In all of my years on this earth, I have never been as happy as I was on Saturday when the San Francisco 49ers stunned the world with a 36-32 win over the New Orleans Saints.
It was the best day of my life.
But before it was the best day of my life, it was the worst day of my life. Which, in case you’re counting, is a lot of emotions to go through in one day.
Mostly, the 49ers did almost everything they needed to do to win. They forced fumbles. They intercepted the ball. They scored touchdowns. And when New Orleans came back to take a one point lead in the fourth quarter, Alex Smith lead his team down the field with 2:18 left and ran the ball 28 yards for a touchdown that should have clinched the win.
But Drew Brees is a formidable quarterback and with 1:37 on the clock, he connected with Graham for a 66-yard touchdown to go up by 3.
I sat down in my seat for the first time all game, put my face in my hands, and said to Campfriend, “They’re probably going to lose.”
It’s not that I didn’t believe, but… Have you ever wanted something so badly that if you didn’t get it your entire world would crumble? That was me on Saturday and so, even though there was still a minute and a half of football left to play, I thought it best if I start setting realistic expectations so as to minimize the damage.
But while I was telling myself they were probably going to lose, I didn’t actually believe it. I couldn’t believe it. Because that’s the thing about being a fan. Even when you know realistically what’s about to happen, what’s most LIKELY going to happen, you still believe. You just can’t help it. It’s a curse and a blessing. But it is what it is.
And so I stood up out of my seat just in time to see Alex Smith throw a deep pass to Vernon Davis and another short pass to Frank Gore to set us up for field goal range. All we needed to tie the game was three points. Not ideal to go into overtime against the Saints, but hey: it was better than losing.
With 14 seconds left on the clock, Alex Smith threw a bullet up the middle to Vernon Davis who caught it in traffic for the game-winning touchdown.
Davis erupted into tears and 70,000 fans in Candlestick Park erupted in ectasy.
In that moment, while I stood on top of my chair, jumping up and down, high fiving and hugging total strangers, tears streaming down my face -- that was when I knew I’d never had it better than this. My 49ers, who hadn’t been to the playoffs in nine years, finally did it. And I was there to watch it happen.
The tears flowed freely. They’d started that morning while I was waiting for the bus (in my cape and tutu) to take me to Candlestick, a combination of too many emotions and my inability to know how to handle them, and they hadn’t stopped all day.
I cried after every 49ers fumble recovery.
I cried when we intercepted Drew Brees. Twice.
I cried when Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis for a 49-yard touchdown and I cried when he hit Crabtree a few minutes later for another seven points.
I cried. And cried. And cried.
Because, honestly: There’s nothing quite like football. The strategy, the hard hits, the intensity, the fandom. It’s the most emotional thing in my life because it’s also the most uncertain. But despite the fact that chances are I’ll be letdown at some point of any given season, despite the fact that I can’t control or even know how a game is going to turn out, I’ve given my entire heart and soul to this team. Every since I fell in love with them, I’ve been completely dedicated. It doesn’t matter what else is going on in the world: birthdays, weddings, Thanksgiving, Christmas, travel, whatever: I don’t miss a 49ers game.
Because I always knew it would come to this. I always knew we’d be back in the playoffs. I always knew we’d have another shot at the Super Bowl.
And because I was with them through it all, it’s that much sweeter. That much better. That much more emotional. If not for enduring the suffering, I’d never appreciate the exultation.
This year’s 49ers team has a magic you don’t see often. They’re underdogs. Fighters. Determined motherfuckers.
And they have everything it takes to beat the New York Giants this Sunday and earn themselves a spot in the Super Bowl.
I believe because I’m a Forty-Niner Faithful. It’s what we do. If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, you’re welcome to join us. There's always room for more.