Category Archives: Football

Thrilling turnarounds not reserved for the Super Bowl

Longtime acquaintances may wonder how I, as a San Francisco 49er supporter since 1972, am feeling today in the wake of the Niners losing the Super Bowl yesterday. The response, surprising as it may be to some, is “pretty cheerful, thanks.” I propose a couple of major reasons for this:

1. I was not at all cheerful after the opening kickoff of the second half was returned for a touchdown, making the score 28-6 in favor of the Ravens and making me wonder if the Niners were about to go completely off the rails. They didn’t, of course, taking advantage of a bizarre 34-minute power failure to regroup and turn the game around. They rallied furiously and had the ball inside the Baltimore 10-yard line with four chances to win the game with under two minutes remaining; how can I possibly be anything but thrilled about that? They showed commitment, resilience, and adaptability, all essential qualities for football excellence. Nothing to feel bad about there.

2. I was not as ridiculously invested in this game as I would have been in the “old days”. When the Niners last won the Super Bowl in 1995, I was living in a basement in Davis, California. I was working part-time, drinking heavily when I was wasn’t working, and generally wondering where I was and what I should be doing. I remember feeling that the Niners were the only bright spot in my life. That situation has also turned around dramatically, although it took longer than the second half of yesterday’s game (yes, I hear the jokes about how long that half was, babies born in less time, yes yes). I’ve gotten married, become a parent to four amazing daughters, and come to the Cross. Bad habits take a long time to die (which is why I hate the expression “dropped (something) like a bad habit, its *so* wrong!). My wife will tell you about the early days of our marriage when I would get so stressed watching a Niners game that she would keep the girls out of the room. I have slowly acquired some perspective over the years and gradually made some decisions about what is worth stressing about.

As longtime readers recall, my daughter Liza played basketball on an AAU 13 & under travel team. That team started out as green and inept as you could possibly imagine and eventually worked its way up to qualify for and play at the national tournament at Disney World. They won a lot of games, but my favorite memory comes from the last game in Florida. The girls were trying to protect a slim lead late in the game, but they kept losing players who fouled out. At the end of the last regulation period, they had four girls on the court, led by Liza. They came very close to pulling out the win, but eventually lost the game in overtime. I loved what those girls showed me that game, even the fact that they were sobbing with exhaustion and frustration at the end. (I also love that they were enjoying themselves at Disney World a few hours later.)

These days, I don’t worry as much about who wins; I hope that that my team plays with heart, commitment, and responds well to adversity, as the Niners did yesterday. That seems like a more useful approach to most things in life, to my mind.

Who is overpaid again?

A lot of people think American professional athletes are overpaid, especially in the big-time sports (Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL). You will get no argument from me on the first two sports, but I think football players earn their large salaries, generally speaking. Here’s why:

1. Nearly half of all NFL players make the league minimum. This year, that ranged from $375,000 to $910,000, depending on how long the player has been in the league. Good money, but not the multi-millions imagined by casual fans. The money is not guaranteed (for the most part); if a player is cut before a game, he is usually not paid for that game.

2. The average NFL career lasts about 3 1/2 seasons.

3. Unless he is a kicker, an NFL player is virtually guaranteed to walk away from football with serious, lifelong medical issues. As John Madden once said, “If you play one NFL game, you will never be the same again.” I will never forget meeting a group of former 49ers at a sports banquet hosted by Yosemite High School. Most of those men walked with noticeable limps and several had canes. They weren’t octogenarians, either – I had watched a lot of them play within the last couple of decades.

Football has a lot of rewards, to be sure, and I am certain that most former players will tell you that they wouldn’t trade their time in the NFL for anything. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that they all live a life of wealth and ease after they are done playing.