It’s hard to think this way after a decade that gave us Buster Posey and Steph Curry, but the 49ers’ lack of a Super Bowl championship of late is not the worst thing in the world for a sports fan.
I know, I know. Don’t get soft. Don’t let ‘em off the hook. Demand championships! It’s what this country was built on, as I was just saying to my good friends, Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller and Al Davis.
Maybe I’ve seen too many seasons through the years. Maybe the fact that I lived through and fully basked in five 49ers Super Bowls has dulled my edge. I should be more sympathetic to the 30-and-under crowd who doesn’t know Bill Ring from a Super Bowl Ring.
We wondered on the air, after that empty set of an NFC Championship game, a game that came from outer space and almost never happened: Is this some sort of karmic tax for having Joe Montana and Steve Young from 1980-2000? Is the universe saying, “You got yours, now pipe down and feel some pain”? If so, does this mean the post-Tom Brady New England Patriots will be quiet until about 2060? (Raiders fans, don’t comment below.)
Bigger picture is, you want your teams to matter. You don’t want to be the Arizona Cardinals. You don’t want to be the New York Jets. You don’t want to be the Cleveland Browns.
Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch — for all their perceived missteps, from the DeForest Buckner trade to not challenging DeVonta Smith’s fourth-down incompletion — have built a team that has gone to three NFC championships in the last four years, with a Super Bowl trip thrown in for good measure. This needs to be seen for what it is: a pretty massive achievement that has invigorated a fan base that now routinely invades opposing stadiums, given birth to a heartbeat at Levi’s Stadium, and made the Shanahan-Lynch 49ers among the most relevant NFL teams of the 21st century.
By my admittedly-crude research, the only teams in the NFC in the last 20 years to reach the NFC championship as frequently were the Andy Reid Eagles, who made four consecutive NFC championships from 2001-04, and — wait for it — the Jim Harbaugh 49ers, who made three consecutive NFC championships from 2011-13.
Now is the part where you say neither Reid nor Harbaugh nor Shanahan won the ultimate prize in that stretch, so you don’t care.
That’s your right as a sports fan.
I prefer relevance, contention and meaningful games.
The 1997-2003 San Francisco Giants never won a World Series — don’t say the words “Rally” or “Monkey” anytime soon — but, man, that was a wonderful era in the team’s history. Brian Sabean and Dusty Baker (and Felipe Alou) produced a stretch where they only played a handful of meaningless end-of-season games in seven seasons. The park was packed. The Giants buzzed. The playoff gods were not on their side, but any Giants fan worth his Croix de Candlestick recalls that era fondly.
Which brings us back to the concept of the Jock Blog: Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval won the whole enchilada, three times. Steph, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala won the whole ball o’ wax, four times. They are immortal.
Harbaugh, Frank Gore, Pat Willis, Shanahan, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle . . . they are not.
Is that fair?
No one said life was fair. In fact, Kittle himself reminded us after Sunday in Philadelphia that life sometimes likes to punch you in the face. Funny dude, that Kittle.
What do you do when you get bopped in the nose? Go back to your corner. Talk to your trainer. Get some water. And answer the bell one more time.
The 49ers are poised to be in the mix again come September. I imagine you’ll all be along for the ride. It’s what we do. Enjoy the relevance.