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Article Title: Any Other 49ers Fans Feeling Unappreciated?
Article Date: April 13 2003
By Bryan Hersh
Any Other 49ers Fans Feeling Unappreciated?
Editorís Note - It sure has been a while. I know itís been over a month since I last wrote an article, and believe me itís not for a lack of motivation. For those of you who have been living in a cave, Iíve been having some severe computer difficulties. The problems have been ongoing since I got the computer, but worsened towards the end of January. I was literally without computer throughout March and some of April, which obviously made it tough to write, let alone do my assignments for school. Long story short, my computer has been replaced, and with three solid days under its belt Iím beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope, pray, or whatever else may work, that this computer is more reliable than the lastÖ
In 49ers land there are really two pressing topics these days, the draft is of course one of them, and a subject Iím sure to discuss repeatedly in the near future, and the other revolves around the new training camp facility. For the purposes today, Iím going to look at the move away from Stockton for training camp, to the 49ers home facility in Santa Clara.
As a 49ers fan Iím beginning to get fed up with the ownership of the team. Itís not so much that they fired Steve Mariucci, Iíve always been a Mooch fan, but Iíve moved on. Itís more that this team is cutting corners wherever it can, and in the process stepping on fans toes without caring. Iím a 49ers fan. Iíve always been a 49ers fan Ė and I always will be. But there is more to being a 49ers fan than simply cheering the players on, going to or watching games, or even for that matter reading every 49ers article in every newspaper, and following every statistical category like a maniac. Being a 49ers fan, means having 49ers pride, and I think most of you will agree with me on this. I mean itís fun to taunt other teams fans, or jeer them on the superiority of our team, (having won five Super Bowls and all), but without the 49ers pride, what would our claim to fame be? We arenít the only team to win five Super Bowls after all.
As 49ers fans, we have a pride in our team that from my experiences is unparalleled throughout the league. We can look at any other team and say ďNot only are the 49ers a better team than (insert team name here) they are a better organization tooĒ. Up until this point, there wasnít a single person who could argue with the second part of that statement (the first of course is rather subjective). The 49ers were what every team strived to be. Sure teams emulated our offensive system, stole our coaches, and tried to implement the same training techniques, but there was always something missing. Teams were always lacking the superiority at the organizational level. You know, the type of things like: travelling to away games an extra day early; having enough water fountains at the training facility that players never had to line up; and all the other perks that came with being a 49er (championship belt buckles, free reign on office materials, state of the art technological and training equipment, etc.). It was these aspects and of course winning, that was so envied throughout the league, and players would actually accept less money to play for the 49ers.
The aforementioned organizational superlatives are nearly as big a reason that 49ers fans are 49ers fans, as the winning history is. They are why 49ers fans always felt so special, and always felt like they belonged to an elite group, a different class from the rest of the NFL. Itís the same feeling as owning a luxury car, or flying first class, and this Ďtop dogí feeling was passed throughout the organization, players didnít simply play for the 49ers, they became a part of the 49ers. 49ers fans thus became a different branch of fans. We are not simply cheerleaders, we are faithfuls. When our team is up, we cheer them on, and when our team is down we stick buy them. Evidence of this is clear in the consecutive losing seasons we suffered through recently. The organization told us fans they had a plan. They told us what the plan was, and they executed it. Most teams donít operate like that, but the 49ers did. They always seemed to care about the fans, about the players, about every member of the community, as much as they did winning.
Itís for these reasons that when I look at the organization now, when I see what the ownership is doing to our beloved 49ers, my pride suffers. I donít just want to be a fan of the team; I want to be a fan of the organization like I always have been. But how can I be?
How can I be proud of an organization that bucks tradition in order to save a few dollars? (After winning the NFC West, the organization customarily purchased every member of the team a commemorative belt buckle, this past season they refused to do so).
How can I be proud of an organization that eliminated fan appreciation day from its training camp schedule?
How can I be proud of an organization that charged its players for postage stamps during the holidays?
