Marketing a team like the San Francisco 49ers is difficult enough in normal times (normal times since the turn of the century being 7-9), but these days, when everyone hates their stadium, their roster, their seat licenses, their general manager and owner, making people want to care is an extraordinarily difficult task indeed.
Not that they’re not trying, mind you. Jed York continues to appear intermittently on national radio shows to convince the host and his faithful audience that everything is actually fine and dandy. He hires a new assistant general manager whom everyone is sure is 11 losses away from being the next general manager. He has an uncle who has managed the impossible – going from universal creature of ridicule to Hall of Famer in 10 years without actually doing anything.
But best of all, and most diabolical, they have created a quarterback controversy that will cause perfectly sensible people to look at exhibition games with an actual idea of gleaning meaning from them.
This is of course the equivalent of hammering hedgehogs flat, wrapping them in eggs and flour and convincing people that they are delicious omelets that all the cool people in Monte Carlo are dining on these days. Then you have a mouthful of needles and gristle-gone-off, and you come to realize that cool people suck, too.
But as sure as you’ll order a second omelet thinking maybe the first one was just badly cooked, you will watch the four practice games and count the plays Blaine Gabbert gets, the plays Colin Kaepernick gets, and break down each play as though it was video of the collapsing atmosphere of Io.
You’ll still end up having wasted a month of your life, but you’ll have pretended your way through four pointless games in preparation for the 16 pointless games to follow.
True, it isn’t hard to get people who think professional football matters even in those times when it doesn’t. It is the shiny watch that controls an entire civilization of house cats, and the watch never fails to captivate the feline citizens.
But August is the time when you can pretend that bad results don’t matter, and that good results are harbinger of the future. In other words, it’s a Presidential campaign between two candidates you would run over with a thresher just to impress your friends at the tavern.
49er fans, though, are torn between wanting desperately to love their team, and continue to hate their team. They want Gabbert and Kaepernick to alternately do well and poorly, depending on their mood at the time, and they will watch with a jeweler’s eye in hopes of understanding the nature of their future disappointment.
They trust neither one to the point of wondering why neither of them are actually Jared Goff. Then again, that’s how they view Chip Kelly in comparison to Steve Mariucci, who was cursed until people found out what came after. They’re essentially shellshocked soldiers who have just volunteered to go back into battle.
In other words, they need to know whether Gabbert or Kaepernick will be the quarterback in Week One against the Los Angeles Rams, and when they can estimate demanding that the winner be replaced for the loser.
It’s an odd way to go about a season, but the Harbaugh Era is now two years in the rearview mirror, and the anger and resentment that predated his arrival to save York’s reputation is back in full force, with extra points added for the backlash from Human Incineration Stadium.
And frankly, it is almost certain to work because in the final analysis, football is still medical marijuana at Bentley prices, even for the sad. The quarterback controversy which will almost certainly end in the fan base hating both the winner and loser, and everyone will bask in their feeling of togetherness.
But that’s September’s problem. The horror of August is already boxed, wrapped, sold and taken care of, and if that isn’t brilliant marketing at a time when the 49ers need it most, then I don’t know omelets.