49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

October 29, 2010
Confessions of a British Niners fan

When I used this space to solicit stories from British 49ers fans two days ago, I figured I'd get two, three - maybe a half dozen - responses. I've gotten 52 from Scotland to Wales and they are still pouring into my inbox. Ping!

I shouldn't be surprised.

When The Bee broke down my blog followers by state a few years ago, we discovered we were getting more hits - far more - from Britain than there were from Texas. If you want to know why, click here. The story also will also explain why the vast majority of the men - they were all men - who wrote me are in their thirties.

Anyway, I felt bad that so many people wrote quite lovely accounts of their fandon but that I only could use three in today's newspaper story. (Those damn Giants, 2-0) are stealing all the space!) So here are a few more in their entirety. And for the others - many thanks. I read each one and enjoyed them very much.

**************************************************
Matt,

After spending the first few years of my life in and out of hospital, I then found I had family spread throughout the world. I then soon realised how many I had in Monterey, California ( when aged about 7/8 years old). After finding that they were all Niner fans, I began following the team around 1987, when games were on TV on Channel 4. Although only 8 years old at the time, I used to be sent to bed at night at 8pm.. and pretend to sleep for hours, just so that I could hear my parents go to bed. When they did, I would sneak downstairs and put on our tv, with the volume turned right down, so that they couldn't hear it (it didn't have a mute function). On more than one occasion, I'd get a thorough telling off the next morning, as I'd have fallen asleep on the sofa, with the tv left on all night. Getting caught would only make me more determined to watch the next game, but if I managed to make it through the night, i'd then inevitably be asleep in class at school, and get told off by my teachers.

I'll never regret it though, as one of the earliest 'great' sporting memories I can recall, I'll never forget Superbowl 24, when the Broncos were destroyed by the Niners, so I'm going to the game @ Wembley. I can only hope for a similar result on Sunday!


David Atkinson, 31, Leicester (England).

Hi Matt,

Love the column and have been reading you and Maiacco for about 3 years.

My name is Gavin McDonald, I'm 27 and have been a 49er fan since '88 (Yep I was 5 years old!) My mum (who is coming with my friends and I to the game sunday!) used to watch Football and was a 49er fan and although I wasn't allowed to stay up and watch the games she used to record them when they were on (rare) and I used to watch them back.

My favourite video was the '88 Super Bowl, I loved the competitiveness of that game (saw my first kickoff TD return and broken leg) and I loved the comeback although strangely my favourite players were Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig.

My next video was an away game at the Bears in the snow, I remember that Steve Young was in for Joe Montana (think it was the '89 season correct me if I'm wrong) and my Steve Young boy crush began, just loved his physicality. I remember pleading (unsuccessfully) to watch the '89 Super Bowl but having to watch it on tape and I saw my first blow out (and enjoyed it!).

My mum took me to an American Bowl game at Wembley (I remember it was the Eagles, and think they played the Redskins) and I absolutely loved my first live Football experience. We even followed the London Monarchs throughout their short existence.

I then finally got to stay up and watch a Super Bowl aged 12 and my Steve Young crush met new heights with the demolition of the Chargers, and to this day even though I would rate Joe Montana as the better QB my favourite Niner ever is Steve Young.

Well I've grown up now and through the Internet I have followed the Niners extremely closely for the last 4 years and have fiercely debated every single year that we were improving and ready to get back to where we belong (and have taken much stick from Steeler and Patriot following friends!)

We have attended each of the previous 3 Wembley games and I was over the moon when I heard that it was our turn and after 22 years I am finally going to see my first live Niners game. (Wearing my new Patrick Willis shirt who is comfortably my favourite current Niner and threatening to reach the top!)

Keeping the faith (barely) with Singletary,

Gavin McDonald-Griffin

Hi Matt,

I began following the 49ers after watching Superbowl 23. I was only 8 years old at the time but just fell in love with a sport so completely different to anything I'd seen before. I'd set the video to record the game as I wasn't allowed to stay up and unfortunately the recording cut off just after Bill Romanowski intercepted Boomer Esiason in the 3rd quarter, I was absolutely gutted when the video stopped and i had to wait 4 more days until I found out the result as Channel 4 didn't show the highlights until the following weekend.

