No matter how long you’ve cheered for the Seattle Seahawks, odds are you have the (un)fortunate pleasure of knowing at least one San Francisco 49er fan. Maybe you’ve got a gaggle of in-laws who cheer for the Whiners. Regardless, the last nine days have been very difficult for San Fran fans. They are suffering through the loss of their season and it’s our duty to help our fellow human beings work through their pain.
To that end I’ve put together a list of the five stages of grief as they apply to those who cheer for the Scarlet & Gold. After you’ve educated yourself on the stages please forward this to any 49er fans you know. You might just save a life!
1. Denial & Isolation
Sherman tips the pass from Kaepernick. The Seahawks come down with the ball. Game. Over.
Bars and living rooms across northern California go silent. You can hear a pin drop. Is that it? Is the dream over? Desolate eyes stare at screens hoping the replays will change and that this time Crabtree will come down with the game-winning touchdown pass. But the replays don’t change. The game, the season, the run at a sixth championship is over. Denial can’t last long in a situation like this, so your 49er friends turn to isolation. They don’t return your texts. They ignore you on Facebook. The emotional trauma of another loss to the Seahawks is too much to bear so they hide from you and from their own feelings. If you have a Whiner fan who still isn’t talking to you, don’t take it personally. Instead, realize they are still in the first stage of grief. Let them be alone. Don’t worry, they’ll move on to the second stage of grief soon enough, and at that point you probably won’t want to talk to them.
“Richard Sherman is a thug! He’s got no class!”
“The Seahawks only won because their stadium is so loud!”
As San Francisco fans emerge from their isolation they are reminded repeatedly that the Broncos face off against the Seahawks this Sunday. Their fragile egos are not ready for this reality to set in and instead they react in anger. To identify a 49er fan suffering from grief-anger, look for signs of irrational behavior, guilt, and angry outbursts in excess of what a given situation warrants. For example, look at all the hoopla Richard Sherman’s post-game “rant” generated. You may hear stories about in-laws throwing away San Francisco paraphernalia. They may blow up at you for no apparent reason (the chances of this happening are positively correlated to the amount of Seahawks gear you are wearing at the time). Again, I urge you to remember that it’s not about you. Their anger is a result of their inability to deal with the reality that the 49ers were dominated by the Seahawks again. Erase their stark-raving-mad voicemails to you about what a punk Russell Wilson is, and resist the urge to kiss your bicep when you see them in person. Or at least make it look like you’re resisting…
I suspect most of our family and friends who cheer for the Whiners are currently struggling with this stage of grief. Just have a look at some of the things fans and sports analysts alike are saying, and you’ll agree:
“If only our defense hadn’t been drawn offsides on that 4th down bomb to Kearse…”
“If only we hadn’t had three turnovers in the second half…”
“If only all of the analysts had picked the 49ers to win…”
Your friends’ hopes for another championship are over; in their helplessness they try to regain control through bargaining with the football gods. It’s just another coping mechanism 49er fans will use to postpone facing the inevitable: The Seahawks are this year’s NFC Champs. To help a San Fran fan in this stage of grief simply make soothing noises of general agreement with whatever they say. In their fragile emotional state they need to know you’re there to listen and not to remind them of Beast Mode’s huge touchdown run.
The reality of the 49ers’ loss to the Seahawks is starting to set in for fans in the fourth stage of grief. A friend in this stage may be heard asking themselves: “Why did I get this damn tattoo? I wonder how much it’ll cost to get it removed.” The realization of the pain and cost associated with laser tattoo removal is one of the reasons Whiner fans will find themselves depressed. On another level, San Fran fans are silently preparing themselves to accept the truth of their predicament: Colin Kaepernick is no Joe Montana, and no amount of whining can salvage this season. To comfort your family and friends at this stage of grief, offer to drive them to the tattoo removal clinic. Try to be understanding of their sadness, and keep in mind that it’s possible they may just need a hug. Go ahead and give ’em a big squeeze, and be sure to wear your 12th Man jersey when you do.
If they’re lucky your Scarlet & Gold buddies will eventually reach this stage of grief, probably around the time Spring Training starts for the Giants. A certain sense of calm will overtake them; their denial, anger, bargaining and depression will cease. They won’t ever be happy about losing to the Seahawks, but they have accepted the fact that no amount of trash-talking or bicep-kissing can resurrect this year of football. After careful observation of your Whiner pal, if you are certain they have entered this final phase of the grieving process, I recommend purchasing them a Russell Wilson jersey. This could be a golden opportunity to convert them from the Dark Side of the NFC West!
Remember: The five stages of grief are no laughing matter! If you or someone you know is a San Francisco 49er or Denver Bronco fan, get professional help immediately.
For real advice on the stages of grief, read this great article by Julie Axelrod here