Ratto: No football this coming weekend, if that's your idea of fun

After Seattle thriller, it’s Miami or bust

Ray Ratto
December 30, 2019 - 9:17 am
No 49ers football this weekend, if that's your idea of fun

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers may take a knee and thank the honesty of the game clock operator in CenturyLink Field for giving the 49ers a fair shake on the most expensive penalty of the 2019 football season.

Because he or she only gave the Seattle Seahawks the 30 seconds legally allotted them to get off their third down play at the 49er 1-yard-line Sunday night, the Seahawks did not score the touchdown that would have maintained their gratuitous decade-long stranglehold on the 49ers' collected souls. They would also have covered the 3 1/2-point line, making many 49er bettors very cross indeed.

Oh, and the 49ers would have lost in this damp, foreboding state — again — and would have had to go to Philadelphia for the joys of Lincoln Financial Hell, where the fans aren't as loud but are three times as ornery.

Instead, they have everything they want, every way they want it. If they don't make it to Miami now, it will be entirely their fault, and no excuses will be permitted. No "Oh, but look how far they've come" sniveling, or any of the litany of logic-tortured what-ifs that graft themselves to most games in the modern National Football League.

They now have everyone's fate in their hands, at least on the NFC side. They know how hard it is to beat very good teams, but now they're the goodliest by dint of result and location, so they aren't the charming little engine that won four games last year or six the year before. They are the Other Patriots, the putative favorite against anyone in the NFL bracket, They are not the hunted, necessarily; in that tired old phrase, they would be the team everyone is aiming at. In fact, they are hunting as much as any team, and all they have is a slightly better crossbow and more knowledge of the woods.

In other words, they are nobody's underdog now. The bad old days are gone, and nobody should reference them any more than 49er fans referenced 1980 in 1981. When the wreckage is in the rear view mirror, everyone looks straight ahead.

So for what little that matters, that part of the narrative is now done. They are all about the next three games and the next four weeks, if that's what they get. And if that's what they get, it will be because they aren't the 2018 team any more. They have freed themselves of all that baggage, and unless this season is just a wacky one-off and they return to their clownish past, they will never see that luggage again. They are a power team again, and like they were three decades ago, they do it with no other team in the area.

The Oakland Raiders are now just a memory, and their fans have nothing but the past — at least those who refuse to accept their departure to Nevada. Their second final moment was a lot like their first. They scored only one touchdown and lost ignominiously to finish 7-9. It wasn't quite as dramatic; they lost to the San Diego Chargers, 23-10, but they faded in Oakland as they will fade now. Whatever they become from here, their links to the old days will be necessarily broken because their new customers don't give a damn about any of the good old days, and the new customers are the ones with the money.

In that way, like the 49ers, the Raiders are embarking on a journey to a brand new world, and it doesn't actually start for another nine months and a million miles away. The 49ers, having wiped their recent history more effectively, efficiently and effervescently, have 13 days to kill before their new season begins.

And if they have lived the right lives, their game clock operator will be a bit more of a brigand. You know, just in case.

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