The Giants have a lot more in common with the 49ers than you might think.
I’m not referring to the New York Giants here. Well, I guess I am, if you’re thinking back to the 1950s. You know, when they played at the Polo Grounds? I’m talking about the G-Men…no, that doesn’t help either.
Let’s try that again.
The beard-growing, torture-inducing, 2010-World-Series-winning San Francisco baseball Giants (hereafter “Los Gigantes”) have a lot more in common with the 49ers than you might think.
For one, even though Los Gigantes left the 49ers to fend for themselves against Candlestick Park’s torrential winds more than a decade ago, the two teams do both play in the same city. Glad to have that established.
Besides just the geographical similarity, it’s notable that the two teams share the same fan base. The Bay Area fan is a rare specimen, often lying dormant for years before emerging with a triumphant “I truly do fear the beard!” or a boasting “Did you know that Andrew Luck plays football at the school I went to 25 years ago (but haven’t been to a game at since)?” We don’t always make for the best attendance numbers, but our own brand of citywide bandwagoning comes across as overwhelming support whenever someone mutters the word “championship.”
That’s not to say that the 49ers don’t have any dedicated fans, the type that flies back from their respective East Coast college for a weekend of playoff football or misses the dorm’s ski trip in order to catch the game. (I know both.) But there’s a certain general-public buzz around this 49ers team — the same buzz that followed Los Gigantes when they won it all in 2010 — that has got to be uplifting for the coaches and players.
When it comes to the gridiron, the 13-3 49ers have made their way into the NFL’s elite with a stifling defense in a season otherwise dominated by record-breaking quarterback performances. Sure, Frank Gore and Alex Smith have put together solid seasons, but San Francisco’s heart and soul lies in its defense. Doesn’t that remind you of when Los Gigantes took home the World Series two years ago, relying on arguably the most dangerous pitching staff in the NL and an offense that was middle-of-the-road at best?
Just as importantly, the squad has one hell of a coach in Jim Harbaugh. He might not have as much pro-level coaching experience as Bruce Bochy, who took Los Gigantes to the World Series in his 16th year as an MLB manager, but if Harbaugh’s time at Stanford told you anything, it’s that his players usually outperform expectations. That’s no coincidence.
But I’d argue that the 49ers resemble their baseball-playing counterparts most of all because of the adversity they’ve had to overcome. There was the difficulty of turning around a losing team despite a lockout-shortened offseason, just like the roster overhaul Los Gigantes underwent before (and during) the 2010 season. There was the bad P.R. from the preseason-game parking-lot shooting in August, just like the Barry Bonds steroid allegations cloud that continued to hang over AT&T Park. There was the challenge of getting Smith to live up to the expectations of a one-time first-overall draft pick, just like the (failed) struggle for Barry Zito to pitch like he deserved his seven-year, $126-million contract.
Even last weekend, there was the need for the 49ers to put together a last-minute drive to knock off the Saints and move on to the NFC title game, just like Los Gigantes squeaked out a series win over the Phillies with an eighth-inning home run.
The Bay Area has only had two professional major-sport teams win titles in a five-year span once before, when the Oakland A’s took home three straight World Series (1972-1974) and the Golden State Warriors won the 1975 NBA title. Could the two San Francisco teams pull off the feat again?
The pieces are in place, but there’s still a Giant game to be played Sunday. And hopefully, a Super one after that.
Don’t ever accuse Joseph Beyda of jumping on the 49er bandwagon because, unlike the bandwagoners he refers to, “Bunting Beyda” is as much a Bay Area sports fan as his last name suggests. Send him stories of fake fans’ tomfoolery at jbeyda “at” stanford.edu.