fans in the San Francisco Bay Area have been subjected to sub-par football on both sides of the Bay in the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders.

Raiders fans have been Raider fans.  Every year calling their shot that they will return to the Super Bowl and each year they fall short of even making the playoffs.  Good drama for sure, but still horrible ball.

And the Niners? People hated Alex Smith.  They wanted him gone.  He was no Joe Montana.  Or Steve Young.  Or even Jeff Garcia.  Hell, he was barely one rung above Jim Drukenmiller.

But then things changed.

The Niners hired Jim Harbaugh.  They began to win.  Alex Smith stopped throwing dumb passes for pick sixes.  And the defense started knocking fools out.

And suddenly everyone is wearing the red and gold with pride again.

It’s interesting to see what winning can do to a fanbase, no matter how serious the fans are.

But even though it has been 10 years since San Francisco has even made it to the playoffs, this feeling is not something I have forgotten.

THIS is how things were when I was growing up here.

I’ll say this right now:  I don’t call myself a Niner fan.  I don’t pretend to be.  I don’t go around puffing my chest out saying “I have been there from the beginning.” 

When time came to choose favorite teams when I was 10 or so, I chose the Buffalo Bills.  I loved Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas.  I loved their status as perennial Super Bowl contenders who always got their asses handed to them when it was crunch time.

Hell, I even had a bitch-ass physical education teacher — a huge Cowboys fans — make fun of me in front of the entire locker room while I wore a Bills hat a day after the Cowboys defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.  He proceeded to say “Bills, huh?  You know what “BILLS” stands for right? Boy I Love Losing Super Bowls. HAHAHA”

Dude, I was 12.

Jerk.

Anyway. While I claimed the Bills as my team, I distinctly remember the atmosphere here when the Niners were king.  Kids, parents and even teachers were into football.  In elementary school we actually spent an entire class making posters in favor of the Niners as they prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.  Of course they won.

And years before that, I remember having my first ever Big Mac with a Coke. Joe Montana was on the cup, and Ronnie Lott was on my first true trading card, which hailed from a set given away at McDonald’s.

The Niners were EVERYWHERE. Proof that football is a big deal here … when the teams are winning.

And from an outsider prospective, they call this Bandwagon Fanaticism.

There’s probably some truth in that.  But what you have to realize is that lots of people my age (31) grew up here in an era when the Niners were second to none.  Whether they were true fans or not, the people here always ended up cheering for San Francisco anyway.

And as the Niners prepare to take on the New York Giants in the biggest 49ers game in probably 16 years, they are all cheering for them again.  Even Raiders fans, who probably wouldn’t admit it you asked them.

I leave you with this. A gem from the 1980s.  A song I heard A LOT when I was  a kid but completely forgot until earlier this year when my wife — who is not a sports fan — started singing it one day after we watched a game.

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