Gynormous 49er Game
The one cool thing that football has over baseball: it’s always sudden death in the playoffs. I love sudden death. The baseball playoffs certainly don’t mirror the speed of the sport in the regular season, but as a fan you at least get to settle in for a journey. A process. If you have home field advantage and you lose game 1, everyone huddles around the water cooler at work debating just how devastating the loss actually was. It’s funny if you think about it. How often do the Giants lose the opening game of a home series and there’s barely a grumble from the fans. But goddammit, lose Game 1 of the playoffs and you’re at least shitting in your pants a little bit.
Lose a football playoff game, and you’re done. Win and you get at least another game. Until you win the Super Bowl. Love it.
And tomorrow, my favorite team plays their first and hopefully not last playoff game this season. Just as I did last year, I’ve got several things planned throughout the day to distract me (or focus me, depending on how you look at it) before the game starts. Going on a run with a friend in the morning, coaching my mad-skilled girl’s hoops team at noon, maybe betting on a race or two and then…..sitting on my couch and watching the madness unfold.
Growing up, my playoff experiences were few and far between with the local teams. The Dubs were almost never in it. I remember Phoenix and Charles Barkley sweeping them at some point in the late 80’s. They put the beat down on RUN TMC (still one of the greatest nicknames in all of sports) that year. But I didn’t boo-hoo it too much. My Giants playoff experience growing up can be summed up in 2 non-WS-winning seasons: In ’87, my man-crush with Jeff Leonard was solidified. And in ’89 I jumped out of my college dorm 2nd story window after Will Clark hit the most perfect, majestic night time grand slam in the history of my life. Zimmer still wishes he’d brought Assenmacher in. Hindsight, I know……
For some reason, I was much more emotionally reactive to Niner playoff football games. I learned a little bit of how to lose your mind from watching my dad. I was at his house watching the game and after Clark caught it my old man made a bee-line for the door and tore ass out of the house, down the street. He was gone. There are conflicting reports (between he and I) of how many actual clothes he tore off on his maniacal dash around the block. I’m telling you, he came back largely naked, and that’s giving him the benefit of the doubt….
In ’83 I was at the playoff game where we dramatically beat Detroit. The next game in Washington had me literally throwing shit against the walls of the tv room in protest of the absurd pass interference calls against the Niners late in the 4th.
I will never forget how hard Jim Burt hit Joe Montana in the ’86 divisional playoffs. It devastated me.
And the loss to the Giants in 1990 NFC Championship is a point in my life where I briefly went insane. We were on our way to the super bowl, all we had to do was run out the clock. The usual adrenaline was building inside me, our rightful place in the most coveted championship game was but 2 minutes away. I was in full knowing (and drunken) dude head nod-zone. And then *the worst* happened. I’m not talking about a natural disaster or one of my family members dying. It was way worse than that. Roger Craig….fumbled. I screamed so loudly it’s a sound that still wakes me up at night. I was broken. I was watching the game with some college buddies but I couldn’t do anything but slump “face down ass up” in the center of the living room for what seemed like days. It was probably 5 minutes. After I picked myself up off the orange shag carpet, I knew I had to do something. There had to be a plan. And it had to happen very quickly or my head was gonna slam back down into that carpet, with great force……
The Plan: I was going to drive from Portland, Oregon down to SF and kill Roger Craig. I’d never killed anyone before, didn’t know how I was gonna do it I just knew that he must die. I announced this bold claim to my drunk friends and headed down the steps to my car with my crew laughing and following behind me in as straight a line as the guy in front could muster. I got in, fired up the ’87 Fox and sped off down I-5 toward my target…..
At the first exit I pulled off to get beer and while still fuming in line about this incomprehensible turn of events, I decided to abort the plan and just go home. Me and the fella’s shot-gunned the Oly 12 pack I’d bought in about 3 minutes……
My point with this long, drawn out thread is to emphasize just how much Niner playoff games mean to me. I have seriously softened my approach as a fan over the last 20 years. Roger Craig could commit the same mistake today and I’d probably just swear at the tv and punch the couch or something…..
But this shit still means a lot to me. And I’m nervously anticipating the outcome of the game tonight. I truly believe that Justin Smith won’t be able to play to his ability, or even be serviceable. In fact, if I wasn’t a fan I’d hammer Green Bay on the money line…….
One thing I do think will happen: the game is going *over*. Way over. I got 45 and I couldn’t be more confident. It was the first time in a while I had to check myself on the amount that I’d bet. And if I’m wrong, I promise one thing and I’ve got no problem putting it in writing:
Regardless of the ultimate total, Roger Craig will continue to live…..