The 49ers: Why I love to hate the team I used to love


I’m having a difficult time with my former 49er fandom. In fact, I think the joy derived from my renounced allegiance growing in conjunction with their current demise is a bit of a psychosis. So, I did what everyone who’s confused about stuff does. I went to a shrink.

By Andrew Pridgen

After 38 whole seconds of clicking over the Google Os at the bottom of my search for a psychiatrist specializing in sports fan-related issues, I came across Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. Susan is a professor of psychology at UMass and, if her Twitter feed is to be believed, has a thing for sadists.

She recently wrote ardent sports fans suffer from one of two syndromes which sound vaguely like repugnant sexual acts involving flatulence in a bathtub or a campus-wide eating disorder; they are Birging and Corfing.

(I’m not making this shit up.She wrote a paper on it while you were busy pretending to work).

She says Birging stands for ‘Basking in Reflected Glory”. In her words, “When your team is doing great, you feel great.” Birging is the reason why Sportsfanguy says “we” instead of “they” when referring to his team or takes his vanity plates inside the stadium and points “number one” to them on the cutaway.

Birgers are mostly native to the Northeast and can be easily spotted in the wild wearing Tom Brady jerseys, talking about how great Pablo looks this spring and secretly wishing they had A-Rod trapped in their basement.

The other sickness belongs to the Corfers, which stands for “Cut Off Reflected Failure.” Corfers are often discovered on eBay selling their Kobe Bryant jerseys with no reserve. Anyone who took to the streets in Cleveland with a Zippo and a 23 replica jersey circa July 8, 2010 is a Corfer. Corfers are commonly associated with three-initial organizations: SEC, GOP, NRA and FOX.

I’m sure at times I have been both a Birger and a Corfer, but now I’m compelled to wonder what my current diagnosis is.

So I wrote Ms. Dr. Whitbourne and described my condition as such: One the one hand, I am so very happy that big old corporate sell-out Santa Clara-based cruise ship appears to have been piloted by a drunk Italian Captain Merrill Stubing right into a giant concrete freeway barrier on the 101 and is sinking in the shadow of the Facebook campus.

On the other hand, I look at the vintage Chalk Line Forty Niners satin gold number hanging in my closet next to my father’s college letterman jacket, and I shed a tear for what was and what will never be again.

It’s part loathing of what the ownership of my team has done to alienate its faithful both on the field and in the stands, and it’s part self-loathing as I derive so much perverse pleasure from watching the team implode.

It’s clear to me I love to hate the team I used to love.

First crickets, then this:

I am sorry but I’m unable to provide help on this topic at the present time. Thank you for contacting me.

No salutation. No signature.

In other words, I’m either beyond help or she’s scared (or both).

Then I did what all people in need of deep therapy with problems that can’t be solved over an email do, I decided my issues have NOTHING to do with me and everything to do with the 49ers. In fact, losing me as a fan was a decision the 49ers made for me. Kind of like how breakups are always ultimately the fault of the other person who decides to leave the relationship mentally before you decided to physically, or vice-versa.

The team makes shrewd moves all the time to get rid of dead weight. It happened to Roger Craig. It happened to Tom Rathman. It happened to Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott. It happened to Joe Montana, for goodness sake.

Most recently, it happened to Frank Gore.

Gore will finish his career in a jersey that’s not red wearing a helmet not made of gold, just like me.

If the 49ers were willing to let go of their all-time leading rusher without as much as a press release, think of how willing they were to throw my fandom into the choppy sea of Redwood Shores’ family neglect and commuter exhaust.

I’m not a PSL holder at the new stadium. I haven’t attended a game since 2001. I haven’t bought 49ers merch since I had a size 24 waist and Starter jackets were worn off the shoulder. And, minus a casual check of the score on my phone or a quiet affair with Vernon Davis when he was my number-one tight end, I’ve done nothing in the name of the 49ers (though I recently did offer to take a Candlestick urinal off their hands).

And they certainly haven’t done much for me.

From a distance, I was a fan of Jim Harbaugh’s pleated sensibility. I liked Colin Kaepernick’s resemblance to Squidward. I agreed Patrick Willis was a well-mannered beast. I marveled at Mike Iupati’s footwork. I didn’t mind Michael Crabtree’s rookie year holdout because it gave me something to complain about. And Super Bowl XLVII blacked out before I did—a first.

But now, with the current but perhaps short-term exception of their playcaller, all those pieces are gone. Retired, released, traded—discarded like greasy garlic fry paper, skittering along the empty Candlestick lot and slinking down the chain link as Rose’s hand against the back seat window in Titanic.

And I have been released along with them. My no-revenue-generating self a vestige of a time and an ownership and a stadium long past. Gone and forgotten, immobile like that giant escalator to the upper box concessions at the ‘Stick. I wasn’t able to grow with the team. I wasn’t able to keep up, stay sharp—be attentive. Or simply, attend.

So, they dumped me.

Like most of the scorned, I’m proud to craft the story in a way that suits me best, like it was my decision to go. The message boards are full of trolls like me: “You say goodbye to San Francisco, I say goodbye to you.” “You can keep your four-hour traffic jam getting into your new luxury suite-filled Erector set you call a stadium.” “Have fun rooting for spoiled boy Jed’s broken toy as they win two games (with class!) next year.”

No—at the moment I am no Birger or Corfer. I’m not a psychotic ex fan either. I am simply a number on a spreadsheet in a column that no longer exists. A writedown. A negative value. So I wrote the 49ers to tell them I now understand why they’re done with me and no hard feelings.

And this is what I got back: I am sorry but I’m unable to provide help on this topic at the present time. Thank you for contacting me.