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Why a 49ers Victory in Super Bowl LVIII May Mean More to More People Than Any Championship in North-American Sports History 

Sports reporter Andrew Bensch on why a Super Bowl win will mean a lot to a younger generation of fans who have never witnessed a Bay Area NFL Championship.

The San Francisco 49ers have already won five Super Bowls. There is no way this year’s Super Bowl could mean more to 49ers fans than other championships have meant to other fan bases, right? 

On the surface? Sure, the Boston Red Sox lifting the curse of the Bambino in 2004 certainly meant more to the city of Boston, as did the 2016 Chicago Cubs ending a 100-year drought to win their first World Series. Heck, even in the Bay Area, the Golden State Warriors win in 2014-15 ended a decades-long drought. That was a 40-year dry spell, significantly longer than the 49ers’ current 29-year one. So no, this Niners Super Bowl doesn’t compare. That logic is sound.

There are valid arguments to be had for all the aforementioned teams/fan bases and for numerous others. This article isn’t being written to say you’re dumb if you disagree. I am a die-hard 49ers fan myself. And I wouldn’t blame any reader for saying, “This author is dead wrong. He’s incredibly biased. Don’t bother reading!” I would just ask for those readers to hear me out first. 

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There are a few factors that go into why a particular championship would mean so much to a fan base. The length of the championship drought is just one of them. However, there are two other major factors that often get overlooked. One is the jealousy of younger fans to the older generations of fans. And the other is whether the team has been knocking on the championship door, and if they have, for how long? And just how frustrating were those near misses? This year’s Super Bowl checks off all three of these factors for 49ers fans in a way that very few (if any) other fan bases can claim.

The drought of 29 years, while not 84 nor 100-plus, is a significant drought. None of the 49ers fan base under the age of 37 vividly remembers the 49ers last Super Bowl win. Maybe some 35-37-year-olds can claim some fleeting memories of being a kid when Steve Young hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, but realistically, this would be a first Super Bowl win for them. And for fans 35 and under, it almost certainly would be a first. 

While the length of time hasn’t been as long as the Red Sox or Cubs title droughts, neither of those fan bases had to deal with the jealousy of previous generations. Those of us 49ers fans born since the mid-80s have grown up with videos and images of Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, Joe Montana to John Taylor, Ronnie Lott tackles, Steve Young to Jerry Rice, and Deion Sanders high-stepping the sideline. But we haven’t ever gotten to experience any of those highlights in real time, as they happen. What have we experienced? We’ve experienced devastation in 2012 when they had the Super Bowl win in their grasp but failed to give Frank Gore the ball inside the five-yard line. We experienced 2019 when they held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl only to lose again in the big game. 

The following quotation is verbatim from 37-year-old, Santa Clara native and 49er fan Pedro Martinez on what this Super Bowl win would mean to him:

“To not have to hear my dad say ‘Joe Montana would have won that Super Bowl.’ I need that monkey off my back.” 

Last, but not least, there is the “knocking on the championship door” factor. The Cubs were mostly bad leading up to 2016. The Red Sox were knocking on the door, but harder than the 49ers? San Francisco went to the Super Bowl in 2019 only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. In 2021, they got all the way back to the NFC Championship game only to lose to their division rival Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers were arguably a dropped interception by safety Jaquiski Tartt away from being headed back to the Super Bowl. Brutal stuff. But yet, there’s more. In 2022, they ride a hot rookie QB in Brock Purdy back to the NFC Championship game. Only Purdy suffers a catastrophic elbow injury in the first quarter and their hopes are dashed. 49ers fans have suffered enough. They want this bad. Just take it from 35-year-old Santa Clara native Zack Heinen

“I’ve been a 49er fan for as long as I can remember. They won the Super Bowl the year I was born, and now that I have a newborn daughter, it would be the most full-circle moment in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the Warriors and Giants win multiple championships, but football has always been my passion. I would give up all four NBA championships and all three World Series titles to see the 49ers win another Super Bowl.” 

Three NFC Championship games in four years with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Flash forward to present day, and here we are, after a fourth NFC Championship game in five years, the 49ers have another chance to win the Super Bowl. That ever elusive sixth Super Bowl. 

Not a single 49er fan under the age of 40 really knows what it feels to see their team hoist the Lombardi. Perhaps some elder millennials (shout out Iliza Schlesinger) have some fleeting memories from 1994, but the vast majority of us in our thirties, twenties and younger have no memories whatsoever. And we are desperate to make some. We are yearning to make those memories. To scream and yell. To wipe away those happy tears. To get that monkey off our backs. 

If the 2016 Cubs lose the World Series, fans could just say, “Oh well, same old Cubbies,” or if the Red Sox lost in 2004, fans could have just been, “Oh well, that’s life as a Sox fan.” Those of us 49ers fans in the younger generation don’t have that. We know our team has brought happy championship memories to our Baby Boomer and Gen X loved ones, and we just so desperately want to be a part of that. I mean, yeah, there are plenty of strong sports fan bases throughout the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA, but ones that want it as bad as millennial 49er fans? I may be biased, but I don’t think there are any. If Aaron Rodgers takes the Jets to the Super Bowl next season only to lose, Jets fans can at least be happy that they were in the playoffs again and actually relevant for once. We 49ers fans can’t fall back on that. We’ve already been relevant for years, but it’s only ever ended in heartbreak. “Merely good” seasons just aren’t good enough for us anymore. We need to see our team make history. We need to finish the season on top of the podium, raising that Lombardi Trophy. Anything short of that is simply torture. It would be cruel and unusual punishment. It would be soul crushing. 

We need this win

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1 Comment
  1. Buchser Alum 3 months ago
    Reply

    Joe Montana would have won that Super Bowl.

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