Win or lose, the most exciting 49ers season in my lifetime will come to a close next Sunday, and that makes me preemptively sad.
“Exciting” is clearly a subjective measure, but I’d argue it is largely defined by the unexpected.
In my 25 years following the 49ers franchise, I’ve seen more dominant, more explosive, more likable and lord knows more frustrating San Francisco squads, but no 49ers team has been so enjoyably unpredictable.
Football comparisons don’t do this season justice, so instead I’d liken it to the early days of 24, when – spoiler alert if you’re living in 2002 – Nina revealed herself to be the mole and shot Jack Bauer’s horrible wife to cap the first season finale.
Next thing you know Jack is cutting a guy’s head off, nuclear bombs are exploding, it's light outside and you realize you’ve just pounded out four DVD’s in 12 hours.
The sheer wealth of possibilities presented once Jack went off the rails made the show instantly addicting.
Jim Harbaugh created a similar level of total unpredictability when he axed Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick, and I guess we shouldn’t have been that surprised given Harbaugh’s public love affair with Jack Bauer.
Kaepernick’s insertion transformed a team with one of the NFL's most clearly defined identities into a squad with certifiable personality disorder.
The offense smokes the beastly Bears defense, then can’t muster two TDs against the lowly Rams. Kaepernick is John Elway in New England, and then Cody Pickett in Seattle. Aldon Smith is headed for the single-season sack record, then doesn’t touch a QB for the next month.
The wild swings in emotion accelerated as the season wore on, culminating in the NFC Championship game, which was an entire season’s worth of drama in four quarters.
By the time Matt Ryan meekly flung his final pass, punching the 49ers' ticket to New Orleans, fans were left with a disoriented blurriness of how it all came together so successfully. It was like surviving the world’s best car crash.
I will make no attempt to accurately predict how Sunday’s matchup will turn out. And given the way the 49ers have played the past month, anyone who portends to do so is fooling themselves.
Once you give yourself to the fact that what happens in the Super Bowl will be exciting and totally unexpected, it frees you to bask in the joy of this team and the national fluff being heaped upon them.