The Rivalry

The truth is I’ve despised the 49ers longer than I’ve loved the Rams. Only by a few seconds, mind you, but it’s true.

When I was 9 or 10 years old I wasn’t really into sports. Let’s bookend that statement, before I go any further, with the notion that today, at 51, I’m not really into sports, either. I mean, I love NFL Football, and college football because future NFL football players come from there, but that’s about it. I was a Lakers fan for Magic Johnson’s last memorable season, and then again through the Shaq/Kobe era and slightly beyond. But I don’t follow basketball at all these days. Baseball? I’m a “Dodgers fan” as far as that matters, but I haven’t watched a baseball game in 25 years. Last year the Dodgers were actually in the World Series and I remember thinking “if I’m ever going to care again, I suppose it’s now.”

I didn’t watch a single pitch.

I never got into hockey. Or soccer, except to briefly watch the great Megan Rapinoe strut her stuff and piss off the political right. Sports are cool, I have nothing against them. I suppose if I had more free time I’d watch/follow basketball, baseball, tennis, hockey and soccer, in roughly that order. But I don’t so it’d be hard to call me a sports fan, at all. I make no time for it.

I make time for NFL football. A lot of time. I make time for the Rams, especially. But, as I said, I’ve despised the 49ers even longer than I’ve loved the Rams.

By a few seconds.

Some of you might remember why. Back when I was 9 or 10 I played sports in the street sometimes because my older brother and the other boys played sports in the street all the time. They would pull me from my comic books occasionally to come be an even body. The right fielder, so to speak. I always had the option to say “no, I don’t wanna,” but that was the same option as asking my brother for another charlie horse so generally I just said “sure!”

But not being a sports fan, much less a football fan, I didn’t have a team. I was harassed a bit for that until finally I had to pick one. We were all from the Bay Area (Monterey Bay area, but close enough) so most of the kids on the playground and in the street were default San Francisco fans. The only litmus test I needed then, when picking my football team, was the question “Who do the San Francisco 49ers hate most?”

The answer, at the time, was the Los Angeles Rams. Out of spite, they became my team.

Some years later, as I was wrapping up my high school years, I really started paying attention to “my team.” Eric Dickerson. Henry Ellard. Jackie Slater. LeRoy Irvin. Jerry Gray. Jim Everett. Kevin Greene. Flipper Anderson. It wasn’t long before I knew their names as well as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Goliath. In fact, the first time I really watched them play for any extended period of time they were one game away from the Super Bowl in 1985.

For the next few years they were the highest scoring team in football. Fun to watch. And they fell one game short of the Super Bowl, again, in 1989. But they got knocked out of the running by the only team in sports with whom I had a longer history with than the Rams.

By a few seconds.

Those 49ers.

In fact, it seems like my entire young life as a football aficionado was dominated by the phrase I despised most: “Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers.”

That was the era of Joe Montana and Steve Young, of Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. Great team. Great folks, by all account, and my nemeses since shortly after birth.

To add salt to the wounds of the era, the 49ers beat my Rams 17 times in a row between 1990 and 1998. That is the second longest such streak in NFL history. And they beat us by an average of 18 points/game. One might sensibly wonder why, at the time, I didn’t just take up cricket. Go Shaheens.

At the moment the historical series between the Rams and the 49ers stands at 69-67-3, with the 49ers holding a slight edge. That’s a pretty tight rivalry. They have only met once in the playoffs, surprisingly, and it was that 1989 game I mentioned above, from which it took us a decade to recover.

We were the second worst team in the 90s, by win percentage. From 2007-2011 my Rams posted the worst 5-year record in NFL history. That still stands.

I have never missed a snap. Since 1985 I’ve watched every Rams game I could. NFL Sunday Ticket came in 1994 and ensured I could see them all. Even in crushing defeat I stay until the end to see one good thing.

There have been some great things, too. Eric Dickerson still holds the single season rushing record, established in 1984. I heard Flipper Anderson’s record-breaking receiving day against the Saints on the radio in 1989. In 1999, we came from nowhere to become the Greatest Show on Turf and finally won a Super Bowl. The Rams, who had left their home in Los Angeles in 1995 to live in St Louis, ostensibly forever, returned to Los Angeles in 2016. They’ve been to two more Super Bowls since 1999, notably to one this year.

I expected to lose Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots are a dynasty and have the best QB and best head coach in the league, perhaps in history. They had lost the Super Bowl the year before and, try as I might, I just couldn’t see them dropping two of them in a row. We were young and made too many mistakes in big games for my comfort. I expected we’d lose. I expected a better showing, but I still expected to lose. I had made my peace with it.

I am never at peace with a loss to the 49ers.

Tomorrow we play the San Francisco 49ers for the 139th time. We beat them the last two, and three of the last four. But this is a better San Francisco team than then. The 49ers are one of only two unbeaten teams left in 2019 (the other being the Patriots). The Rams are 3-2 and the 49ers are 4-0. This is the first time since 2001 that these two teams faced each other while both had a winning record. That was, like, 35 games ago. This is special.

