Affiliated With 49ers Paradise
Oh my freaking God.
Pardon me a moment.
Trevor hyperventilates violently.
Okay, I'm alright now. No, wait.
Trevor stands up and screams at the top of his lungs.
I JUST HAD THE MOST AMAZING TWO DAYS OF POSSIBLY MY ENTIRE LIFE!
Okay, I'm alright now. Really.
My friends, I have returned from my trip to Seattle to see the 49ers-Seahawks game a changed man. To say I had the time of my life would be a severe understatement.
That's about the best way I can describe it. Hold on a second.
Trevor hyperventilates some more.
Okay, my thoughts are getting away with themselves, and I want to communicate this feeling to you as best I can while I'm still on my high. Where to start, though? Oh, hell. Best place to start is the beginning, I always say.
I arrived at the Amtrak station in Portland, OR at 11:00am, or about an hour before my train was supposed to leave. Being so abysmally early provided me an opportunity to hang out, though, and I was pleased to see that I was not the only fan who had had the same idea of riding the train up. To wit, the station was packed with people wearing 49ers jerseys, Seahawks jackets, hats, and other various paraphernilia. Some carried flags, others wore helmets. It was a veritable fan convention. Spirits were high and conversation was light-hearted, so I joined a discussion with six other guys, three of whom were wearing Seahawk stuff, the other three of whom were wearing 49ers stuff. We chatted merrilly about plenty of things: the upcoming game, the two teams' chances this year, and the merits of Madden NFL 2003, among other things.
It was a good train ride down. The onboard movie was The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. Even though it wasn't technically accurate, it was a good flick, but I'd seen it before. I gotta ask, for any of my readers who have seen it, why did they have to make it a Jack Ryan movie? I mean, it woulda stood perfectly well on its own without attaching a semi-famous fictional characters' name to it. And furthermore, dont people with two first names just get on your nerves? But I digress.
I had never been on a long-distance train ride before this, but to any of you who travel by air often, I highly reccomend it. The atmosphere is laid back, the scenery is to die for, and there's a lot of room to move around, unlike on an airplane. But it does take longer to get where you're going, and I had already read my magazine, done the homework I'd brought with me, and played three games of Game Boy Advance Madden 2003 with about 45 minutes left in my 4 hour trip.
So I chatted up the nice lady sitting next to me until the train entered Seattle. And as I saw the city streets bustling, my heart started to quicken. My eyes were glued to the city whizzing by me, and my breath shortened. It was 4:00pm, about two hours before gametime. The train slowed as we approached our stop and on the left of our train, right by King County Train Station, loomed a huge building. I didn't know what it was, until I saw the bright letters mounted on the building's face. It read SEAHAWKS STADIUM. A smile crossed my face as I noted the sheer size of the construct. And then a gentleman sitting opposite me said "Hey, isn't that John Madden's bus?"
I looked and sure enough, parked just next to the stadium was the brightly colored cruiser for which the sportscaster is so famous. It was then that I looked up at the stadium's open concourse and saw a group of people chatting, one of which was Madden himself! I waved like a maniac at him and he waved back. It was then that it started to dawn on me. This was Monday Night friggin' Football. This was my team and a national TV audience. And I was stoked.
The legion of NFL fans deboarded. I had only my backpack as luggage, so I didnt need to go through checkout or anything, so I proceeded right out into the streets, where the party was in full swing. Seattle doesn't see MNF in their house too often, and that made it even more of an event than it usually is. People had been tailgating for hours by that point, and were starting to get loud. The bars all along the street had people spilling out the front doors and into the street, which was barricaded off. If I could count the number of jerseys bearing the marks of everyone from Steve Young to Jerry Rice to Terrell Owens to Jeff Garcia (my choice of attire for the game), it would be a mindboggling number.
And as I was taking in the atmosphere, high-fiving fellow Niners fans, and generally loving the whole soiree, I turned to the west, and my heart stopped and my breath caugh in my throat.
There, with the sun setting behind it, was Seahawks Stadium. A towering monolith, a majestic structure, and an absolutely beautiful sight. So beautiful, in fact, that I did nothing but stand and stare at it for three whole minutes.
Now teeming with excitement, I quickly made my way to a bus station and sat on the bus as it meandered through the absolutely horrific Seattle traffic to the hostel I was staying at. For any of you unfamiliar with hostelling, it's basically low cost lodging for travellers. I got a bed in a group dorm room for $25.00, one night. That, my friends, is dirt cheap. I checked in, dropped my stuff in my locker, and headed back out to the streets and the party.
