If you are a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, it's hard to not be aware of the famous moment in Niner lore, The Catch. With seconds left and the game on the line, the Joe Montana pass to Dwight Clark was caught in the end zone and catapulted the 49ers over the Bears to win a big game.
I don't remember it; I was only three or four when it happened, but Mom did remember seeing it on TV, watching the game with her parents. It's very likely that my brother and I were in the room, too, so I like to tell people that of all the famous "catches" in the last forty years of the franchise, I've seen most of them.
When I tell people I've been a fan since I was a tiny girl, I'm not exaggerating. My grandparents were fans, Mom was a fan (Dad never much cared but humored us by letting us take over the living room TV on Sundays), and Aaron and I were fans. We have watched many a playoff game, our share of Super Bowls. We cheered, we laughed, we made memories.
The Niners haven't been great these last few years, but I've stayed interested. I'm part of The Faithful. I love my team, no matter what.
This year wasn't supposed to be all that exciting. One football know-it-all predicted the Niners would end the season with a 3-13 record. This incited not a little humor among fans when they started off the season 3-0. Then 4-0. Then 5-0. Then...wait, just what is happening here?
Now we are approaching the end of the season, and the Niners have a 10-1 record (bet ole Know-It-All is feeling rather silly right now). Various players are making waves in Pro Bowl voting. Richard Sherman. Nick Bosa. George Kittle. Jimmy Garrapolo, the one and only Jimmy G (Jimmy GQ, I've also seen, which is apt, considering he has a jaw line that could cut glass). Fresh off the tutelage of the Patriots' Tom Brady, Jimmy G. is 13-3 as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. He shows incredible calm on the field and leadership capabilities.
Suddenly, we're having this amazing season--and I'm loving every minute of it. But in the back of my mind is this thought of, "Oh, Mom should've seen that play!"
Life moves forward. I'm staring down my second holiday season without her, and this year is far less awful than last year. There is, however, something comforting in the Niners doing so well. As I watch games, I see the huge linemen taking the field and blurt out Mom's classic signature line: "How big a boy are ya?" I imagine us seeing a close-up of Jimmy G. on the TV screen and giving each other A Look as we acknowledge silently that he is one very good-looking dude. I can hear her cheering with me, both of us getting loud enough to bring Dad out of his bedroom, bemused at the whole spectacle of his wife and daughter getting so caught up in...just a game.
This past weekend, Dad invited me over to watch the game at his house. It was an Important Game against A Good Team...and my Niners trounced them, 37-8. Green Bay hardly knew what hit them. The home crowd roared. Dad paid half-attention and I sat on the couch, making cards for my Etsy shop and stopping often to hoot at the TV, and giving Dad rapid-fire updates:
"That's George Kittle--he is a huge goofball off the field but his team loves his spirit and made him a team captain. It doesn't hurt that he's also a helluva player."
"Richard Sherman...I hated him when he was a Seahawk, but he's really a great defensive player. Really inspires the other guys. Plus, he has a charitable organization that recently gave a ton of food to a couple of food banks in Washington."
"Deebo!!! I love that name. Look at him go!"
Dad humored me, and even seemed to enjoy parts of the game, and we passed a pleasant evening, eating pizza and chatting.
Oh, it's just a game. Of course it is. But there's something about this season, this team, that makes me feel like maybe Mom is cheering along with me, wherever she is.