This weekend brings one of my favorite annual sporting events.
No, there’s not some weird plot twist coming here. The answer is pretty predictable. It’s the same one over 100 million people will sit down and enjoy — Super Bowl LIV. Ever since I’ve been a fan of the game, which is a little more than 20 years now, the big game has been a can’t-miss appointment. My first recollection is watching Brett Favre lift the Packers over the Patriots in ‘97. The New England franchise recovered from that loss pretty well, wouldn’t you say?
While I would be tuning in no matter what, this year’s Super Bowl carries a great deal more weight than most for me. Yes, your local newspaper sports editor and lifelong Georgia resident is a fan of the San Francisco 49ers. Now before anyone accuses me of riding the bandwagon, I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could find photos of when I got to see the 9ers play in Carolina in 2000 (loss), in Atlanta the next year (overtime win), in Tampa in 2004 (big loss), back in Atlanta in 2007 (loss), versus the Falcons again in 2010 (close loss) and finally at Tennessee in 2013 (win).
The answer to how I became a fan of a team located about as far away as one possibly could be is simple — you remember how bad the Falcons were most of the ‘90s? There was no way I was going to attach myself to a team of which my first memory is of someone saying, “The Falcons lost again today.” Naturally my love of the game came around the same time I started playing it in elementary school. I, who somehow was chosen as C-team quarterback, decided I liked the way that Steve Young guy competed and kept up with the team from there through Jeff Garcia, Tim Rattay, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, JT O’Sullivan and a host of other QBs. I became a fan not long after the team’s ’94 season Super Bowl win, so I missed out on that fun and through some cruel twist of fate they didn’t get back to the season’s final Sunday until almost 20 years later. You’ll remember that Super Bowl return as the night the lights went out in the Super Dome in New Orleans and the Ravens left with the Lombardi Trophy. So, Falcons fans, I too have been through my fair share of suffering, although there was nothing like giving up a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.
Sidebar prayer: dear Lord, I’m sorry for that little bit of smack talk. I meant no ill will, I’m just trying to be funny for my column. Please don’t let my 49ers be up 29-3 or something like that and lose on the game’s biggest stage to teach me a lesson. Amen.
None of my favorite teams have won a championship since I’ve followed any sport. There was the 49ers in 2013, Georgia football in 2018 and the Braves won their World Series a couple years before I knew what was what. I’m not sure how much a 7-year-old can really appreciate a world championship.
Despite starting the season 8-0, I’ll admit to not really being a believer in this year’s 49ers until their tough three-game stretch in late November into December. There was the home blowout over the Packers, the last-second loss at Baltimore, who everyone knew was a strong team, and then the close win at New Orleans. That’s what had me thinking this San Francisco team was legit. The following week’s loss to the dreadful Falcons did not dissuade me. You would have a letdown like that too after escaping the aforementioned stretch 2-1.
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs are going to be a tough opponent, but to steal a little coachspeak, whatever team made it on that opposite sideline in Miami would pose a significant challenge. That’s why they call it the Super Bowl. I like the 49ers’ commitment to running the football and playing defense, so I’m picking them to win 29-26.
Now if everyone would please say a prayer for my own and my wife’s sanity this weekend, that would be appreciated. She doesn't care about the outcome of the game, but she does have to deal with me. Also please include my living room window in that prayer because it could find itself a little hole-y should frustration set in. Go 9ers.