On September 26, 2004, the San Francisco 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks 34-0. Something called Ken Dorsey was intercepted twice.
No one cared. The Niners were a miserable team with no future that was playing in a toxic bog. The Giants were just a half-game out of playoff contention that day, a year after winning 100 games, two years after going to the World Series, three years after Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record, and four years after they opened the best stadium in baseball. I'd like to think that was the day that the Giants passed the 49ers as San Francisco's team of choice around the water cooler.
Oh, there were events that shook that supposed dominance. Steve Finley, man-buzzard, hit that grand slam just a week later. Then there was Jose Castillo. We all lost consciousness at some point. But the Niners, to their credit, just kept stinking. And stinking. And stinking. When the Giants won the World Series1 in 2010, the Niners were in the middle of a 6-10 season. It wasn't like the Niners went away, but after more than two decades, San Francisco felt like a baseball town.
This comes up now because Niners Niners Niners Niners Niners. I remember talking to a guy in line at the coffee shop the other day, and he was all "Niners the Niners ninering the ninered ninering Niners of the Niners." I couldn't help but agree. Such a salient point. The Niners are the Niners again. The Giants have Melky Cabrera. That lasted a few months. It was fun.
As you may or may not know, I'm a huge Niners fan. I watched all 16 of those games in 2004, you know. Ken Dorsey really happened. There was a kick returned by P.J. Fleck. And other things happened, though I can't remember a single one. But I watched them all. So I'm not here to bemoan the Niners' renaissance. I'm just as stupid and giddy about it as anyone else.
What I'm here to do is give you some perspective. Yeah, the Niners are back in the limelight. If you want to turn that into a Rush reference, you can make some sort of joke about Candlestick being a gilded dump. It might seem like the Giants are an afterthought of the Bay Area after taking so long to get to the top of the pile. But it's January. You're cold and grumpy. Just know that things are far, far, far, far better than they used to be.
The low point of Giants/Niners relations? Easily 1995. It's amazing how low the Giants dug. It was after the strike. The Giants still played in Candelstick. They drew 1.2 million fans, good for 12th out of 14 NL teams. They finished ten games below .500. The Niners had won the Super Bowl just a few months earlier.
And as if to hammer the point home, the two teams actually shared a freaking player. Deion Sanders was a great football player. He was a very 1995 Giants baseball player, though he actually did pretty well as a Giant. For about a month, the only reason people came to Giants games was to yell at Deion Sanders for signing with the Cowboys.
If you're a baseball-only partisan, and it seems like the Bay Area is unbearably Ninerscentric right now, well, it is. This is exciting, thrilling stuff for a fan base that was sleeping underground like a bunch of cicadas, and they're just pleased as punch to be buzzing around your head right now. But, holy crap, it can be so much worse. It has been so much worse. It used to be that baseball-first fans around here were things for cryptozoologists to study -- shy, potentially make-believe creatures who were ignored at parties like an MLS fan who's had too much to drink.
The Niners are popular again. But the Giants are still extraordinarily popular in the area. Would have loved to see that Carlos Beltran fella back as a thank-you for our support -- have I mentioned that yet? -- and there's a chance that the team will fritter away this goodwill while the Niners keep winning, but it still isn't a time to be bitter or frightened. Things used to be so much worse when it came to the amount of attention paid to the two teams. Things used to be so much worse. Oh, man, they used to be so much worse.