How 'bout them Niners? These four words would not typically come out of my mouth in conversation. However, last week, Lance Howland, editor of the Walnut Creek Patch, asked me if I felt inspired to write about the "collective psychic lift that a region gets from a sports franchise suddenly having success after years of failure - the 49ers." Lance said he noticed that usually it's the same crowd whose conversation centers around sports, but then something like this happens that gets the attention of non-sports fans, and thousands of new people are talking football.
My initial response was that I probably wasn't the right person to write about this since I don't follow anything to do with football. Honestly, I wouldn't have even been able to tell you what this "lift" was about since there was no lift happening with me. I could probably have told you that the 49ers were a San Francisco team and that their sport was football, but I certainly didn't know who they played last week or were playing this week. If I'm really being honest, I even texted my neighbor to see if she wanted to go to a movie on Sunday around 4:30. Her response: "Dina! Tomorrow the Niners are playing at 3:30 for the Super Bowl!!!" When I joked to her about it later, she said she didn't even tell her husband about my text. I guess she was afraid he would disown us as neighbors for my ignorance.
After my initial "no" response, I thought back to last Sunday when every post on Facebook had something to do with football. It was an easy Facebook day for me because I could quickly scroll past all of these posts. I wasn't part of the group so the updates meant nothing to me. Nonetheless, there clearly was a collective "something" happening here.
I decided it might be fun to take on the idea of blogging about the game and why people get so into it. I started to join the collective by changing my profile pic to a 49ers logo. My friend, Bev, a big 49ers fan, immediately "likes" my new profile pic. I'm in! I even make a few status updates throughout the game, most of which were given to me by my friend, Hal, so that I sound like I know what I am talking about. "It's all about the field position." I'm not exactly sure what this means, but hey, I'm speaking the lingo. I'm part of the collective and it feels good.
The collective energy is happening all throughout Facebook from 3pm to 8pm. Here is a sampling:
"Ouch - that had to hurt those guys! Get up Brown!
"I feel better now!"
"Come on Defense!"
"Crushed. That's what I am. So close!"
Wanting to fully embrace the energy, I tell my husband, Dave, I want to watch the game in a bar. At this point, I think Dave is thankful to Lance for suggesting the assignment since in our 24 years together we've never watched a game together in a bar. We go to That Bar in Danville and meet our friends, Liz and Hal. The crowd is about 2/3 men with approximately 1/3 sporting some sort of 49ers gear. The best I can do is my red Boston Marathon sweatshirt, but at least I'm purposely in the colors.
We stay for the first quarter and then have to get home to check on our dog who is just recently getting home-alone privileges. After taking the dog to the park to tire her out, we head back to the bar for the last quarter. I'm taking this assignment seriously. Let's see it through to the end!
During the first quarter, I can feel the excitement in the bar. There is an ever-increasing buzz in the room. I even have a beer, getting caught up with it all. I'm not usually a daytime drinker, but it's a football game! We order some sliders and fries. A salad just doesn't seem like the thing to eat while watching football. If I'm doing this, let's do it right.
Watching the game, I realize that I am completely in the present moment. This is a good thing. Too often we are rehashing the past in our heads or worrying about the future. In this bar, I'm in the here and now.
At certain times, there is a coming together of those of us in the bar when someone starts the "defense" chant. Suddenly the whole bar is shouting "defense" and clapping. In this moment, all of us in this bar are united together by a sports team. I ask Liz why she chooses to go to a bar to watch the game rather than watching at home. She says, "to be with other fans and feel the vibe." I get it. And, the connection doesn't just end here. The fans at this bar are united with the fans we see cheering on TV and the friends we are texting who are watching it wherever they are, and so on. We are all connected by the game.
At the end of the fourth quarter, the mood starts to change. Chairs are more angled toward the TV and away from each other. There is less buzz and more focus. The game goes into overtime, and we lose. I have to admit, I feel sad for the group. Some people hug each other. Most just leave quietly. My friend, Liz, is exhausted. My neighbor, Sue, who has been watching at home says her household is exhausted too. Funny how sitting in front of the TV for 4.5 hours can be exhausting. But, I get it. I'm exhausted too.
Today was not how I would have spent my Sunday if Lance hadn't suggested this writing assignment, but I'm glad he did. I wish I had caught the fever a week earlier so I could have experienced a win! But win or lose, I feel a sense of camaraderie, excitement, and collective energy.
I'm not sure I'm a football convert, but I do have more of an understanding of the frenzy. We have plenty of things in the world that drive us apart from each other, so I'm all in favor of supporting the things that bring us together. Is it proper football fan etiquette to root against the team that beat your team? If so, go Patriots!
Let's keep the collective energy going. So, Patch readers - let us hear from you. Are you a Niners fan? If so, are you a longtime fan or a newcomer to the fray? Where did you watch the game? What do you get from being a sports fan?
Dina Colman is a health educator and writer. She has her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University and her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University. She works with clients to help them live an integral life of health and wellness. She founded Four Quadrant Living, providing information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. This blog is from the Relationships quadrant. Contact Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org