Sportswriters love cliches. There’s always the “team of destiny” and the “bad omen” and any number of other unwritten rules and notions which hold about as much weight on the outcome of the game as the symmetry of chicken bones or the pattern of tea leaves.
But as much as we want to discount the arbitrary nature of the supposed “indicators” on the outcome of the game, you have to admit, the Niners just had way too many of the intangibles against them.
There was the “momentum” factor. The Ravens were on a hot streak and behind the fire of Ray Lewis they were playing with a ton of confidence. When you play with confidence you play without hesitation and you’re less prone to mental lapses.
There was the epic clusterfuck that was Chris Culliver. Just days after alienating arguably the largest LGBT fan base of any team in the NFL, Culliver managed to, for lack of a better term, get reamed by the Baltimore passing attack.
There was the offense that tempted fate one too many times. The Niners weren’t in a playoff game this year unless they were behind early. If they had another two minutes they may well have won it all. But they ran out of time. They dug themselves a hole that was just too deep and they didn’t quite have enough to get over the hump in the end.
When you get down to it, none of those things really mattered. They were simply a football team that didn’t score more points than the other. But when you look at the big picture, it’s hard not to think that they were a team who tempted fate one too many times.
So where do we go from here? Well, we can look back ten years or so. The Giants almost had it in 2000, but came up short. They had it all going their way in 2002, but then the fates all colluded against them and it came crashing down. They had an even better team in 2003, and it ended too soon because some asshole couldn’t catch an easy fly ball (sound familiar, Kyle Williams?) And a few years later, when nobody thought it would happen, when we all thought their best chance had come and gone, they did it.
The Niners time will come. They may have ended the season on a sour note, and hell, odds are they won’t do it next year either. But sooner or later it will happen, and nights like last night will only make it sweeter.