As the seconds wound down on the clock for Super Bowl 53 in early 2020, I watched my beloved 49ers squander a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter to lose the biggest game in American sports to the Kansas City Chiefs. The loss was devastating. But the feeling was not unfamiliar. I remembered feeling that same feeling of acute dismay as a mere 8-year old when the Niners lost the Super Bowl in 2013. My tension had risen to fever pitch after the missed holding call on 49ers wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, late in the game.
It is perhaps normal to feel tumultuous emotion when watching our favorite teams struggle valiantly, on the verge of victory before eventual heartbreak, in the final minutes of the game. This year, though, it was something more than the game that sent us Faithful into a tailspin. On Nov. 28, Santa Clara County imposed a ban on contact sports, as part of the coronavirus restrictions, displacing the San Francisco 49ers from their home in Santa Clara, California to Arizona, where they will play out the rest of their home games this season at the Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
To say that it has been tough being a loyal San Francisco 49ers fan is an understatement. From 2014-2018 the 49ers were among the most atrocious teams in the National Football League. They did not have a single winning season during that span. But, I told myself, there would come a time, when things would change. I pinned my hopes on the “Revenge Tour of 2020,” the Niners quest to return to the grand stage. I banked on the possibility that this would hopefully yield a Super Bowl victory. And I imagined watching the winning game unfold from my place at the home stadium.
Back in November 2019, I experienced the thrill of watching my team dismantle a formidable Green Bay Packers squad. The calls of “Turnover” and “3rd down” echoed as the Niners humbled a Packers team led by the legendary Aaron Rodgers by a score of 37-8. The electricity that the Faithful brought to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara that Sunday was truly remarkable. I remember sitting alongside 65,000 of my comrades, cheering for my favorite team until I lost my voice on that cold fall night. Sporting a throwback Anquan Boldin jersey, I sat alongside my family and some close family friends as we witnessed the outstanding performance of the Niners on that Sunday night.
I was convinced I would be able to see that same magic play out once again; that they would be able to repeat their heroics, even after losing the Super Bowl.
The Niners have endured a painful and frustrating year, from injuries to coronavirus infections. Added to this is the stress of having to be relocated to another state in the midst of the holidays. Many of the players have little kids, parents, siblings, partners, and spouses that they have had to leave behind in California. In a year when sports teams are struggling to keep their leagues running smoothly, a sudden move to an unfamiliar area is just an added complication for the franchise.
After less than a day of finding out that they were left without a home stadium, the 49ers achieved a big win against the Los Angeles Rams that helped to keep their playoff hopes alive on Nov. 29. “I can’t be more proud of our team. I mean what they’ve gone through all year, but especially these last two weeks and especially these last 24 hours,” Shanahan said during the postgame press conference.
On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Niners wide receiver, Kendrick Bourne, tested positive for COVID-19. He immediately went into self-isolation and his close-contacts, LT Trent Williams, WR Deebo Samuel, and WR Brandon Aiyuk all did the same. Even though they were down four starters, the 49ers got no help from the NFL to reschedule the game due to the virus outbreak and were forced to host the Packers on Thursday night primetime. Later, it surfaced that Bourne had received a false positive on his test prior to kickoff on Thursday night. However, there was nothing that the Niners could do to get back their four starters as they had found out on the day of the game and had already ruled their players as out by that point. They were forced to play with a starting lineup of mainly backup players and incumbents and ended up losing. Despite a valiant effort to make the best out of a bad situation, this was yet another tough break for a San Francisco team that had already suffered its fair share of frustrations during the COVID season.
This game was difficult to watch from a fan’s perspective because it was evident that the NFL did not make an effort to reschedule the game and that the Niners were being set up to fail. Had the 49ers record been more impressive, the league would have made more of an effort to reschedule the game to boost its ratings for a marquee matchup between the two teams that competed in last year’s NFC Championship game.
“As a season ticket holder myself, I would do anything to be back in the moment, cheering on my childhood team from the stands. I’m hoping that by next season we can all safely return back to Levi’s [Stadium] and the Niners end up using the momentum of their fans returning to go the distance and win Super Bowl 55,” said Rohan Patel, a senior at Middle College.
Players and coaches alike remain hopeful that there will be a definite resolution to the pandemic soon and that they will be able to proceed with a normal season next year. The San Francisco 49ers have done a solid job remaining positive about the uncertain future ahead despite all the obstacles that they have had to endure in 2020.
Despite the hardships that sports teams go through, we fans are committed to sticking with our favorite teams through thick and thin. The pain of losing stings, sure. But the highs of victory are worth the patience.
Here’s to a hopeful 2021!
Aaryan Ravi is a junior at Carlmont High School in Belmont, California. He is a sprint runner on the track team and enjoys keeping up with football, basketball, and baseball in his free time.