Mark Gray was born in England, grew up in Northern California and now lives in Seattle. He is one of the hardcore 49ers fans that I put up with on a daily basis. We exchange emails any time the Packers and 49ers play in a big game. Here is our exchange 5 days ahead of the divisional playoff matchup in San Francisco. The Monday exchange can be found here
Weak Mark, very weak. You say you are concerned about your team and think things are different this year than last but all you can point to is a bad kicker :). You’re fooling no one. Your cocky confidence and arrogance in your support of and belief in the 49ers is evident. No reason to sugar coat and play it mild and humble. Your team is loaded. You love them and you really don’t see any way they can lose. Let’s just say it like it is, shall we ???? Should the game even be played ???
(Editor’s note: This was enough to get Mark riled up. Mission Accomplished)
So what happened on Monday? I read a gazillion early preview pieces. The best one I read is understandably by a Packer fan on a Packer blog here. I tuned in to talk radio from San Francisco on my drive to work. Bay area sports talk radio was giddy about playing the Packers. I do not think anyone believed the 49ers would lose. I think such confidence is very logical after seeing Harbaugh’s body of work. The host was particularly giddy about the fact that the Packers had a worse kicker than the 49ers did :). Can’t argue with that.
Jim Harbaugh and Mike Mccarthy spoke today. Hidden in their yarns of otherwise predictable and boring coach-spiel were two interesting statements. Harbaugh said Kaepernick is ‘savant like’. That’s got to mean something right? It can’t just be used to motivate Colin himself and the other players. It has got to be grounded in some firm belief? He could have used many other words but he chose savant. What do you think Harbaugh’s motive is? Also, what do you think he calls Alex Smith in this situation :)? I’d wager 20 bucks on it not being ‘savant like’. I think it’s interesting that this was the word used especially when he is going to go up against a quarterback far more befitting that term, don’t you think?
Mike Mccarthy on the other hand said he likes it better when his team is disrespected like he think they are this week. I think most times in sport, disrespect is a bunch of bullshit wrapped in dung wrapped in more bullshit. athletes and coaches love to have a chip on their shoulder. I don’t think normal people like you and I go thru work every day pumping ourselves up on slights imagined and partially deserved. I think that is exactly what Mccarthy is doing here. The Packers are basically being treated as on-par on the road with the conference’s #2 seed coming off a bye. If this was disrespect, I want to be disrespected for the rest of my life.
If the disrespect were real (like how the Boston media is treating the Texans right now) I can see how it can make a marginal difference in the motivation and energy levels of highly paid athletes in an uber-physical sport. But I think and hope the Packers players are smart enough to not build up some false hate and anger against some imaginary disrespect.
But if it helps them win, then I take back everything I just said…….
Go Pack, Go
I’m feeling totally disrespected right now. You clobbered all the perfect links in my first message, and now I’m going to bring the pain. This is going up on the bulletin board.
Meh. That doesn’t really work for me. This is a trap game on Saturday, no question, but probably more so for the fans than the team. I’m just not arrogant enough to think it’s going to be #LOLpackers come this time next week. Do I think the Niners will win? Of course. Do I hope they embarrass the Packers? Sure, why not. But why would I think of anything else? A 49er win on Saturday puts them one step closer; if hard-fought, they will start looking good for that inevitable matchup against the Seagulls. If they trounce the Packers, you have to think they’re the favorites to go all the way. But that’s there, and we’re still here. Every minute of Saturday will be excruciating, win or lose, and I’ll be a nervous wreck by the end of that game. That’s what it means to be a fan – that thing my wife will never understand – we essentially live vicariously through the teams we support. They are us, and we are them.
Aside: My wife tells me a friend of hers invited us over for a Superbowl party. My response: “I’ll only watch if the Niners are in it.” So she says something to the effect of, “they’re Seahawks fans and season-ticket holders; you can’t support the 49ers when the Seahawks are playing.” I just rolled my eyes as I explained that they can’t both be in the Superbowl. (Apparently her friends are already getting a little over-confident about their team’s chances, although I can see why.)
But I’m not fool enough to talk that much smack about this game… well, not until after the 49ers win.
The real point is that it’s all about perception – for the fans and the players. Calling it disrespect is an exaggeration, but feeling like you’ve got nothing to lose is a pretty powerful weapon. You’re telling me you’ve never felt that way in your life or job? “I’ve got nothing to lose, so it’s time to do something radical”? In my experience, it meant being me-first for a change. In sports, it’s the survival instinct, and for athletes that are already so elite at what they do, the mental aspect becomes that extra edge. It’s always 110%-this and 110%-that, and I think that extra motivation has to come from somewhere. Maybe it’s fiction, but if you believe, it becomes a tangible thing you can use. That, plus luck, makes for parity in the NFL.
I admit, I haven’t read a single word about this game (beyond Shyam’s); I don’t want to get burned out too soon, so it will be a slow build to Saturday for me. In fact, over the course of this season, I think I’ve actually paid less attention to the nonsense streaming out of Harbaugh’s mouth. It never amounts to much, and the media’s interpretation and analysis (and tweets!) is what I seek out on a daily basis. So you can guess where I’m going here: Calling Kaep a savant, or anything for that matter, leaves me still disinterested. This from the guy who used “mighty men” ad nauseum.
As mentioned previously, there’s something about this year’s 49ers that make me hesitant to be gung ho about their abilities, and I’m going to tell you why. But first, two questions: Of the eight remaining teams, which had the longest winning streak? Which had the shortest? The answer, in table form:
Granted, winning streaks are not the only sign of dominance since it depends on schedule and strength of opponent, but look at the team at the bottom and you’ll know why I’m not totally pumped this year. The 49ers have had the following pattern: win two games, followed by a letdown (loss or tie) in the third. There’s been no sustained dominance like some of the other teams, so it’s hard to feel real confident. Sure, I think they’ll beat the Packers, but then maybe the 49ers will complete the pattern by losing to the Seahawks (ugh).
I wish I knew how to look up the last 20 Superbowl winners to see their longest winning streaks…. Twenty bucks says none of them only won two in a row during the season.
Aside: I’d be pretty psyched if I was a fan of the Broncos right now – their streak ended the season and will likely be at 12 after this weekend.
Oh yeah, I brought the tables. Are you feeling disrespected yet?