FInding the Faith: Spotlighting the Faithful and What the 49ers Mean to Them
I’ve been a fan of the San Francisco 49ers for as long as I have been a fan of football, further than some of my actual memories do. The 49ers fandom was handed down from my father, who was really an Oakland Raiders fan. Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, watching ‘Cool Joe’ moved his allegiance across a bay he never lived in. I was born in December of 1982, 11 months too late to see the first Super Bowl victory, but great timing anyways, even if our location of Palmer, Alaska wasn’t the ideal spot to experience 49ers football.
Now, we weren’t that ride or die fan family with bumper stickers and everyone wearing jerseys on Sundays. My mother was only a fan of teams her sons, daughters and now grandsons play for, and even in those games she roots almost evenly between the competitors. My brother is a Chicago Bears fan. I’m not sure why, he isn’t avid. Add to all this our location of small town Alaska, pre-internet or for me, even pre-cable TV.
So instead of Podcasts and online articles I devoured statistics on the backs of trading cards and read every magazine article I could get my hands on. I watched the pregame shows every Sunday and memorized the stats in the newspaper every Monday morning. I knew the name of every player on the 49ers roster every year. I truly believed a Steve Young - Steve Bono combination could be the next Montana - Young hand off of Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
I watched Jerry Rice play football my entire childhood and into my adulthood. I remember being so angry when he didn’t reach 100 receptions in 1993. The demolition of the San Diego Chargers felt amazing, especially that first touchdown by Rice. When he went for three TD’s against the Raiders, becoming the all-time touchdown trip taker, I was watching alone on a static-y 13 inch screen TV. I remember watching him lose to the New England Patriots as a member of the Raiders when I was a freshman in college. I wasn’t any good at playing football. Soccer and basketball were my games to excel in, but when I read about Rice changing his socks at halftime to keep his jersey fresh, I never went to a soccer game without an extra pair of socks again. I attacked the hill going up to our high school as if I was racing Rice every time and never let myself believe I had won, cause that would have been weakness.
I was ride or die before Tupac taught me what that meant. Dallas Cowboy fans weren’t allowed in my inner circle, and I knew I would be working for the 49ers in some way when I was older. This was before the Seattle Seahawks moved to our division. I went to college in 2001 in Washington, so my hatred towards the Cowboys shifted to the Seahawks. Learning to accept others opinion as theirs, no matter how wrong it was was an important part of making friends while behind enemy lines.
Although my connection to the team was unwavering, my viewership decreased in college. Personal matters and my own withering athletic career took up all my time -plus a pretty healthy social life. This doesn’t mean the 49ers didn’t play a part in a crucial turning point in my mid twenties.
On December 11, 2005, a couple weeks before I was supposed to move down to Bend, Oregon with my then girlfriend, I headed to watch the 49ers live for the first time in my life. This was huge, and what was even bigger is I was headed to Centurylink with a really good friend, who I married a couple years later and who I had sneaked away with to see the game. Although the Alex Smith led 49ers lost 3-41 that day, it was a moment in my life that changed the plot line completely. Three months later I moved back up to Tacoma and my wife and I have been together ever since. She also accompanied me to my only visit to Candlestick, a vacation I will never forget, and joined us for Hubapalooza this past season in Santa Clara. I’ve never seen the 49ers live without her. Even though she’s really a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, she has accepted that we are a 49er family, and now owns more red and gold swag than black and yellow.
My life seems to be tied to 49ers events. Our first son was born two months after the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens. I had hoped he and I would share similar birthday destinies, but the ill timed timeout and three missed fade passes ended that dream. Now my wife and I are expecting our third child, a daughter due ten months after the 49ers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
A couple years ago I was invited to write for the 49ersHub, and I was introduced to a bunch of guys who are like me. They have their ‘normal’ lives, and then their August through January lives. My 49er family grew, and created brothers all across the country for me. Now our August through January lives have bled into February through July.
So what I’ve learned with my lifelong connection with the 49ers is that being a fan isn’t just cheering, buying a jersey or ten, reading articles or listening to podcasts. Yes it can involve all or none of those things. Being a fan means that your family expands and includes those that tailgate with you or argue over the size of signing bonuses. In England they would call us hooligans, but here we’re just simply called The Faithful.
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