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Volume 3, Number 2
February, 1998

View From the Cheap Seats The End of an Era...

by Dave Lind

 Can you hear it? That sad, sorrowful whining coming from the Bay Area? Listen, you can hear them still, railing against the overall unfairness of the universe and wondering aloud how such a horrifying miscarriage of justice could be allowed to take place in such a technologically-advanced age. How could a fair and just God allow the Glorious Forty-Niners to suffer the indignity of yet another Conference Championship loss. There can be no God!
 Any they wonder why the world calls them Whiner Fans.
 Ever since the last few seconds ticked off the clock at 3COM park last weekend the airwaves have been choked with Niner fans venting their rage and anguish over yet another playoff exit. Callers and hosts alike have spent the past week offering up various explanations as to why their team, God's team, wound up watching Superbowl XXXII from the same vantage point as the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals. From what I can understand, the reasons for the Niners' demise are, in order:
Reason 1
The officials screwed us!
Reason 2
Steve Young sucks!
Reason 3
Whereinthehell was Dana Stubblefield?
Reason 4
If only we had Jerry Rice.
Reason 5
The field was too muddy.
Reason 6
The officials hate us.
Reason 7
We still did better than the Raiders.
Reason 8
At least we didn't lose to Dallas.
Reason 9
The officials sucked!
Reason 10
If only Garrison Hearst were healthy.
Reason 11
Dorsey Levens is overrated.
Reason 12
Will somebody tackle Brett Favre.
Reason 13
We really should trade Steve Young.
Reason 14
We're still the SECOND best team in the NFL
Reasons 15-99
Lots of other lame excuses.
Reason 100
Maybe Green Bay might have been just a teensy-weensy bit better than we are.

 I won't waste your time trying to address each of these complaints, but I will try to sum up my reaction to them all with one profound statement:
(Mind you, the following statement is geared entirely toward Niner fans, not the Niners themselves, who have, to a man, handled this bitter loss with all the class and grace that could be asked and who are all more than large enough to stomp this little sportswriter into a sticky paste. Peace.)
 You got beat by a better team, try to accept it with dignity and move on.
 Now, I know that it is difficult for Niner fans to grasp this concept, since for the past fifteen years they have seldom found themselves on the short end of a team comparison, so I will expand on this concept.
 The Green Bay Packers, in the Year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Seven, have a better Quarterback than the Niners, a better group of recievers, a better running back, and a better fullback. They have a better offensive line and a better pass rush. They have a better group of linebackers and a bettter secondary. They have a better punter. They have a better kicker. They have a better coach. They have better assistant coaches. They have a better trainer.
 The Niners have better cheerleaders and a better dental plan.
 In other words, the Packers are a better team.
 Why should this be so hard for a Niner fan to accept. Lord knows, there have been a heck of a lot of (fill in team name here) fans over the years who have had to simply tip there cap to the Niners and acknowledge them as the better team, why can't Niner fans do the same?
 Truthfully, it's not their fault. You show me a good loser and I'll show you someone who is good at losing. The Niners began their run of success in 1981 and have barely paused for breath in that span. They've won their Superbowls and posted their gaudy winning percentage and seen their rosters glutted with Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. For seventeen years Niner fans have wallowed in the wretched excess of winning. They have become accustomed to it, grown to expect it. The NFC West has become the personal property of the San Francisco 49ers. Making the playoffs is no longer even worthy of debate, they simply belong there like the sun belongs in the sky, anything less is incomprehensible. Playoff exits of any kind are bitter pills to swallow and early exits bring about cries for the coach's head. A season which ends in anything short of Superbowl glory is cause for Niner fans to hang their heads in despair and question the existence of a just and fair God.
 Contrast this with your average fan who (trust me, Niner fans), actually begin each new season hoping for maybe a trip to the playoffs and then maybe to actually win a game and then maybe, maybe get a chance to play for a trip to the Superbowl and then, if we've been that fortunate maybe we can make a good showing and not get blown out too badly.
 The average fan, you see, HOPES to win a Superbowl someday. Niner fans EXPECT to win a Superbowl this year. This is the difference between fans of the Niners and fans of the average, mediocre team.
 It has been a long time since the Niners had to deal with mediocrity, but mediocre is what they have become. Throw out their 8-0 mark against their sorry divisional opponents and their 11-1 mark against teams with sub-.500 records and what are you left with? Two wins, two losses. Not much to get excited about. And bear in mind, that 2-2 may well be inflated since both wins came against teams playing without key personnel (Denver had lost Terrell Davis and Minnesota had lost Brian Johnson). Worse for Niner fans, there is no reason to expect better days ahead, since the Niners boast the oldest lineup in the NFL and will probably line up next season without such key players as Dana Stubblefield, William Floyd, Gary Plummer, Rod Woodson, Brent Jones, and Jesse Sapolo. And with the Niners $10 to $20 million over the salary cap next season, the holes are going to be that much tougher to plug.
 All of which could mean that Niner fans are in for a rough period of transition.
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