I feel kind of like the Grinch, after he had stolen Christmas and was at the top of the hill, with the sleigh precariously tipping towards ruin. There was an instant where hope was realized, a single spark that ignited in his heart.
Something like that happened to me over the weekend.
I am a fan of sports. I've been a football fan as long as I can remember. I was brought up in a family that loved the Oakland Raiders. We didn't like it when they moved to LA, but we welcomed them back, even though the deal they struck with the county sucked. But that's not what I set out here to talk about.
All my rooting life, I've rooted for the Raiders. And in turn, I've rooted against the San Francisco 49ers. They were imposters for me, coming up and being successful at a time when the Raiders had well established themselves as one of the elite few teams in the league. The Raiders had won two superbowls before the 9ers and Joe Montana started their prestigious run of championships. I grew up with my dad watching the Raider games, yelling and screaming and rooting our hearts out. The Raiders were exciting, they did things that were amazing, that just dropped jaws and spun out the drama in leaps and bounds.
I remember having a bet that the Raiders would win their 4th Super Bowl before the 9ers did. That didn't go well for me. In fact, my adult life of rooting for the Raiders and hating the 49ers has been quite the albatross around my neck. The 49ers have seen a lot more success than the Raiders have in that time (the last thirty years or so). In fact, the Raiders have lost most, if not all, of their mystique. They've been the butt of many a joke around the league. They've been a joke most of the time.
But I still am a Raider fan. So I know I always will be. Of that I can be proud. And I am.
I have seriously curtailed my involvement with NFL Football in the last few years. We were Raiders season ticket holders for about twelve years (somebody check my math on that). It's not the game that it once was, for sure, with all of the trash talking and lack of sportsmanship. But it doesn't mean as much to me anymore anyway. I guess I've kinda grown away from it. There are other things that I would rather do with my time nowadays. Like crochet. Okay, maybe not.
Anyway. The Raiders flubbed up their season and missed the playoffs again this year. So what comes next? Root against the 9ers. It's patterned behavior that is like the groove in the record album, and I'm the needle, down in there, going around and around.
So I did some rational thinking as well, and thought about the matchup, and I really thought that the Saints would do well, maybe even light up the 9ers. I thought they would win, but I expected to be wrong.
We tuned in to the game as we were working on chores. Okay, you know the truth. My wife did all the work. I supervised and pitched in when able.
As the game started off, and the 9ers started to get the breaks (i.e. turnovers, scores), I found myself getting all worked up and angry. I began to hate God and his team, that has banished me to this hell of watching them succeed and rub my face in it.
And then the Saints came back. They fought and fought. The 9ers held them off, fighting valiantly themselves. But the Saints would not give up. They pushed and pushed until finally the 9ers broke.
But not all was lost. The 9ers found a way to regain the lead and push back. The tide turned again.
Back and forth it went. It looked as though the 9ers would win. Then the Saints took the lead again, and time was running out. I began to really enjoy football as a game-- this was how it should be, I thought. And as the 9ers pulled out the win with seconds left on the clock, I had my Grinch moment. I felt happy for them, for their fans. Well, some of them.
I felt that their victory had been earned. They won it not by a technicality or a blown call-- they did it the right way. They went out and they scored the winning touchdown because that is what had to be done.
So although it was much like the "torture" that the San Francisco Giants put their fans through a season or two ago, there was no argument to be made. They were the winners of the game-- they had gone out and done what they needed to do to win the game. They executed when it mattered. Give the Saints a lot of credit for some incredible fight and grit. But the 9ers won that game. They willed it.
So now I guess I'm some sort of bandwagon fan. Well, you could say that. But you'd be wrong. I just enjoyed a great football game. They're not always like that. In fact, most of them aren't. But when it happens-- magic.
Like a spark of hope that ignites in one's heart.
Like my vision of an all-Bay Area Super Bowl. Not gonna happen this year, I know. But next year...
In closing, I like the 9ers chances of going all the way. But it won't be a cakewalk. They've got a lot of battles yet to win. The Giants (NY football) are playing well and riding a high, just like the 9ers are. Should be one helluva game. I might even have to watch this one.
Or I could go shopping with my mother-in-law at Bed Bath & Beyond. But I think she'll wanna watch the game.