Super Bowl XLVII: Damn It
|Andrew J. Nilsen with photography by Tony Avelar/Associated Press|
|The Amazing Kaepernick showed up in the second half.|
This week, we will hear lots of calls for "Who's got it better than us?" optimism. People will says things like "At least the Giants won the World Series" and "Let's not forget how magical a 49ers season this has been" and "30 other teams wish they could have played in the Super Bowl" and "Kaepernick's got a great future" and "We still have the Warriors" and "It's only sports, at least we have our health."
These are all reasonable and true points. But like a glass of water during a hangover, they barely diminish the sharp pain.
There's a lot of stuff to be pissed about today: Jim Harbaugh's play-calling at the end of that final drive; Chris Culliver; killer penalties and turnovers; awful pass coverage on that ridiculous third-and-long touchdown bomb at the end of the first half; even worse kickoff coverage on that gut punch of a kickoff return touchdown to start the second half; the missed pass interference call on that final throw to Michael Crabtree; and, perhaps most depressingly, the fact that Colin Kaepernick's amazing debut season will not be immortalized with a championship.
It's one thing when your team loses. But this wasn't just a loss. This was staring into the threshold of epic possibility ... inching closer and closer ... so close that the mind can't help but see flashes of what might -- no, must -- happen ... "Greatest comeback in Super Bowl History" ... "Legendary performance" ... "City of Champions" ...
What a tease.
Kaepernick (subject of our most recent feature story) woke up Monday morning to overall positive reviews. "Kaepernick, Showing Guts, Falls Slightly Short of Glory," read The New York Times. "The Turlock Tornado wasn't a winner, but he is a winner," wrote the Chronicle's Scott Ostler. "Kaepernick shows he has the right stuff," declared one Chron headline.
Although he became the first 49ers quarterback to throw an interception in a Super Bowl, and the first to lose a Super Bowl, he was spectacular in leading his team to the doorstep of an unprecedented title game comeback.
Kaepnerick won't have the unblemished Super Bowl records of Joe Montana and Steve Young. But great QBs don't always win their first one. Hall of Famer Len Dawson, of the Kansas City Chiefs, lost Super Bowl I, before winning his ring three years later. The Miami Dolphins' Bob Griese, another Hall of Famer, lost his first big game in 1972, then went on to lead his team to back-to-back championships. And perhaps most famously, John Elway lost his first three Super Bowls, waited nearly a decade for his next shot, then ended his career with two straight championships.
The stories don't always have happy endings, even for Hall of Famers. Fran Tarkenton lost all three Super Bowls he played in. Jim Kelly lost all four, consecutively. Dan Marino was a second-year rising star when he lost his first Super Bowl in January 1985. He figured he'd get many more chances to avenge the defeat. But despite racking up more passing yards over the course of a career than any quarterback before him, he would never again play in a Super Bowl.
As San Francisco Giants fans who remember 2002 can attest, the only medicine for a season's heartbreaking finish is a championship. Now the long, grueling off-season begins.