How can I be proud of an organization that moved its training camp away from a university where most practices were open to the public, where fans could meet and get in touch with their role models, and where the team contributed to the community by helping out the university? Instead, they chose to work out of their own complex, eliminating the camaraderie that builds during camp, closing most practices to the public, and taking the players away from fans. All this they claimed for a lack of office space? I doubt we are getting the whole truth here, there is more to this story and it comes in the way of dollar bills. The university and town depended on the 49ers presence big time, and there is no way they wouldnít be flexible on such a trivial issue considering the alternative Ė it just doesnít make sense.
This of course was not the first time we fans were lied to, and itís not like the team is lying about who it will draft as a strategy, it has been lying about nothing of the sort. Lying to players and coaches, or to the fans about the status of players or coaches with the team, or why they have been released. Always trying to Ďlook goodí but in the process digging themselves into a whole. If the 49ers organization were a person, you wouldnít want to be their friend. If the 49ers organization were a person, right now, they would be called a sleaze. How can I be proud of that?
I can of course be proud of the team, but the organization? It has a long way to go make up for what it has done. It is for that reason that I am asking all fans reading this article to speak out, and I am making it extremely easy. Below, Iíve written a general letter about these issues to John York. I urge each and every one of you to copy/paste the article into a word processor, print and send it to:
If you are as upset as I am, and feeling like this team no longer cares about its fans; if you feel like as a 49ers fan you are a no longer part of an elite group; if you feel like as a 49ers fan you can only cheer for the team and not the entire organization; if you feel like you are just another fan, like any other fan of any other team; then I urge you to send the letter below.
Dear Dr. John York and Denise Debartlo
I am an avid 49ers fan. I have always been an avid 49ers fan. Lately though, I have been disgusted with the actions of this organization. I believe that as owners you have overlooked, and taken for granted the fans of this organization. I do not believe you ever understood what it meant to be a fan of this team, and thus it does not surprise me that while this team is winning, the actions the organization have taken have done nothing but stifled interest of the team.
Players and coaches used to want to be a 49er. They used to take pay cuts in order to be a part of this organization because it was in a class of its own. They donít do this anymore. Coming out of college, players donít aspire to be a 49er. Coaches donít care to be a part of this organization anymore. The deterioration in this organization, that has prompted players and coaches to use contract negotiations with the 49ers as a means to a new contract with their own ball club, where as in the past they would have begged for the opportunity to even enter into negotiations with the 49ers, is the same deterioration that has 49ers fans everywhere upset with the thorough disregard for the fans of this team.
Being a 49ers fan has always meant being a part of something special. We were not just fans, or fanatics, we were faithfuls. We stuck by our team through thick and thin. We listened and believed what the organization told us, and respected the hierarchy of the team. This feeling no longer persists. As a fan, I know longer feel like part of the elite, the Ďluxury carí feeling has all but disappeared, squashed by your reign as owners of this ball club.
It used to be that the 49ers were the best organization in the NFL. Now the team has no appreciation for its fans, players, coaches or staff. You have eliminated fan appreciation day from training camp last year; you have taken the players away from the fans during training camp this year; we have been lied to over and over again; in essence you have Bangalized the 49ers.
49ers fans have always had a certain 49ers Pride. That pride is vanishing quickly. The public relations department is good. They always find the silver lining in all of the turmoil, but the faithful fans see through that. We see a stadium that hasnít been built, but rather thrown on the back burners; we see an exclusion of the fans from the players at training camp; we see an organization that lies and misleads; and we see an organization that pinches every penny possible.
The 49ers can become the elite of the NFL again. There is no doubt in my mind about that. To get there though, you will have a lot of work to do. You will have to understand what it means to be a fan, and take the feelings of the fans, players and coaches into consideration when planning for the future. You will have to stop lying to the fans, and you will have to stop dragging the 49ers name through the dirt. Until then, I along with many other 49ers fans will be fan of the team, but not the organization.
Thank for your time, a swift reply is appreciated.