With about an hour and a half to go before game time, however, the streets were gridlocked, and I decided that rather than waiting for my bus that I would just walk. I got many a high-five from Niners fans and many a taunting laugh from ignorant Seahawks fans, and I drank it all in. A pizza joint on the main street reminded me of just how hungry I was, so I stopped and got a slice to eat on my walk back to the stadium.
I arrived back at the stadium as fans were starting to make their way in. I sprung for a program and was handed a Kenny Easley commemorative towel, which I quickly gave to a young child wearing a Rick Mirer jersey. I figured he could use it to cover his shame.
The stadium was crowded, packed with more Seahawks fans than I would have expected there to be -- Seattle isn't exactly famous for its loyalty to sports franchises -- and made my way to my seat. I bought my tickets the first day they went on sale, and got a pretty good deal on a seat in the section just above the tunnel where the Seahawks came out. Sitting down and finally getting a chance to take in the stadium's inside made me realize just how amazing a construct this really was. The seats are incredibly close to the action, and actually remarkably comfortable for arena seats. I myself was probably no more than 20 yards from the home endzone, and that's with far from front row seats.
Observing the pregame action, I noted many things.
Bryant Young led the defense in everything they did. When they ran laps around the field, he was ahead of the pack. When they broke huddle for practice snaps, he was always first to line up in his stance. A true leader.
Jeff Garcia is friggin' tiny. I know we read about how small he is compared to other NFL quarterbacks, but seeing this tiny, 6'1", 195 lb. guy stand next to Scott Gragg (6'7", 325) made me wonder how he does so much in game situations.
Punting is a lot harder than it looks. On TV we never get much of a sense of how high and how far these guys are punting that ball. But watching that, if anyone ever tells me they could punt in the NFL (like I always used to), I'll let 'em know just how wrong they are. You try leaving your little boys exposed to the rush of a 300 pound lineman after kicking a ball as hard as you can and then tell me how easy that job is.
I was seated on the end of my row, and the two seats next to me were occupied by a man in a 49ers' jacket and hat to my direct left, and to his left, his buddy wearing a haesslich (that's German for ass-ugly, kids!) Seahawks hat.
The game was awesome. As 49ertothecore of 49ers Paradise Forum fame noted, I got my freakin' money's worth. 49 total points scored, four lead changes, two touchdowns by Terrell Owens, and a 49ers victory?? Holy CRAP!
Some observations from the actual game:
Tackling was bad. For both teams. San Francisco covered the pass very well on the edges, but not very well in the middle at all, an indication of how much they miss Trevor's Corner Mascot Jamie Winborn. Linebackers especially were getting caught out of position often and having to attempt diving arm tackles, which typically aren't enough to stop a primetime talent like Shaun Alexander.
Terrell Owens is a badass. Too often is he flamed by the media and by 49ers "fans" for being immature or callous or caustic or what have you. But the man works harder than anyone else on the team. He's always the first to practice and the last to leave. He's one of the top talents in the game of football, and he knows it, but that doesn't stop him from working even harder. And the fact of the matter is, he doesn't care what the rest of the NFL thinks about him. I thought the whole autograph thing was awesome. I was unfortunately on the wrong end of the field to see it, but I thought that was just indicative of everything he is as a player. He knew he was going to score again before the game was over, so he borrowed a Sharpie from a trainer, which he kept in his sock to autograph the much-maligned football. And it wasn't really that bad. As Jeremy Newberry said, "It's not like he signed it and handed it to Shawn Springs." But I would have laughed my ass off if he had. His game has suffered from a case of the drops recently that must be rectified, but he's among my favorite NFL players, and for that reason, it was his jersey I bought.
Speaking of wideouts, Tai Streets looked great this game. He made the most of his starting opportunity, catching two deep passes (one of which was ruled incomplete), and really looked like a solid complement to Owens. If he builds on this performance, he might render JJ Stokes, who's having a solid season in his own right, to a spot on the bench.
