When I asked you guys to root for the 49ers over the Saints last week, I didn’t expect anyone to actually do it. You have no idea how awesome it was to see your tweets and comments letting me know that you were rooting for my team—rooting for me even. And then, when the 49ers won, well, your response was overwhelming and one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced.
People who said they didn’t even like football told me they turned on the TV to cheer on my team because they knew how much it mattered to me. In my entire life, I’ve never had anyone do anything that thoughtful for me—en masse, nonetheless. So: thank you.
Now that being said, please know: what I’m about to write is not about you. You keep doing exactly what you’re doing and cheer your asses off for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. This season has been magical and part of that, at least for me, is the fact that you guys understand how important this is to me. And that you support my insane 49ers fandom.
However, there are other people—people who are not as adorable and awesome as you—who, to put it as kindly as I’m able, are bugging the crap out of me with their 49ers bandwagon bullshit. I know, I know. That’s not very nice to say. There’s supposed to be room for everyone on this journey and I should welcome any one and everyone who wants to come along for the ride. And I do.
In theory, anyway.
But somewhere in the back of my head, there’s a spoiled brat who thinks it’s really annoying. Sorry, but it’s true. Yes, it was awesome to have over thirty people “like” my Facebook post about the emotional win over the Saints, but where were 28 of those people when I was posting about the 49ers in Week 1? Or last year? Or the year before that? Where were they when the 49ers were 2-14, 4-12, 7-9?
And yes, it’s great that I have friends who were born and raised in San Francisco texting me messages like “Go Niners!” and “Can you get me playoff tickets?” but it’s also a bit puzzling because the majority of those friends? They’ve never mentioned a word about the 49ers to me before this month. And they certainly didn’t ask for tickets when I had an extra pair ALL of last year.
Listen, I get it. I can’t expect people to dedicate the amount of time and energy that I do into a losing team. Football is a time suck and when you’re not winning games, there’s very little reward. In fact, mostly it’s just three hours of agony week after week. After week. After week. After week…
But, for me at least, I watch every game because I have hope. I watch every game because I have faith. Because I believe. And because I know that “on any given Sunday” anything can happen. After all, that’s the glory of football. It’s totally unscripted. A complete unknown. A storyline with an excitement and intensity that would feel forced if fictionalized. Every player has a riveting plot line. Every coach a history of failure or disappointment. Every team a driving force that no outsider could ever understand.
The stuff that NFL games are made of? You can’t make it up and THAT is why it’s so powerful. So mesmerizing. So incredibly and unbelievably emotional.
Look: I’m not the biggest fan there ever was. Not by any means. I came to the sport late, having never been exposed to it as a kid. I found it mostly on my own, with the help of a boyfriend or two. I chose the 49ers when they were good, but not great, for the sole reason that they were my hometown team. I was drawn to them. To the legacy. To the idea that once they were great, and that they would be again. But once I started watching, I just couldn’t stop.
It’s been a rough time for 49ers fans as of late. The owners seemed not to care about the team. They’re moving the stadium far away from San Francisco. They picked bad coaches. And as a result, the fan base suffered. The games sold out, but were never at capacity. There were fights in the parking lot caused by what seemed like boredom and apathy. At bigger games, the Niners’ fans were often matched, if not outnumbered, by fans from the opposing team. We sucked and no one seemed to want anything to do with us. There were no highlights on SportsCenter, no covers of Sports Illustrated. Every season was a disappointment.
But I never stopped watching. And I NEVER stopped believing. And I’ll be honest: At times, I’m not sure I even had a choice. This thing inside of me? This love for the 49ers? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s more than just me. It’s a power that overwhelms me. At times, perhaps, controls me. But I’m okay with that. Because as tumultuous as the ride has been, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Even the ones that were miserable. Because every missed tackle, bad play call, dropped pass? It got us to this week. It got us to the NFC Championship game.
What Coach Harbaugh did with the 49ers this year was extraordinary. He took more or less the same cast of characters who went 6-10 last year, brought out all of their best attributes, and turned them into a cohesive and powerful unit that no one expected. Yes, we hoped. Yes, we dreamed. But most people thought it would take a year or two. At least. And almost no one thought it was going to happen with Alex Smith at the helm.
But here we are. One game away from the Super Bowl. AND WE BELIEVE.
And suddenly the wagon, that same wagon that I couldn’t give seats away for last year? It’s standing room only.
Again, I get it. People don’t start watching a team because they suck. They start watching because the team is good. Because something amazing is happening. Because it’s fun to root for winners. .
In fact, I’d bet that the majority of life-long fans are, at first, bandwagon fans. How else do you learn to love a team if not being forced into it by family? (I suspect my story is unusual. I don’t say that to make myself sound like some rare unicorn, but honestly just because I don’t imagine the majority of people fall in love with football before they fall in love with a team.)
What bothers me about bandwagon fans isn’t the ones who seem to truly be falling in love with my team. It’s the ones I suspect are only in it for the glory days. Who won’t stick by the team when we’re down again. Which, mark my words, we will be. Hopefully later rather than sooner, but regardless, eventually, we WILL have another 2-14 season. And most of those people texting “Go Niners!” to me, they won’t care. Because they won’t be watching. They only care about the 49ers right now because they’re good. Because they’re in the playoffs. Because they have a shot at the Super Bowl.
And while this bothers the selfish, bratty side of me, I’ve actually (shockingly!) managed to come to terms with it in the last couple of weeks. Because, while I know that most of my friends can’t name five players on the team, it’s fun for me that they’re excited about the thing I care about most. It’s awesome for me that FINALLY people want to talk about football.
And when 70,000 fans showed up in red to scream their heads off at Candlestick last Saturday, it wasn’t just inspiring to me; it was a game-changer for my team. Candlestick was a fortress. And without those brand-new fans willing to throw down hundreds of dollars per ticket, it wouldn’t have been the same. Their energy was new, yes, but it was energy nonetheless. And it was exactly what the 49ers needed to come out on top.
So, yes, I am making peace with the bandwagon fans. Because it’s pretty cool to exchange “Niners” nods with total strangers on the street. And it’s pretty sweet to high five a guy in a restaurant just because we’re both wearing 49ers’ gear. And more than that? It’s so rare that I get to see people come together for one cause. (The last thing I can think of was the Presidential election in 2008.)
Sure, I love an intimate gathering, but I’ve been attending those for the past nine years. In fact, too often it’s been a party of one. I’m ready to go fucking nuts. To scream in the streets. To hug people I’ve never met. To share a common joy with hundreds of thousands of people. I need the bandwagon. Just like they need the 49ers.
And the thing is? Ultimately, I get to experience these playoff games in a way that no bandwagon fan ever can. I was there for the lows, so the highs are that much higher. I watched every single game coached by Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary, so I can truly appreciate just how magnificent of a coach Jim Harbaugh truly is. I experienced the losses up close and in person, so I know not to take any of these wins for granted.
So, bandwagon fans: WELCOME. I truly hope you enjoy the experience and that regardless of the outcome, you stick around for years to come. I hope that next year we can dissect the three Smiths, analyze the play calling, and high five every single touchdown pass…and, fine, all of the field goals.
I’m honestly glad you’re here. Just as long as you don’t mind that a little part of me feels smug for getting here sooner.
GO NINERS! BEAT THE GIANTS!!!
(Please. My life kind of depends on it.)
Follow Daisy on Twitter. Eventually she’ll tweet about something other than football. Promise.