As I look through my imaginary 49ers scrapbook, I’m drawn to what I consider to be my most memorable years, in which I was at my peak fan state. I still feel that I’m in that apex of fandom, to which I absorb everything and anything related to my favorite team. It was the beginning of the Harbaugh era though that really brought everything so powerfully to the forefront of my mind.
I’m a simple man, I’m passionate about the things I love. Friends, animals, fitness, and the San Francisco 49ers. When I reminisce to some of the most powerful moments in my fandom, I think of the time when I was 11 and my dad brought home a Steve Young silver memorabilia coin. I think to when Frank Gore had those two big runs to beat the Seattle Seahawks. Above all though, I think about when Alex Smith threw the touchdown pass to Vernon Davis (The Vernon Post) against the New Orleans Saints. So much raw emotion in that moment. The excitement of victory, the power in watching Vernon crying, bear hugging Jim Harbaugh and knowing it was one of the best moments of his life.
These moments are what make us fans. It’s what we live for. For me though, it was extra special because of how big of a fan of Alex Smith I’ve always been. I don’t know if it’s my never ending struggle to root for the underdog. Maybe seeing myself in the battle to prove yourself is what I connect with so much. Seeing Alex have success under the Harbaugh really amplified being a 49ers fan for me. The quarterback that went through a never ending gauntlet of scrutiny from fans and analysts and everything in between. Something about it was just so satisfying seeing him win those playoff games.
Throughout it all, here we are again. As if M. Night Shyamalan was directing a movie for the 49ers team. The story repeats itself again in an extremely similar fashion. There’s a new head coach in the bay. Considered to be the best available coach to hire, Shanahan’s now a 49er. With the excitement of a new coach now comes with the sadness of seeing one of my favorite 49ers finding himself as a free agent looking for his next job. Though he might not be leading the same path that Alex Smith once did, who was traded to the Chiefs for a second round pick. Colin Kaepernick becomes a free agent soon and has no plans of returning with the 49ers.
Kaepernick, who easily has the most interesting story in franchise history, is reported that he will no longer be kneeling for the national anthem. A protest that originated to bring awareness to social justice and inequality, Kaepernick has seen every possible reaction. He’s been criticized for being un-American while at the very same moment people argue that what he’s doing is in itself the most American thing possible. He’s pledged to donate $1 million while also starting a grass roots organization to help people in the inner city learn their rights amongst other important life building skills.
This is a man that has taken this team and hoisted it onto his back during many games with his electric play making abilities and rocket of arm. Kaepernick has had extreme highs, and lows. Throughout all of it, he’s always been professional, and courteous to all the people he’s encountered. At his peak, he gave us our own superstar to combat with Seattle’s white knight up north. At his worst, he never blamed anyone but himself and was always accountable for his actions and play.
At the age of 29, I really wasn’t able to live in the moment and appreciate it for what it was like for players to leave the franchise to other teams. With Jerry Rice and the Raiders, Joe Montana and the Chiefs, and even Terrell Owens and the Cowboys. I never truly lived in the moment as a conscious adult to truly soak in what it was like to have a player leave. When Frank Gore left, it felt like he had forever left his mark in team history. A true 49ers legend that no one could ever deny him of his title. When he left, I was at peace.
So here I am, almost 30, learning to accept reality for what it is. Colin Kaepernick needs a fresh start. The what-ifs will always be there. What if they won the Super Bowl? What if we would have drafted a better receiver for him instead of WR A.J Jenkins? What if Harbaugh was still there? So many topics that will probably be discussed drunkenly at your favorite Bay Area sports bars for many years to come. What I can say is this: Thank you Colin for giving fans something to cheer for and showing what it meant to be proud of being a fan. Thank you for your service in the community and your continued battle for social justice. I’ll keep my number seven jersey with me. If by some chance I end up having a son one day, I’ll make sure he wears it to a game one day.