I lived a charmed youth. I was, after all, a San Francisco 49ers fan, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a pocket of weirdness and prosperity in a country all too conformist and all too class-stratified. My team, the “Team of the 80s”, won the Super Bowl four times in my youth, a youth filled with the joy of a family that loved and supported me in all my iconoclasm and eccentricity, and the solidarity of a group of friends bound by principles and a spirit of self-overcoming and adventure that transcended the love-and-friendship-as-mere-comfort model of my culture, sinking in the bathos of what Nietzsche calls “wretched contentment”.
The 49ers won their last Super Bowl as I entered adulthood. From then on, we were both on the losing side.
The 49ers commenced a wretched 18 years of losing seasons and anemic offenses, led by pedestrian quarterbacks—truly horrifying for a boy who grew up with the two greatest quarterbacks of the era, Joe Montana and Steve Young. True to my Niner fan loyalty, my life followed suit. Around that time of the last Niner Super Bowl victory and my coming into adulthood, my friend Stephen gravely showed me a Leonard Cohen song that served as one of my guiding anthems, “The Captain”. It’s a coming of age song, with a bratty, trendy youth haughtily challenging an exhausted ‘captain’ fighting the good fight with few comrades. I don’t even know what damn side we’re on, the youth protests with exasperation. The captain responds: “I’m on the side that’s always lost / against the side of heaven / I’m on the side of snake eyes / tossed against the side of seven.”
To be sure, I did not wind up destitute or handicapped or wracked with numerous deaths in the family. But I did wind up in prison, in a hare-brained attempt to avoid 9 to 5 death. I did find myself on the losing side of the atheists in this frighteningly religious country. On the losing side of the revolutionaries in this frighteningly reactionary country, which went about stomping on the world’s freedoms along with ours back home, and providing the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the 1% only. ( Every election where a Democrat or Republican won—i.e. every single election—was a loss for me and my people). On the losing side of a rock band trying to write music and mount stage shows with the integrity and ambition of a Bob Dylan, in an age where the labels wouldn’t recognize—let alone –a Dylan or a U2 if they ran across them. I found myself writing things in both the creative and academic realms that made the academy recoil.
I didn’t fare much better in the personal realm. My friendships and marriages maintained their heroic integrity longer than the 49ers, but one by one, my comrades left our mission of a more Nietzschean love—founded in self-overcoming; in the destruction of the ego and identity in the name of personas and communities and great people yet to be; in absolute vulnerability and loyalty over self-protection and self-interest; and above all in the unflinching devotion to our word, no exceptions and no excuses for breaking it. From these heady Zarathustran-Marcusian heights, my comrades and lovers left for the comforting self-help realm, picked up by osmosis from the culture we suffocated in.
And here we are, 18 years later, with the 49ers back in the Super Bowl. Perhaps it will serve as a heroic harbinger, heralding the final victory in my life of the atheists, ridiculously ambitious lovers, revolutionaries, uncompromising artists and visionaries. I doubt it. But there is always the solidarity with my dead and yet-to-be comrades throughout time and space, and the nobility of fighting on the losing side rather than jumping to the winning one when we get exhausted or hurt one too many times. There will be no one too many times for me.
And besides, if nothing else, I at least have the return to dominion of my Niners. That’s something, believe it or not. Here’s to my Niner fan comrades who aren’t watching the game on Sunday because they have some important part of their identity to attend to. We win for you and those who will arise to replace you, until the earth is free.
“Now the Captain he was dying
But the Captain wasn't hurt
The silver bars were in my hand
I pinned them to my shirt.”
|High school comrade Craig and I in 49er car post epic road trip.|