Niners’ elevated expectations die hard 

The blame game: While fans have decided their scapegoat for losing the NFC Championship Game is Kyle Williams, there were many factors to Sunday’s loss. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images file photo
  • The blame game: While fans have decided their scapegoat for losing the NFC Championship Game is Kyle Williams, there were many factors to Sunday’s loss.

The man understands how the 49ers feel. The team for which he played 30 years ago also came within a game of the Super Bowl.

"We were one dropped pass away," he said.

The man, who needs to remain anonymous, watched that Niner-Giants game with an expert’s eye, if not an unbiased one.

He feels for Kyle Williams. He understands the disenchantment with Alex Smith, but he also says, "The play-calling in the fourth quarter wasn’t sharp the way it was earlier."

We look for scapegoats, for simple answers to complex questions, for reasons the Niners couldn’t convert a third down until the final seconds when it no longer mattered, couldn’t pass to wide receivers, couldn’t avoid the mistakes they had avoided throughout the season.

Maybe the Giants simply outplayed the 49ers. There’s no sin in that.

"The better team wins," said linebacker Jameel McClain of the Baltimore Ravens, who in the AFC Championship Game had their own agony, a dropped pass, a missed field goal, a loss.

Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan. An ancient observation and a terribly accurate one. Not many want to accept blame when things go wrong, although for the 49ers, it’s not accurate to say they went wrong. They went haywire.

The critics finally have forgiven Bill Buckner in Boston. We laughed at a town holding a grudge, and now San Francisco, once kind and gentle, showed fangs to Kyle Williams, who in response showed a gentleman’s understanding. Just because others were uncivil did not mean he had to be.

Tumultuous merriment is how the late writer Heyward Hale Broun described sports. Not a lot of merry old, or young, souls in Northern California at the moment, but some day there again will be smiles.

Bill Bradley, the U.S. Senator and former NBA star, once said, "The taste of defeat has a richness of experience all its own." He was thinking in generalities. Lose an NFC or AFC playoff game and there’s nothing to experience but gloom.

Still, it’s all relative. The 49ers in August were the biggest unknown in the NFL — a new coach, Jim Harbaugh, a belittled quarterback, a questionable offensive line. A place in the conference championship? Most fans would have settled for a winning season.

Then the Niners moved to one win from the Super Bowl. Then expectations absent in late summer became huge in mid-winter. Of course, so did the thud when those expectations were not met.

Sport is built on greed. The more you get, the more you want. The Niners almost got it all, until the Giants got that fumble. As the man said, "The better team wins."

Monday, in the post-mortems, someone asked Harbaugh how he spent the hours after the defeat.

"Is it just California that everybody wants to know how you feel? "Care about what you thought, what you did?" was the response.

He grew up mostly in the Midwest, but has lived in our state of confusion a long while as coach at the University of San Diego, Stanford and the Niners.

"Back where I come from nobody really cares," he said.

When it comes to the 49ers, nearly champions, everybody really cares. Including Jim Harbaugh.

 

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Bio:
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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