When one of my best friends told me she was getting married in Vermont in September, I really wanted to be happy for her. And I was because she’s great and so is her new husband blah blah blah. But still, the first thing out of my mouth was “You’re getting married during FOOTBALL SEASON?” She apologized for interfering with my schedule (was that sarcasm I detected?), but then didn’t actually change the date. (Does she think her wedding is all about her?) And the panic set in. It’s a fact that I’ll skip baby showers, birthday parties, pretty much anything, if they interfere with football. But I mean, my best friend’s wedding? Even I’m not that heartless.
Or at least I got to pretend I wasn’t when the 49ers schedule came out and I saw we had a 10 a.m. PT away game against the Steelers the Sunday after her wedding. All I needed to do was arrange my schedule so that I could watch the game in a sports bar near the Albany, New York airport and fly out afterwards. Which is how I found myself at On Tap yesterday afternoon, a weird bar in a Latham, New York Holiday Inn parking lot with 16 flat screens, $2 Bud Lights, and exactly zero other female patrons.
I think everyone felt cautiously optimistic after the Niners win over the Vikings last Monday night and as I settled in at the bar, I felt okay. Like, we’re not going to be good, but maybe we weren’t going to be as terrible as we all thought in the offseason. I, for one, naïvely believed we actually had a shot at beating the Steelers. Well, let me say this. After three of the longest hours of my life, stuck in a bar with a brutal wedding hangover watching my team totally fall apart on almost every level, my head is officially out of the clouds and I’m basically going to assume the 49ers will lose every game this season from here on out. You can say I’m not faithful or whatever, but if you actually watched the game yesterday, I know you won’t.
It didn’t seem like we were going to be terrorized by the Steelers right off the bat. Sure, they scored a touchdown (and got the two-point conversion) in the first quarter, but the Niners seemed like they were going to answer on the next drive. They didn’t, of course, because the Niners suck balls (that’s the officially term for it, right?) in the red zone, but we at least got a field goal to make it 8-3. Except then the whole Rothlisberger to Antonio Brown for 59 yards thing happened (followed by another touchdown and another two-point conversion to make it 16-3) and then ANOTHER touchdown to make it 22-3 and I was starting to get a little nervous, but was still like, I mean, it’s 18 points; we can totally score 18 points.
But then, on a drive when we really, really needed to score, Kap tried to hand Carlos Hyde the ball on 1st and 10 on our own 45, and Hyde fumbled it.
It was at this point that I, the girl who’d been sitting quietly at the bar minding her own business, let out a noise I can only compare to a rabid wild beast who’d just been shot with an arrow. It was loud, it was guttural, and it was unrelenting.
Suddenly, the entire bar was very aware of my presence.
“Dais,” Kathy, the bartender said. “You’re scaring me!”
“You okay over there?” a table of dudes asked, their mouths full of wings.
“You can always be a Broncos fan with me!” another guy said. (Why do guys always offer this up as a solution? WHY?)
And then, best of all, thirty seconds later, a shot of “Black Velvet” appeared in front of me. “Someone bought you this,” Kathy said. “But he doesn’t want me to tell you who he is.”
“Uh .. that’s so nice, but .” I fondled my rental car keys. “I really can’t. Tell him thank you though!”
The shot remained awkwardly perched in front of me for the rest of the game because apparently in Latham, New York, unsolicited shots from total strangers just don’t get turned down.
Believe me, there were points during the rest of the game when I considered taking it. Watching ball after ball fly over the heads of our secondary, I really wanted the shot. Watching Carlos Hyde walk off to the locker room, I thought about how that shot could take the pain away. Every time Kaepernick got sacked (five times), I looked at that shot. And when I finally accepted that there was no way the Niners could come back to win the game, that I wasted an afternoon in a random bar when I could have been flying home to see my Saint Bernard, and that the San Francisco 49ers have literally zero chance of making it to the playoffs, I finally almost just took the damn thing.
But ultimately, no shot is going to make the pain of this 49ers team go away. It was just a few years ago that we were good enough to go to the Super Bowl. Now, thanks to Jed York (and a rash of early retirement), we’re back to rebuilding. And I suspect we’ll be doing it for quite a while. And so I did what any girl would do. Gave the shot to the dude next to me, gathered my belongings, and started the long journey home.
We have a long season ahead of us. A season where our young defense is going to struggle. Our special teams is going to make dumb mistakes. And our offense just might be able to get something going, but will likely never be quite enough. We’re about to find out just how qualified Jim Tomsula and Eric Mangini really are (or are not) And I suspect it will be more of the latter. Yeah, we have a long season ahead of us. And all of the shots in the world aren’t going to be able to numb the pain. Lord knows if I tried, I’d be writing this come December from the Betty Ford Clinic.
So what’s the takeaway? Other than that we’re in for a brutal season? Maybe I should start focusing on the actual important things in life. Like birthdays and showers. Maybe I should stop turning down invites because I’m too busy watching a football game OHMYGOD PEOPLE I AM JOKING. That’ll never happen. Not even if we go 1-15. Still, it was lovely to be there with my best friend on her Big Day. Even if I did get served chicken when I specifically requested the beef.
Next Week: I feel we can all agree that we’re going to lose to the Cardinals in Arizona. Right?