I live in Leamington Spa in the midlands and will be attending the game on Sunday. Thanks to the internet I'm now able to watch every 49er game staying up until after midnight most Sundays (even though the last few years have been quite trying).

Thanks,

Gary Parks

Hi Matt,

I've no idea if my story makes good copy, but please feel free in quoting any bits of it if you wish.

Actually, I believe I'm going to be by far your most exotic example. I may be have living in the UK for the last 20 years, but originally I come from Greece. I was born and grew up in Athens, then moved to London when I was 19 and have lived here since - with a 2 year period as a graduate student in Philadelphia in the mid-90s. These travels have made me a very weird fan: a passionate Arsenal fan (for our version of football) with a mild but persisting childhood fondness for Panathinaikos in Greece (another soccer team), while at the same time being crazy for the 49ers and... the Phillies (I was actually depressed when the Giants won the pennant last weekend. How many 9er fans can say the same?)

I became a 49er fan by watching Superbowl XXIII - Montana to Taylor, and all that. It was the first live NFL match I ever watched on TV - on a defunct British satellite channel called Super Channel if memory serves. I had been following the 88 season through taped highlights, trying to figure out the rules of this strange game as I went along, and I was very quickly hooked by the time the SB came around. So I sat up through the early morning hours (Greece is 7 hours ahead of EST) and watched Stanford Jennings return 90-odd yards for a TD, Rice waving the ball around the pylon as he was falling out of bounds and, of course, the last drive. How can I not have been hooked, and hooked by the Niners in particular?

I stayed attached to the team during the glorious 89 campaign, but became even more so after the heartbreaks of the 90, 92 & 93 NFC Championship losses (I still think we were robbed in 92 with that phantom holding call on Rice). In 93 & 94 I was as I mentioned in the US, so I lived through the last 9er SB campaign in 94 as close I could be without actually living in the Bay Area. The NFC Championship of that year is one of my happiest memories as a fan for any of my teams; finally got that Dallas monkey off our backs.

So, you might say that I am the quintessential bandwagon fan. I have however stuck with the team all through the long years of decline, and like any other fan I still hope every offseason that they can turn it around. My patience is wearing thin, particularly with the train wreck of this season, but I am if anything crazier about them than ever.
Crazy enough to make the awful 11 hour flight to San Francisco every autumn to watch them lose in person. OK, SF being one of the most beautiful cities in the world is part of the reason - I combine the self-flagellation of the whole Candlestick experience with a marvelous holiday in general.

But it would be easier to take (particularly the ghastly driving to and from Candlestick!) if they won a bit more often when I see them live; so far I've only seen them beat the Rams at home last year. Put that against blowouts at the Giants (07, 08), at Seattle (this year) and home vs Atlanta (09), Seattle (08) and, heartbreakingly, the Saints on MNF this year. My luck. So, I am pretty fatalistic about this Sunday, but of course I will be in the stands with my Roger Craig jersey on, hoping that the long awaited recovery starts here.

Paul Kosmetatos


Hi Matt -

My name is Adam Nicholson, I'm 35 years old and live in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is a small city about 25 miles north of London.

I became a fan of the 49ers for the simple reason that they won the first ever game of American Football I watched, highlights of Super Bowl XIX. I've always been a big sports fan and probably watched it because it was the only sport on TV at the time. I was hooked after watching that first game and avidly watched the Channel 4 coverage until the mid to late 1990s. Due to a number of factors including the coverage switching from terrestrial to satellite TV and me going to University I lost interest for about 5 years. Once I got satellite TV in the early 2000s I was able to enjoy the live games on Sky Sports and regained my love of the sport.

I will be at the game on Sunday, the 2nd time I have seen the 49ers play - I saw the American Bowl at the old Wembley Stadium in 1992 against the Redskins. This is also the 3rd consecutive year that I've been to see the Wembley NFL game. Joe Montana is my all time favourite player and I'll be at the game on Sunday in an Alex Smith jersey, very disappointed both that he is injured and that he seems, along with much of the rest of the team, to have regressed this year.

I hope this is of use, if you need any further info please let me know.

Adam



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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