The football offseason usually plays tricks on the mind. The general hue of this trickery is rosy. A team that stunk the previous season somehow begins to look much improved for the upcoming season. It doesn’t take much to inflate this pink balloon. A free agency acquisition, a happy draft, a new coach. Any of these sources can set off the upwardly mobile illusions.
For the 49ers this year, it was a new coach. The wildly popular hiring of Jim Harbaugh in January proved an instant sedative to dull the pain of the embarrassingly bad 2010 season. Optimism for the future abounded throughout the blogopolis.
But a strange thing happened on the way to Pleasantville. Harbaugh actively and agressively wooed favorite 49er fan whipping boy Alex Smith to re-sign with the team for one more year. From that point on, aided and abetted by the sourness of the CBA labor dispute and subsequent lockout, the blog world has not only lost its rosy view of the 2011 season, but has adopted a thoroughly pessimistic one instead.
Fans in general have not taken this bitter pill, judging by the fact that ticket sales to 49er games this year are moving briskly and rank in the top five in the league for improved volume over the previous year. I mention this only for perspective, not for argumentative cachet. The blogs don’t care about the fans, and the fans don’t care about the blogs. Blogs are year around football guys. Fans are only seasonal enthusiasts who have other lives.
At any rate, for the first time since 2006, hardly any blognoscenti are predicting a winning season for the team. This could be a reaction to the ongoing embarrassment of annually predicting success, only to witness failure, demonstrated epicly by the 2010 team. Perhaps it’s a subconscious reverse psychology effort that realizes it’s a win-win deal if you predict failure. Either you have the satisfaction of being right for a change, or you are wrong again, but happily so, instead of miserably so.
The pessimism seems real, however, and not some concoction of the freudian id factory. This blogger does not share that pessimism. Last year at this time, it was widely acknowledged that the 49ers had the best talent in the NFC West. They still do.
The team bellied up last year not from lack of talent but from lack of spirit. Mike Singletary imploded after the first game of the season in Seattle and turned on his players. He never got them back. In fact, the team’s disgruntlement with the offensive game plans, or lack of them, which had been an ongoing complaint from the previous year, became a malaise which infected everyone on the team. The players could also see, just like all the fans and bloggers, the sheer incompetency Singletary displayed as the losses mounted and his press conferences became a grisly spectacle of a clueless coach who had completely lost his bluster, the bluster that was the foundation of his entire “vision”.
Harbaugh will rejuvenate this team’s spirit. He will also make football fun to play again. These guys have had six straight years of playing for coaches who were stern and humorless fellows. Try to recall one time you ever saw Mike Nolan or Mike Singletary laugh or seem to enjoy his job or the game itself. Good luck.
We’ll continue our foray into happy talk 2011 in subsequent postings, hopefully undeterred by the loud booing which these efforts are likely to engender. Go 49ers!