The 49ers Tragic Loss

Elizabeth Wurtzel in her aptly titled book Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, says that women, as a gender, would be much happier if they could get into something the way men get into sports. Her theory is that the ability to wholeheartedly invest oneself emotionally into a hobby is an effective distraction from lamenting about the ills affecting mankind. I have often wondered about this proposition and recently had the opportunity to test it out with the San Francisco 49ers making the playoffs this year. I’ve never been to San Francisco, look terrible in red and have always been a die-hard 49ers fan. I’m a 49ers fan because my two brothers are 49ers fans. They’re 49ers fans because our dad is a 49ers fan. Our dad can’t remember why he’s a 49ers fan but thinks he just always liked them. My brother’s son is a Giant’s fan because he was born in New York, but he’s eight so what does he know.

Having grown up with men, I know never to talk during a sports game, unless it’s to chant “D, D, D, D” while the other team has the ball. But in an effort to bond with my husband, I’ll memorize lines from ESPN or other sports commentators and repeat them at commercial breaks. Nothing makes him angrier.      

“You know, they said Alex Smith was a prime example of a first round draft pick gone bad, but here he is leading his team into the playoffs.”

“Mmmm,” says Stephen, the tips of his ears starting to turn the colour of the San Fran uniforms.

“It must be a lot of pressure for him, having to see all those Lombardi trophies every day at their training centre, don’t you think?”

His cheeks are on fire.

“He’s really had to use his arms and his legs this season, eh? The Niners are going to need a strong defensive performance though if they’re going to beat Manning. He’s just a better ball handler.”

“Stop it.” 

Where did I go wrong? Was it ‘ball handler?’

“Why won’t you talk to me about sports?” I asked him.

“I just choose not to.”

Fine. There’s little time to talk stats anyway because the game is intense. Sitting in my Niners tee, I spent hours on the edge of the couch, exchanging a flurry of texts with my brothers and whispering “D, D, D” under my breathe when I think Stephen can’t hear me. I’m totally into it, just like Wurtzel suggests, and for a while I forgot about any pressing work deadlines, the book I’m trying to write and all the other things that eat away at me. Elizabeth is so right! I should be investing myself into sports instead of cognitive behavioural therapy.   

And then, in overtime, after brushing a punt that landed near him in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Kyle Williams literally let victory slip through his hands, fumbling the ball and turning over possession. It was horrible. I watched Williams walk off the game-changed field dumbfounded and dejected.

Williams Pre-Fumble 

          Williams Mid-Fumble

Williams Post-Fumble

“How awful! I feel so bad for him!” I lamented.

“Don’t worry,” Stephen reassured me, “he gets paid millions of dollars to do the exact opposite of what he just did.” Stephen turned back to the tv to watch the game’s foregone conclusion.

“Do you think the team is mean to him?” I asked.


“What do you think they say to him in the locker room?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think anyone talks to him during the offseason, or does he become like some social paraiah?”


I can’t help it. I’m fixated on the misfortune of this overpaid twenty-three year old.

“Can the team end his contract? Is his career over? Will this haunt him forever? Will he be scared to leave the house? How long until this blows over? Is he going to get death threats now? Will he be killed, like those Columbian soccer players? Is there anything we can do?”

 My angst is reminiscint of the time  a therapist suggested that I curb my OCD by wearing an elastic band around my wrist and snapping it every time an obsessive thought enters my head. By the end of the first day I had welts on my arm. I was obsessive about the elastic, soon snapping myself for obsessing over my obsession. Lamenting over my lamentations, I mentally snap away at myself until, finally, I resign myself to the truth: I am wholeheartedly invested in all ills affecting mankind. Books, sports and elastics cannot dilute my focus.

Thank God San Francisco didn’t make it to the Superbowl. I don’t think I could handle such an effective distraction.