You see, the 49ers have won five Super Bowls -- all during my prime football-watching years -- and I'm not greedy. When Steve Young retired after the 1999 season, so did I. Not that Young was the be-all and end-all of 49ers players (although he was my favorite quarterback, ever. Sorry, Joe). It's just that his passing marked the end of an era, and I knew that it was also time for me to go. The writing was on the wall. No longer would my imagination run wild with this team, like one of Young's frenetic, helmetless broken-field scrambles. From now on, I would admire the Niners only from afar. And the only reason I can afford to do this is because of Montana and Rice and Lott, et al.
This pretty much matches my experience exactly, although I stayed around a bit after Young had to retire. For years, I used to know all the team stats and almost every guy on the roster. Before stats were posted online within hours of the games, I used to scour the team stats printed weekly in the newspaper. I listened to the streaming audio of KGO every Sunday through college. I like Mike Nolan and hope he can start the team back on the right path, but right now it's not even a scrappy-but-likeable bunch of players, it just a bunch of poor, undistinguished players. I still watch out of habit, and can't stop myself from continuing to care what happens (I'm optimistic about Vernon Davis, haven't given up on Alex Smith, still admire BY, and of course always root for my ND guys like Arnaz Battle) . . . but all in all, the best era of the Niners, in more ways than one, is far behind us. Now, I just sit back and take my satisfactions from other places around the league, like the total collapse of Brett Favre and the Packers. Did anyone catch that preseason drubbing by the Bengals last night? That looked pretty. Keep on turning the ball over, Brett, and we'll have a nice season.