34 Comments
Feb 12·edited Feb 12Liked by Ethan Strauss

I had a similar experience. I watched the end of the game with my five-year-old boy, in which he finally actually sat and watched with me. He kept asking me when the Niners were going to win the Super Bowl. It was surreal explaining to him as Mahomes was marching down the field in overtime that the Niners were probably not going to win.

He took it like a champ, and also helped me recognize what was most important when the Niners ultimately lost. I was heartbroken, but encouraged to know that I can at least share the moment with my son. This could be the beginning of a lifetime of bonding over sports.

I don’t typically comment on your articles, but this one struck home with its similarities. Driving home from my dad‘s house trying to avoid drunk drivers with my little boy in the backseat. Not allowing myself to get too high or too low. And recognizing that I have real family responsibilities and can’t let sporting events like this negatively impact my family. I’m hoping this perspective can help ease the strain of this loss.

Expand full comment

The 49ers have an interesting fan dynamic, where they have essentially one generation of fans that got a front row seat to Montana and Rice and a whole shit ton of Lombardy trophies. But if you were born in the mid 90s or later, it’s been a series of heartbreaking losses and near misses.

Expand full comment

'Miserable' is a good way to put it. Helpless too, especially as Mahomes and co marched down on that last drive (and the preceding one leading to OT.) Even when you tell yourself there's nothing *you* can do about it, and the losing players still get many million$ regardless, watching a championship loss slowly unfold is no fun.

That said, I'll happily take an overtime loss in the superbowl over a Jim Tomsula 6-10 season any day. Kyle can keep losing superbowls as long as he wants if those are our options.

Also-- the Dre Greenlaw injury was one of those flukish, worst-possible-moment bolts of lightning the Shanahan 49ers seem to be cursed with.

Expand full comment

I forget where I originally read it, but it said that a man only becomes an adult once he has a wife & kids. Good read Ethan

Expand full comment

Thoughtful/Reflective Ethan makes an appearance! he is Radio Ethan's alter ego, of course.

No, but seriously - a good one. Sometimes, we are allowed to consume things without snark or a sense that sports is 'beneath us.' Sometimes, we should revel in real authentic sports moments. Maybe it's impossible to enjoy a thing nowadays without immediately taking it meta (is tay tay a psyop, nfl = rigged!) or immediately overreacting (mahomes = greater than brady?, brock/shanahan is a fraud!). Just for one afternoon a year, we all just do the superbowl together. It seems to be one of the last remaining collective experiences in our modern day society.

On being miserable, I watched the game at my house in central Berkeley with two adult parents and three kids. The older kids (11-12) were disappointed by the loss but emotionally over it pretty much immediately, and moved on to analyzing what had happened. The youngest kid (8) was CRUSHED. Just - he expected them to win and it was so hard for him to process this gulf between expectation and reality. Not sure what the moral of the story is, but sports misery is fascinating.

Expand full comment

As a kid growing up in a fractured family in the 1970s I was an obsessive fan of the Miami Dolphins, watching them whenever I could on our little black and white TV. When Kenny Stabler hit Clarence Davis in the end zone with thirteen seconds left to bring Miami's run of Super Bowls to an end I fell to the floor and screamed and sobbed. I pounded the floor with my feeble little fists. I had, I believe, to be carried to my room. Of all my childhood memories, that is by far the worst, though real things, sometimes real bad things, occasionally happened.

Unusually, my father was with us, and came to my room and comforted me and helped me get to sleep. Which makes the whole memory even worse -- not just that I had a towering temper tantrum over the flickering shadows on our TV set, but that only he could calm me down. But he understood what it was to be a fan, and my mother did not.

Expand full comment

As a Cleveland fan nearing 40 years old, I spent a lot of time compromising with the sports God that I just wanted one championship, after having my heart ripped out so many times.

In 2016, the NBA Finals happened. My Dad and I went up to Cleveland for G6 and the watch party at the arena for G7. I floated for the next several months. I bought every piece of merchandise that said “NBA Champs” on it. I got a title with my Dad on Father’s Day, I would never feel pain again.

Then a few months later, the Indians blew a 3-1 World Series lead. Once again, my Dad and I trekked up to Cleveland, but this time we were joined by my brother and one of my dad’s childhood best friends who was dying of cancer. They lost both games with us in attendance and his friend died in the months that followed.

