It’s been a great playoff season. Who could have predicted that when the smoke cleared there would be two coaches named Harbaugh in the Championship game, as well as a Giants team who on December 4th had lost four in a row, and at 6-6 looked like an afterthought. The Patriots success could have been predicted, but on the other hand, they have one of the more porous defenses in NFL history to have advanced this deep into the playoffs.
On Saturday I settled into my living room to watch the 49ers/Saints game. Living in the Bay Area and being a sports talk-radio devotee, I had spent the previous week being hyped into a frenzy, and by midday Saturday I was frothing at the mouth awaiting the game.
The radio hosts and the callers had confounded me with their near unanimous confidence in the 49ers ability to take down the scoring machine that is the Saints offense. To me it seemed like homer-ism run amok. Their team has a mediocre quarterback and had played a soft schedule.
In New York, even when the Giants have great teams, this kind of blanket cockiness never exists. There is always a healthy dose of skepticism and people more or less expect the worst to happen.
I have a theory about this. New York has largest Jewish population of any metropolitan area in the world. Nobody knows suffering like the Jews do, and the feeling of facing insurmountable hardships seeps into the collective psyche of the city. Every gentile in New York knows a little Yiddish.
The Hebraically challenged Bay Area does not know from such suffering, ergo they are blithely spared such bouts of negative thinking. They can’t imagine anything bad happening.
Contrarian that I am, I was quietly savoring watching the ‘Friscans being served a generous helping of humble pie. The game began and you could see immediately that the 49ers defense was all that it was advertised. Still the Saints defense held their own, shutting down the Niners offense for most of the second and third quarter.
By the fourth quarter two things were painfully apparent: First, it was going to be a great ending, and second, because of my Saturday night gig, I would have to leave sometime during the fourth quarter.
I left with the 49ers ahead with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. By the time I had reached the Bay Bridge the Saints had taken their first lead of the game. Midway across the bridge the 49ers grabbed the lead back with a brilliant Harbaugh call of an Alex Smith bootleg.
By now I was beginning to do the slow burn, grinding my teeth and muttering the name, Joe Carter under my breath. (In 1993 I missed the one of the greatest World Series ending of all time — a Joe Carter walk-off home run)
I was over the bridge and driving south on Folsom when the Saints retook the lead on a 66 yard Drew Brees pass to tight end, Jimmy Graham.
By now I was desperately searching for a bar where I could pull over and watch the final minute and a half of the game. The sports gods rewarded me with a bar and a parking spot, and I ran in to see the winning 49er drive. At least I can say I saw the end of what will surely be remembered as one of the greatest playoff games of all time.
I was unprepared for what would happen next. It was more of a delayed reaction, really, as if the city was on seven second delay. It was as if the city took a collective deep breath and held it for five minutes.
Then bedlam. People began streaming out of bars shouting with delight, cars were honking and drunk girls were screaming like banshees. This went on for two hours. It was like V-J day. I realize it was a game for the ages, but come on, San Francisco, act like you’ve been there before. It’s not even the championship game!
The thing is, they have been there — THEY’VE WON FIVE SUPER BOWLS!
Now the 49ers will face my team, the Giants. I have no doubt that every Bay Area resident is rubbing his or her palms together in glee, thinking, “Oh baby, it’s in the bag!” But unless I miss my guess, I think they’re in for a rude awakening come Sunday. Talmud, after all, is a dish best served cold.