It's gotten to the point where Harbaugh dismisses media compliments like other coaches dismiss player controversies. An all-out anti-Freddie campaign has obviously gone viral in the Niner locker room. When Justin Smith was asked about his game-sealing pass deflection against the Giants last Sunday, he claimed it was because he was tired and couldn't rush Eli Manning. Chronicle beat writer Eric Branch rewound the tape of that interview and heard Ray McDonald laughing as he said that. A day later, Harbaugh claimed he heard Smith telling Ray to watch out for a pass in the B-Gap, the spot where he had deflected that pass. It's almost as if no one wants to take credit for how awesome this team has become, lest Freddie Soft handjobs them into complacency.
To extrapolate on Raven's thoughts on being a free agent-fan, The NFL is basically a monopolized union that consists of 32 different nations that share revenue and compete with each other. When I watched the Steelers and the Patriots and (now) the Packers, it was like watching different teams with different business models and football ideologies that knew their shit. I would reflexively feel both hatred/admiration for the fanbase and their organizations. For the last eight years, I've felt like the 49er faithful had received punishment for our self-entitlement and success in the 80's and 90's. This was a fanbase that was polled on whether or not George Seifert should be fired three weeks into a season a year removed from losing the NFC Championship game. When Eddie Debartolo left the team, we were left with a shithead owner who allowed management to be run by Freddie Soft. Niner fans were rooting for ineptitude, a sinking ship, a "for entertainment purposes only" equivalent of Spain watching America make the Louisiana Purchase.
Certainly, other teams have suffered much longer than we have and I'm not going to make it out like that time period is worse than the other masochists that post on this blog. It's just that when you are loyal to a football team, you are consciously being patriotic to something that relies on blind faith and the odds that they'll break your heart is more likely than them warming said heart over with wonderful feelings. But when those feelings happen it just feels good, man. It's no wonder football suffering has made a dent on traditional Catholic church suffering.
The game against the Giants last Sunday felt like another "We need to prove to everyone" game. The Niners have won road games against Detroit, were a slip-up in the coverage away from beating the Cowboys, trounced the Bucs, and have been playing mistake-free football all season and you still get idiots like Merrill Hoge and KC Joyner and the Redskins defense saying that we're not for real. So watching this game was like a parent who saw all the flaws of its ugly baby but someone who still loved the baby enough to hope no one else did. It was a "fuck you" to everyone who still had to ask themselves if we were "for real" or if we were "contenders or pretenders" just because we are in the NFC West (note: we've only played one division game all year so far). It was being fearful that every idiot was true and that even if we kept up with the Giants and lost, then everything every idiot said was on point.
I was at a bar when Justin Smith knocked down Eli's final pass and every Niner fan fucking cheered like it was the Super Bowl. It was validation for every time we had to endure stupid mistakes and half-assed play and lazy performances since the first G.W. Bush administration. It was being proud of the 49ers and actually believing in it. It felt good, man.
When I drove home I passed by a kid dancing on his driveway while his dad in a Niner jersey was tossing him the ball. The bandwagon is coming back. It makes me actually really proud that Alex Smith is one of the leaders on this team. Rarely does a redemptive narrative fit into reality. When Harbaugh asks his team after every win "Who's got it better than us?", the team's "NOOOOOBODY" response has become more than lip service. All I've asked for has been to be respectable again, and realistically we're not going to beat the Packers unless we are perfect so I'm not even thinking about that right now. I'm just thinking about how people can raise their Niner flags with pride again, with one eye over our shoulder just in case Freddie P. Soft is there in hopes of us taking this season for granted.