For five months now, we sports fans have dealt with life in the pandemic. What we’re dealing with includes cardboard cutouts, Gabe Kapler in a mask, and now an autumn without the Cal marching band in Strawberry Canyon. That’s pretty weird stuff.
And along come the 49ers, blasting sunshine, functionality and winning.
Man, does it feel so incongruous — and so welcome.
Kyle Shanahan came on the ‘Murph and Mac’ show Thursday morning, and turned all the frowns upside down. (Plus, he was on a land line. There’s nothing to make radio hosts more happy than a land line. We have all the technology in the world in 2020, and still the best way to talk is the same way your parents talked to their neighbors in 1977.)
Shanahan confirmed the George Kittle extension, and gushed about the fifth-round steal from 2017 who has turned into one of the most important 49ers in recent history. He candidly addressed the pain of the Super Bowl, and talked openly of his “grieving process”; how the pain of the SB 54 collapse against Kansas City would be part of him “forever”. The honesty was disarming. And he talked Jimmy Garoppolo, the QB who had to deal with Tom Brady rumors and Emmanuel Sanders overthrow replays all offseason — telling us how, in case you forgot, Jimmy G just completed his first full season as a starter and will “come back stronger.”
Honest, candid answer from Shanahan about coping with SB loss:
“I allow myself to be down. I don’t block it out because if I am, I’m just going to deal with it some other time… And then that grieving process starts to go away and you start to get back to what you love to do.” pic.twitter.com/T67my10ElE
— KNBR (@KNBR) August 13, 2020
The 49ers traded for Trent Williams to replace Joe Staley, a staggering acquisition of talent. They drafted DeForest Buckner’s putative replacement in Javon Kinlaw, who drew raves from Nick Bosa. They re-signed Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward. They have no obvious holes in their roster, although I can hear an argument on the receiving corps — but then there’s Kittle.
Oh, and they extended the contracts of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. They have dropped the “dys” from what used to be a dysfunctional franchise.
The larger point is, the 49ers may be the only safe bet in our lives right now.
The Giants are at least two years away from relevance — and that’s even if a mini-pandemic doesn’t break out in their clubhouse, as it did with the St. Louis Cardinals or Miami Marlins. The Warriors will be back, of course, with Steph and Klay and Draymond and Andrew Wiggins and a top-5 pick — we just don’t know when.
And then there’s the 49ers, coming off a 13-3 breakthrough, loaded to the gills.
The only thing missing this year will be the atmosphere at fanless Levi’s Stadium. That’s right. I said it: Levi’s Stadium, which spent its first half-decade masquerading as a haunted house, was turning into a strength for the franchise.
Steve Young, one of the better talkers in the NFL landscape, said on a Dwight Clark tribute podcast last week that the 49ers are in the position where another strong year could buttress a long run. The Rams took a step backward after their Super Bowl 53 loss. The Rams go into 2020 wondering a little bit about themselves. But if the 49ers can go back to the postseason in the “year after”, they can establish what Young sees as a four-to-five year run.
Who knows, by then we may even have a vaccine? And then we can put the cardboard cutouts into the attic.