I have never understood, or cared to understand, American football. That is until last night.
Purely because of our affinity with the city of San Francisco, my wife and I had considered celebrating our first wedding anniversary at Wembley Stadium in October 2010 when the 49ers came to town with the Denver Broncos – until we saw the exorbitant prices. We went to Dublin for the weekend instead.
Last season, as dozens of others before, had completely passed me by but I have followed the upturn in their fortunes this year, if only by casting a cursory glance at the final scores. I had also read a lot about the exploits of quarterback, Alex Smith, which reminded me of the only 49ers player from the past I could honestly claim I could remember – Joe Montana.
So as they had reached the playoffs and were live on TV last night at a manageable hour (9.30pm) – even if it meant missing The Football League Show on BBC – I decided to tune in to the final two quarters as they were leading 17-14 against the New Orleans Saints at the time. Having led 14-0 earlier in the game but the prospects for the remainder of the game did not appear promising to one unsuspecting football virgin. However, the sight of a scarlet hued Candlestick Park convinced me to stay the course.
I can’t claim to have followed everything of what was going on, though touchdowns and field goals were at least comprehensible. And I can appreciate a long, accurate pass and even a mighty hit (I have always enjoyed these on the ice rink). Anyway, the third quarter passed without much incident, other than that San Francisco extended its lead to 20-14.
The margin was still 6 points (23-17) as those final 3 portentous minutes started. It appeared to me that the home side was defending with increasing desperation and, with a history of supporting sports teams who so often ripped defeat from the jaws of victory, I felt staying up until nearly 1.30am would prove ultimately futile.
And when the Saints went 24-23 ahead, it looked all over. But then Alex Smith, who had hardly had a bad game beforehand, ran in a 28 yard touchdown (I believe that’s the correct expression). So we’d (notice that?) won it 29-24 hadn’t we? Now, hold on a cotton picking minute (who was it used to say that, Deputy Dawg I think) – back come the Saints with a touchdown of their own to “win” it 32-29.
Glorious failure then – a not uncommon feeling for this sports fan. With 14 seconds left, and my thumb poised on the off button on the remote control, Smith calls what seems to me to be a pointless timeout. Now this is where my ignorance of American sport kicks in. Of course I should have known that within 5 seconds he would plant the ball in the arms of the grateful, and soon to be sobbing uncontrollably, tight end, Vernon Davis, for the winning touchdown. 36-32!
I was reminded in the midst of all this mayhem of the word “torture” that so eloquently described the San Francisco Giants march to the World Series 15 months before.
I don’t think that I will still ever develop the affiliation I now have with the city’s baseball team – you might like to read my earlier post about how I fell in love with the San Francisco Giants (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/bitten-by-the-giants-baseball-bug) – but I have acquired sufficient interest to prompt me to learn more about the rules and tactics, purchase some 49ers merchandise, and be there in front of the TV for the next playoff game and, of course, the Super Bowl. OK, I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself now, but that’s what fans do don’t they?