And I want the Rams to win tomorrow more than I wanted them to win in February.

Because, the truth is, I’ve despised the 49ers longer than I’ve loved the Rams. And we all know how I love the Rams.

This is Niner week. This is identity time. This is for all the marbles.

Super Bowl CXXXIX, for the Cummings house.

I think I’ll wear blue.

36 thoughts on “The Rivalry

  1. I’m with you on the sports thing, I love NFL and college football but that’s about it. Oh and I love watching NHRA those cars are amazing. Anyway, the Rams thus far this season have done pretty good. I mean better than the Steelers are doing that’s for damned sure, ugh. I think every team has that rival we all despise, you have the 49ers and we (Steelers) have the Ravens. But a dishonorable mention goes to the Patriots, you said they have the best QB in the league, sure if you count a narcist, self involved, deflating cheater a great quarterback. As for Belicheck, he can go suck it, he too is a narcist, self involved deflating cheater. Oh yeah “America’s team” did you see what I did there, with the quotes? It was meant to be sarcasm, lol. I hope the Rams win over the 49ers tomorrow, I’ll be cheering them on all the way from Texas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, huntress, I appreciate the support! Yeah, the Steelers have had a tough run lately, losing Pro Bowlers left and right and then Ben dropping out for the season. I don’t remember the last time they had a losing season!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I can, lol. At least Michigan seems to holding their own even though they lost to Wisconsin. Harbaugh is nearing the end of his contract so, I hope he can do something to be able to stay with the Wolverines, like a winning season. Hoping to be able to beat those Bucknuts too, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope the Rams destroy the Niners tomorrow, simply because my Packers have lost 1 game and SF is undefeated. And don’t forget about Jack Youngblood playing and playing well against the Steelers In their first super bowl appearance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! That Super Bowl occurred after my proclamation and before I actually started watching the game. I’ll tell ya, two things I’ve never watched as a Rams fan, that I should, are that game and “Heaven Can Wait.” 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We are indeed kindred spirits: in the same situation I would have picked the Rams too, although most of the time I choose teams because they’re underdogs. For several years it was the Chicago Cubs. On the other side of the pond it was the football (what we call soccer) team Barnet that was so bad there’s a joke about them in the closing lines of “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”. Then a friend told me they were doing pretty well one year and I had to find another team.
    Same with the Cubs after the World Series.
    And now you’ve got me thinking how sports really are wonderful things, and a great way to bring people together, which is the benefit of picking a team out of spite. It brings pretty much everybody together against you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, my Facebook was streaming with folks coming together against me over this game. 🤣

      Alas, we failed. At .500 we are almost worthy of your appreciation, as our chances of success diminish by the week. The Rams are a perennial underdog!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had my difficulties with the NFL since I read League of Denial. The league was doing a bang up job of impersonating big tobacco. I do watch but there are times when I feel a bit squeamish about it.

    I was a Rams fan once. Those were the Fearsome Foursome, Roman Gabriel days (and I have to wonder why the Rams have not retired Gabriel’s #18). Living is SF I got tired of being a pariah and so I gave up on the Rams in the late 70’s and switched allegiance to the 49ers. This was before Montana and the 49ers were still dreadful so I don’t count myself as being a bandwagon fan.

    At this writing the game is history. I enjoyed the game as much as you must’ve hated it but I didn’t take any great pleasure in the fact that it was the Rams that got beat. I save that pleasure for whippings of either the Cowboys or the Raiders.

    I have to ask though. Given the make up of that crowd what’s up with the Rams fan base and are they going to last in LA?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t remember a time when the crowd at a Rams stadium wasn’t peppered with opposing teams. 😝

    LA’s a great place to visit. When Niners or Steelers or Packers fans – the most rabid fans, I mean – see a game in Los Angeles on their schedule they book and buy. And Rams fans, being fickle southern Californians, are generally willing to sell if the price is right. Twice face value and a day on the beach? Oh, I’ll take it! I’m not worried about their staying power, though; LA’s a great place to have a team. Just expect that sometimes, when we’re struggling and the visitor is rolling, we’ll be a split home crowd at best.

    I think that’s why we always take the London game. 😉

    I’ve personally never been to a pro game, so I can’t judge who does and does not show up there. I like to watch my game on TV, without distractions and with cheap beer and no lines for snacks or bathroom breaks. I also like the pause button. 😁

    You guys whipped us good. It was a statement game for both teams, and our statement was one of futility. And you are definitely not a bandwagon guy; you’ve been a fan of one team for 40 years!

    I love the game. All of it. I hate the money BS behind it, the cover-ups and the commercialism, the replays and the violence off the field that the play on the field can generate. But I still love the game itself. It’s the one thing in my life I have absolutely no control over that I allow myself the high highs and low lows about. I guess we all need one thing like that. I do. But it’s the main reason I’m not into any other sports, anymore. I don’t have time for any more of that lol.

    I still want a Deacon Jones jersey. 🙂

    Thanks for reading and responding, Paulie. Good luck with the rest of the season. The Niners are real!

    Liked by 1 person

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