On one hand, I actually just happened to watch the Cavs G7 highlights the other day and tears forcefully flew out of my eye balls like diarrhea.

On the other hand, losing that World Series causes a palpable frustration inside of me every time I think about it that is not remotely rational. It’s as if my life has a hole in it and is not complete.

But the unbridled joy doesn’t get to come without the crushing pain of a loss. These things cannot be separated. They exclusively come as a pair.

And while the logical part of my brain says I shouldn’t care so much, sports makes life more interesting.

Expand full comment

All of my most vivid childhood sports memories are losses:

Al Leiter's shutting out the Reds in 1999, the Lakers inexorable suffocation of AI's Sixers, Ireland losing to Spain on PKs in 2002...

Expand full comment

I can see Nick Wright sending Ethan the MJ crying face meme

Expand full comment
Feb 15·edited Feb 15

As for sports losses, for me nothing beats the Spurs losing the 2013 Finals. The way they lost was, like this superbowl, an excruciating chain of misfortune.

After an incredible back-and-forth duel between Parker and LeBron in game 6, Manu misses a FT up 5 that would have sealed the game. Then LBJ misses a 3 so badly the hard rebound richochettes off the hands of 3 Spurs who spoil each other, Miller gets it back to him and he makes the 3. Kawhi misses another FT that would have sealed it, Pop takes Tim out of the game, and Bosh ends up with an offensive rebound in a crowd of 3 Spurs AGAIN. Then we all know what happens next. Gah! Sometimes I see this sequence in my nightmares...

But, the deep (sports fandom) pain of 2013 set up 2014, the most beautiful season of basketball I've seen in 35 years as an NBA fan. The Spurs moved and passed like a whirlwind, playing with an urgency, precision and joy for the game that I've not seen before or since, a prologue to the beauty of the looming Warrior Dynasty. And to top it off they crushed their Heat nemesii in the Finals for the complete redemption arc. So I now see 2013 as part of a mirroring set, a yin-yang, that made the finale even sweeter.

Expand full comment

Great post.

My wife and I cried (happy tears) when Argentina won the World Cup in 2022. Neither one of us is Argentinian. I'm also a Falcons fan and will probably carry 28-3 with me for as long as I have a functioning memory. I was rooting for SF last night and have been in kind of a sad / melancholy mood for most of today despite having no strong connection to the Bay Area. I think I feel about sports fandom similar to the way I feel about alcohol. Lots of wonderful memories associated with it, hard to imagine my social life and free time without it...but also pretty clearly society would be better off if we toned both things down a bit and prioritized something else.

Expand full comment

"I’d prefer for my kids to share in the joy of winning. I’ll gladly settle for them enjoying being around me when the losing happens."

And this is why the late start times (at least on the east coast) are so annoying for me. I grew up in the mountain west and so I've been able to watch every Super Bowl since I was 7 years old and still go down at my normal bed time. But last night I let my 8 and 4 year old stay up an hour later (bedtime is normally 8 PM) and so they could only watch until just after the third quarter started. And my son was so excited for the Chiefs for random reasons yet I couldn't share that experience with him. Maybe in a year or two I'll let him watch the whole thing.

Expand full comment

Brutal heartbreaking loss.

Expand full comment

A friend of mine with kids said this to me once: "Before you have a child you are the main character in your life; after you have a child they become the main character. If you aren't ready to give up main character status you shouldn't have a kid." Made a lot of sense to me.

Glad you got home safely, Ethan.

Expand full comment

This was perfect. As a fellow Dad and "huge sports fan" you helped me articulate a lot of complicated (and simple) changes in my life, post-kids. THANK YOU!

Expand full comment

I felt more bad for the Falcons when they blew that 28-3 lead, than I do the 49ers, here. This was a close game throughout. The margins of error are paper-thin, especially when you are playing Mahomes. And as Cowherd said. It was a Good QB v a Great QB. Niners had opportunities in the first half to nearly put the Chiefs away (or at least widen the lead to make it harder for the Chiefs) and they didn't. Kudos to one of the best QB/Coach Tandems ever!

And, seriously, there should be more reporting on Drunk Driving...this is nuts! What the heck is uber for?!

Expand full comment