The San Francisco 49ers 2010 season took another interesting turn over the last couple of days, when news broke that disgruntled starting free safety Michael Lewis had left the team, would not return, and was requesting his release.
Lewis was apparently upset over rumors that he would be asked to relinquish his starting job to rookie Taylor Mays (rumors mind you that head coach Mike Singletary said publicly he knew nothing about—5:38 of 49ers.com/media-gallery/videos/Singletarys-Press-Conference/509bd8e6-8ef0-40b9-9119-39de0c864a46">this feed), and—in a move reminiscent of Kentwan Balmer—fled the team and through his agent refused to return.
Practically since the moment the 49ers selected the highly touted Mays out of USC at 49th overall in April, fans and analysts alike let out a collective battle cry for Mays to immediately ascend to the starting role. He was reported to be a far better option than Lewis, who had suffered nearly as many concussions in recent years as former quarterback Steve Young at the end of his playing career.
Lewis was persona non grata, an aging veteran on his way out, slated to give way to Mays and Reggie Smith. The sooner, the better.
But as soon as news broke of Lewis's defection, the local media changed their tune. Far from the frenzied cheers of vindication one might have logically expected, the Bay Area sports media quickly spun this into a continuation of the largely-contrived drama that has plagued the team since August.
Lewis became the third player in as many months to defect, jumping a ship that was already too water-logged to bail out. Coach Singletry's credibility and integrity were called into question, with speculation that many on the team no longer trusted the once-beloved Hall of Fame linebacker. It was just another show of extreme desperation for a team that is already doomed just three weeks into the season.
Bill Walsh long acknowledged his ire for the media, and given their recent stoking of hysteria, one can easily see why. The Bay Area media hopes for, takes pleasure in, and tries to help bring about the demise of the San Francisco 49ers, because struggle and strife sell more papers than success.
Just like with Michael Crabtree's holdout last year, and the ever-present quarterback controversy that seems almost a necessity in San Francisco, a vast majority of the drama surrounding the 49ers is purely fictional. The Michael Lewis Saga is just the latest in a long line of examples.
It is in fact completely credible that the rumors which so infuriated Lewis were nothing more than idle speculation. When the very body crafting these fabrications is the same one "reporting" the "facts," it becomes difficult to distinguish the bounds of reality. But assuming the edict did come directly from Coach Sing that Lewis would relinquish his starting job, and Lewis reacted in spite, so what?
If that is the case, do the 49ers even want Lewis? Granted, no player will ever gladly surrender his job to his successor, but if Coach Sing truly feels the team is better served with Mays roving the secondary, why should he not make this move? A true team player would accept his role for the good of the team (especially with the team struggling at 0-3), that is what being a professional is all about.
Would people rather the 49ers stick with a personnel unit that clearly was not working, or try to make changes while time for a turn-around still exists?
The sudden swing from frenzied anticipation for Mays' ascension to utter outrage over Lewis' dismissal reeks of a familiar stench that has permeated the Bay Area for decades: the rancid odor of the disingenuous nature of the local sports media.
If the no-time World Champion San Francisco Giants ever become anything more than that (they won't), they will truly die of euphoria, but any apparent support for the 49ers or San Jose Sharks is merely to keep up appearances.
Walsh would tell the 49ers to rise up and right their course to spite the media. That is exactly what Coach Sing should do, and I expect the team will do.
Keep the Faith!