There were three fights in my area of the stadium, one in my actual section. Perhaps the most entertaining one, though, was the one brought on by an obviously inebriated fan wearing a Garrison Hearst jersey. This fan came back, probaly from a beer or toilet run, and rather than going back to his seat, stood on the stairwell dividing two sections. He stood there, arms raised, grinning like an idiot, for ten whole minutes. Never said a word. At first the people around him took it as sort of just a friendly sort of taunt. But as he stood there, making... sort of derogatory gestures (the best he got to was a thumbs down to a Seahawks fan), the people around him just got more and more incensed. I of course was cheering him on, which in retrospect probably didn't help things. But as the fan went back up the stairs to return to his section (presumably farther up in the stadium than mine, but I doubt he really knew), some equally inebriated Seahawks fan actually took a swing at him. Fisticuffs ensued, and both the gentleman in the Hearst jersey and the Seahawks fan were removed.
My seatmates and I looked at one another in bewilderment for a second before turning back to the action. On the next play, Garrison Hearst ran for a six yard gain and no one said anything for a second, but then I said, "Hey, didnt he just get thrown out of here?"
You had to be there. High comedy.
The 99 yard drive had me just gawking in awe by the end of it. I noted how this was the second week in a row that the 49ers had done that -- taken the field after a spectacular special teams play by the other team and gone the distance. And it was a true momentum killer for the Seahawks. That drive really took the wind out of their sales, considering how pumped up the stadium was after Bobby Engram's punt return for a TD. Even though the Hawks scored on the ensuing possession, you really got the feeling the Niners were in the driver's seat.
I was indeed on the wrong end of the field to see Owens' game winner but never have I witnessed a sweeter sound than that of Seahawks Stadium falling silent as Owens stopped, plucked the ball from midair, and tiptoed into the end zone. I shot out of my seat, turned to the Hawks fans on my right, and pointed at the 49ers' logo on my sleeve. They refused to even look up.
Seattle stalled on their next drive after a holding call and were forced to punt. All the Seahawks fans were jawing about how the Seahawks' D was gonna step up and how the Niners dont know how to play in crunch time, and what have you. And at the two minute warning, the 49ers faced 3rd and 2. Seahawk fans knew that it was now or never. Stop 'em and you get the ball back with the chance to tie it up. Let 'em go and you lose. San Francisco had run Kevan Barlow (who had a masterful game) the previous four plays and everyone in that stadium expected him to run it again.
And Steve Mariucci made the perfect call.
Garcia playfaked to Barlow and ran a naked bootleg to the unprotected left side of the field for nine yards and a 49ers victory.
It was a thrilling end to a thrilling game, and in the end a better game than I really could have ever realistically hoped for.
We all filed out of the arena, 49ers fans whooping, Seahawks fans looking dejected. I actually walked the full length of the circular arena's concourse just drinking it all in and looking for a merchandise store where I could buy some swag. But would you believe they dont sell merchandise for other NFL teams at Seahawks games? Just Hawks crap. Go figure.
After the game, I went back to the same pizza joint I hit on the way to the game and got a couple slices and a Mountain Dew (official pop of Trevor's Corner) and sat back to relax, read my program, and bask in the victory. But as luck would have it, a bunch of guys at the table next to me were talking football and I got into a lengthy discussion with them.
All told, by the time I walked back into the hostel at 11:30pm (I know it's early, but I was freakin' tired after all that), I just trudged up to my bunk and crashed. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
I will be going to the Niners-Hawks game next year, and I'll probably keep going as long as I live in the Northwest. It was too memorable an experience and too good a time for me to pass up. I highly reccomend that all my readers go and see this team whenever possible. It was an experience to remember.
NEXT WEEK'S GAME
On Sunday the Niners make an old familiar trip to the bayou to play the N'Awlins Saints. However, these Saints are not the same pushovers the 49ers beat up on for years in the NFC West, nor are they the ragtag band of quitters that San Francisco stomped in Week 17 last year, 38-0. No, this Saints team has remade itself in a brand new image. Gone are perennial Ain'ts Ricky Williams, William Roaf, Jeff Blake, Joe Johnson, and La'Roi Glover, among others. New or in new roles are Deuce McAllister, Spencer Folau, Charles Grant, and Grady Jackson. The Saints have improved their team speed on offense and made themselves more run oriented on defense. And ironically enough, the team they most resemble are the now-defunct St. Louis Lambs.
And the beauty of all this is that these 49ers were built specifically to beat those Rams, which logically gives the 49ers the one-up in this contest. San Fran can match up with the Saints defensively, which should slow down their scoring quite a bit.
Offensively, everything the Niners do is predicated off the running game. And with the NFL's 3rd ranked rushing offense, why not? If the 49ers can establish their tempo early and stick it to the Saints' personnel, specifically their big defensive tackles Norman Hand and Grady Jackson, N'Awlins will be forced to play the 49ers' game. And if not, the Niners still have some guy named Terrell Owens lined up at wide receiver. He's a decent backup option.
