Sunday provides us with something we get rarely in this sporting life – a football rivalry game scripted and directed by Ingmar Bergman. A massive collision of the depressed and defeated, with two fan bases that long not for this game, but for a new start next year.
Yes, it’s 49ers-Raiders, live from Pyongyang, with words and music by Soren Kierkegaard, and choreography by Joseph Stalin. Party down, middle-agers.
The two teams meet in the famous Stadium Of Blight, the Oakland-Alameda County And Whatever Fly-By-Night Sponsor You Can Find To Attach Itself To This Damp Gray Eyesore Stadium. They come off a week of football in which they combined to lose their games by an aggregate total of 71-3. Both coaches are active and presumed dead, with one perhaps replacing the other in a ballet of careerist madness that would make Twyla Tharp saw off her own feet. Both young quarterbacks are being treated for battle fatigue, and both offensive coordinators are being blamed for Benghazi.
Now get out there, buy some ribs and barbecue! This is the Tailgate of Doom, so wear appropriate clothing from the Sackcloth-and-Ashes aisle at 7-11.
Oh, some true believers will still consider this a valuable game in and of itself for territorial reasons, and we implore them all not to do anything unkind, violent, or mean-spirited. If there must be arguments over this game, let them be of the “Oh, you think your teams sucks? Well, get a load of this” variety.
Raider fans would win that one hands down, by the way, but since when did a pre-ordained outcome matter in the Nine-County Derby?
But it is important that we all remember what brings us together at this time – the holiday spirit, the brother-and-sisterhood of a shared bay and transit system, the joy of gathering together as one great family and acknowledge that the rain is supposed to blow through before Sunday.
Plus, the NFL didn’t flex this game to Friday morning at 2:15 a.m. for the London market, so there's that.
We’re all pretty well talked out on the Jim Harbaugh-Jed York Tweet War, in which only one shot was fired by Thumbs McSuit. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been declared guilty of everything ever done to everybody going back to the Mesopotamian Sandal Scandal of 1838 B.C., while the real culprit of the 49ers’ three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-soot offense is the fact that there are 12 coaches all throwing in ideas every week to make sure that there is no possible chance of clarity for the players (courtesy Matt “The Face Of Death” Barrows). The 49ers have to win out to even dream of the postseason, and hope that two teams out of Arizona, Dallas or Detroit vomit all over themselves down the stretch.
And the Raiders are the Raiders are the Raiders are the Raiders, having reached a point where many of their fans now wish they’d lost to Kansas City just to keep the Dream Of 0 And The Works alive. Tony Sparano and his staff are surely dust, and general manager Reggie McKenzie may be, having guided the franchise through a three-year plan that has set them on the path of a new five-year plan. Derek Carr is being introduced slowly to the yips that wrecked his brother’s career, and everyone else has seemed to have reached the point in Week 13 that Raider teams typically arrive at in Week 7.
The feeling that life is futile except for the checks.
The point is, if you have hope for a happy ending for either of these teams this year, you are either an inferno of optimism’s flame, too ornery to admit when you’ve been betrayed, or have constructed a monument of delusion so massive and intricate that it makes Terminal Three at Dubai International Airport look like the break room in a sweat shop.
And yes, in saying so we are allowing for the minimal possibility that the 49ers do win out, make the playoffs as a wild card team, blow through the NFC including Lambeau Field in the dead of January and then beat New England in Super Bowl 49, XXXXIX, or as we prefer, IL as in Kim Jong-, and then take all that good will and kick Bayern Munich’s Bavarian clockwork ass in the Champions League final.
And in saying so, we are also allowing for the minimal possibility that the Raiders can win two of their last four games.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, which is to say getting behind ourselves. Sunday’s game is a big one locally if you have the Xanax to plow through it. The Al Davis flame will be lit by Oakland Mayor-Elect Libby Schaaf in an Eeyore costume, and the National Anthem will be sung Gregorian Chant-style by the Acute Gout Center of Northern California’s Atonal Chorale while a band plays on the field forming the words “Oh, The Hell With It.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m down for some big fun.