Noe Valley Voice September 2007

Florence's Family Album: The Late Conversion

Reminiscences by Florence Holub

Ode to the 49ers
(Sung to the tune of "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" or a reasonable facsimile thereof!)

We love the 49ers
We love the way they play the game
We love the S.F. Niners
They brought us victory and fame
We love the 49ers
But when all is said and done
We love the lovely 49ers
Because they won, won, won.

We love the offense's teamwork
We love the way the defense holds the line
We love the Niners' colors
We love their suits and firm behinds
We love the 49ers
Not to would surely be a sin
We'll always love the 49ers
If they'll always win, win, win.

We love the 49ers
They're first in all the land
The team and coach together
Plot the game and fill the stands
We love the way the 49ers
Always make that second down
We'll always love the 49ers
Unless they move to another town.

(The writer wishes to remain anonymous!)

The Late Conversion

Editor's Note: In this replay of a column published in the June 1993 Noe Valley Voice, writer emeritus Florence Holub describes her irrational love for the 49ers, a sentiment shared by many San Franciscans during the team's reign in the 1980s and early '90s.

Up until about 10 years ago, like most women in our land, I loathed and despised football. I disliked the game partly because of its brutal nature, but mainly because our weekends were preempted by an event that contributed no vital meaning or purpose to the health or welfare of our family or to the populace as a whole.

During the fall football season, on Sundays the men in our house would sit glued to the television set, watching the 49er game. I refused to have anything to do with this scene, except to make comments like "ugh" or "yuck."

Instead, I shared my Sundays with our youngest son, Eric, exploring the wildlife in our 21st Street garden--ants, beetles, and sow bugs. This we did until Eric went off to seek company of his own age and species.

His happy, inquisitive personality was sorely missed until the day, in the mid-'60s, when his older brother, Jan, returned from U.C. Santa Barbara with a new addition to the family. This newcomer was Fred, a shaggy terrier mix who wasn't interested in football either. For the decade that followed, Fred accompanied me to the back yard each Sunday, until he became so old and arthritic that his short stiff legs couldn't maneuver the few steps to the garden and he abandoned me for the fans in the front room.

It was lonesome out there without his company, so when my doctor advised me to give up gardening, I acquiesced and attempted to turn my attention elsewhere. Light reading proved to be an impossibility, however, given the cheers and groans of the TV crowd, which completely disrupted any thoughtful pursuit.

Eventually I crept, defeated and chagrined, into the parlor to join the others. And on that fateful day, I discovered that things had improved for San Francisco. The 49ers had been transformed from a band of disheartened losers to a magnificent championship team!

I found it surprisingly easy to jump on the bandwagon. With mounting enthusiasm I began to appreciate the feeling of collective success, of winning on such a large scale. And like most converts, I went overboard and became the most zealous, not to mention noisiest, fan in the family.

Once, during the climax of an exciting game when an opposing player was only a few yards shy of a touchdown--with a 49er closing in on him from behind--I found myself jumping into the air, screaming loudly, "Kill him!" It was a shocking development for someone who had always had trouble harming even a spider or fly, preferring instead to simply usher them out the window.

My man Leo tried to explain the complexities of football to me, but I couldn't quite make sense of it all. For example, there's the fullback and the halfback, but the man who makes the greatest effort gets the smallest title--quarterback! In my opinion, he's been shortchanged. On the other hand, it was sort of nice to see the touchback kneel down at the goalpost to say a "Hail Mary" on the Sabbath.

The men in my family were surprised at my turnaround, so surprised, in fact, that they bought me 49er presents to celebrate my altered view of football. Leo presented me with a red 49er sweatshirt, my brother-in-law Richard sent me a white one, and my son Jan gave me a T-shirt. They were thrilled that I had embraced their favorite sport so wholeheartedly.

Mine was not as unusual a conversion as one might think. I have spoken with quite a few older women who have undergone the same metamorphosis, and we all agreed that it was one man alone, Joe Montana, who brought it about. Because of his magical performance, he made the game enjoyable (if not completely understandable). There was something gently fluid yet intensely powerful about the way he moved. He was able to telegraph his love of the game over the air waves, and when he lifted his arms high with success, he lifted us too!

When the last few years of surgery kept Joe from the game, we earnestly dreamed of his triumphant recovery and return to the gridiron. A couple of months ago [early 1993], upon reading that he was going to leave San Francisco to play for either Phoenix or Kansas City, I felt dismay, then anger and disgruntlement, which left me on the verge of burning my cherished 49er sweatshirts in the fireplace. But then I received a call from my nephew John, who advised me not to act rashly, because the latest news was that our Joe Montana had been named San Francisco's designated quarterback. Happy day!

Unfortunately, that was just one happy day. Within 48 hours of the announcement, Joe and the 49ers had sealed a deal with Kansas City. During a week in April, the conflicting stories kept us all in suspense and partially eased the hysteria. By the time the facts finally surfaced, we were prepared to accept Joe's decision, but with sadness.

Joe Montana has made us extremely proud and grateful that he belonged to us for 14 glorious years, and led us to four Super Bowl championships. We still have a team, a good one--but the heart of it has been transplanted, along with a part of our own hearts.

When the 49ers eventually face off against the Kansas City Chiefs, it is going to be difficult to root against Joe Montana. And if it proves to be impossible, I might have to put a match to those 49er sweatshirts...well, maybe not all of them.