All in all, as long as the 49ers are conscious about avoiding stupid penalties and continuing to play mistake-free football, this should be a good game with the 49ers emerging triumphant.
VEILED PLAGIARISM BY MY MAN STEVE YOUNG
My loyal readers will remember a fantasmic article I wrote a few weeks back called The REAL West Coast Offense? wherein I detailed the players I would put on a fictional "All West-Coast Offense". Well just a couple days ago, former 49ers quarterback Steve Young wrote an article for ESPN.com entitled West Coast helps QB make good decisions which, if you read it, seems a little bit familiar. You do the math. Maybe one of my loyal readers is none other than the second-highest rated QB of all time?
Now you can write articles for 49ers Paradise, and read what other fans have to say too in the Fan Press section.
49ERS 42, SAINTS 14|
In a clash of NFC titans, the 49ers dealt with the New Orleans Saints easily today, winning by a score of 42-14.
The Saints struck quickly in the early running, as David Sloan's 26 yard reception set up a 38 yard catch-and-run by Jerome Pathon to put New Orleans up 7-0 on the first possession of the first quarter.
San Francisco responded with some quick-strike capability of their own. Facing 3rd and 3 on the Saints' 40 yard line, Jeff Garcia playfaked and lofted a pass over Tai Streets' inside shoulder for a 38 yard gain. Garrison Hearst punched the ball in from 2 yards out on the next play to tie the game.
The Saints punted on their next possession, and Jeff Garcia began winging the ball around. Eric Johnson caught a 21 yard pass, and Terrell Owens a 31 yarder en route to Owens' 6 yard touchdown grab.
The 49ers' defense again forced the Saints to punt after a 3-and-out and took the field with 1:46 left in the half. Their second play in the drive, Tai Streets slipped in between Sedrick Hodge's and Ken Irvin's zone coverage to catch a slant. Streets then juked Irvin and outran Sammy Knight for a 57 yard touchdown.
New Orleans found itself suddenly reeling and needing to score before the end of the half to keep things close. They got a drive started, but on a pass intended for Donte Stallworth, Aaron Brooks was intercepted by Mike Rumph for the rookie's first career interception deep in Saints' territory.
Eric Johnson caught an 11 yard pass three plays later and the teams went into the half with the 49ers leading to a tune of 28-7.
Firmly in the drivers' seat, the 49ers took the field at the beginning of the second half looking to grind out some yardage. And grind they did. An 11 play, 75 yard drive was highlighted by Kevan Barlow's 25 yard run on 3rd and 2 and capped with Barlow's 11 yard touchdown run. All told, the 49ers ran on all 11 plays of the drive, including a 10 yard reverse by Owens. The drive ate up more than half of the 3rd quarter.
New Orleans again came out, down 35-7, and tried to run something quick-striking, and did, as Aaron Brooks completed 3 of 4 passes, including a 13 yard touchdown by Pathon in a frantic scoring drive.
And even though they were still in the 3rd quarter, the Saints lined up to attempt the onside, hoping to keep scoring and pull themselves back into a game they were quickly losing.
But, as went the Saints fortunes this day, the kick was recovered by Cedrick Wilson. The 49ers put on a masterful running display, as on back-to-back plays Kevan Barlow ran for 17 yards and Garrison Hearst for 21 to set up Hearst's 1 yard touchdown plunge and a dominant victory for San Francisco.
Hearst won player of the game honors with 113 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Garcia had another masterful day, going 12-16 for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 139.7 was a season-high. Jeff Ulbrich led the defense with 8 tackles and Rumph and Ronnie Heard each recorded interceptions.
For the Saints, Deuce McAllister was held largely in check, logging 15 carries for 45 yards and 3 receptions for 26 yards. Aaron Brooks went 18-29 for 222 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 INTs. Charlie Clemons led the defense with a game-high 12 tackles.
When asked about his performance for the game, Terrell Owens commented "Y'know, I couldn't find a single damn pen ANYWHERE today. I wonder why. I like to have one with me just in case."
Saints coach Jim Haslett commented, "God, I thought realignment was supposed to get us AWAY from these guys? Ah well, at least we didnt get beat as badly as the last time we played."
The 49ers' next game happens when the Arizona Cardinals come to San Francisco on October 27th. Next article before then.