The Non-Football-Fan’s Survival Guide for the NFC Championship
I’m fortunate to have a group of wildly varied friends. Some learned to read a box score when they were still reading Dr. Seuss books while others think “the end zone” is a Wolf Blitzer show on CNN.
Never was that dichotomy more on display than during last weekend’s 49ers victory over the New Orleans Saints. Half of my Facebook friends were applauding a great athletic performance while the rest were posting messages of the “WTF? My building is literally shaking. Is there an earthquake?” variety.
After a week of fielding questions and complaints from both groups, I thought I’d help. If you loathe football or maybe just don’t understand it, here’s a guide to help you survive this weekend. (Oh wait, you may not even know what’s going down. Basically, everyone around you will be in a football-induced trance, and when the big game arrives on Sunday, feel free to lay down and take a nap in the center of Market Street, because you’ll be the only one out there.)
So, the first thing you need to do is pick your strategy. Avoidance? Or immersion?
If you want to avoid the NFC Championship entirely you might want to head to the woods. I’m not kidding. 49ers fans are everywhere. Sunday’s game will replace weather as this weekend’s default chit-chat topic. It will get more media coverage than an undecided voter in Iowa. To truly avoid the inevitable buzz that games like this generate, you really should leave town and find somewhere with no electricity and few people.
If you can’t find a monastery to take you in, the movies are your next best bet. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. PST on Sunday, meaning folks will be getting loud and drunk probably by around 1 o’clock. Go see the 1:40 showing of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” at the Sundance Kabuki. Then watch it again at 4:25. (Because you’ll need two showings, minimum, to figure that thing out.) Park close to the theater so you can avoid the gridiron crowd at Harry’s Bar. The Kabuki has a lot of food options, allowing you to stay within the confines of the cinema all afternoon.
If the Niners win, expect mayhem pouring out into the streets long into the night. In that case, make it a movie marathon. You literally don’t have to leave the theater—they have that many food and drink options. But if for some reason you do, wear your headphones and avoid the Marina, North Beach, and perhaps all of San Bruno.
On the plus side, this might also be a great time to head to some of the Bay Area’s harder-to-get-into restaurants (hello Flour + Water). Or pick up some hummus at Trader Joe’s.
If you are not a football fan but plan on watching the game, good for you. Football is an intimidating sport and no time is as intense as the postseason, so congrats for taking on the challenge. Now, how to ensure that Sunday goes well for both you and your gametime companions:
Football rules are fairly complex. But a few basics will go a long way. The NFL itself has a great guide to get you going. It’s aimed at people who literally know nothing (like you). Remember, points in football are just that—points. You don’t want to be flaunting your ignorance by remarking after a field goal, “Ooh, they got some runs!” Points.
As far as the Giants-49ers matchup, this is a rematch of a Nov. 13 game that the 49ers won 27-20. A lot of folks agree that for San Francisco to win, its defense must force a lot of turnovers. If that term merely conjures up the image of a hot apple pastry, let me explain: the 49ers need to force the Giants to make mistakes, and a lot of them.
For more information on the Giants/49ers game match-up, give the following video a watch. You might not comprehend it all, but focus on what you can understand. Even if you have to ask a football-obsessed friend to translate, they may appreciate your pluck. If your efforts are sweetened with a round of drinks, you’ll improve your odds.
If you’re still wondering what all the hype over Sunday’s game is about, let me say this: For 49er fans, this game will be of epic proportions—the stuff of Celine Dion songs. It’s about a team’s return to greatness, an exiled hero reclaiming his rightful place. Just read this San Jose Mercury News piece about kicker David Akers or this Santa Rosa Press Democrat piece on Jim Harbaugh’s flair for dramatic language. Oh, and there’s a chance Harbaugh could be facing his brother in the Super Bowl.
As far as behavior, I suggest keeping a low profile. Don’t be the loudest person in the bar and don’t try to fit in by wearing head-to-toe Niners’ garb. But do familiarize yourself with the 49ers motto—, “who’s got it better than us?” Feel free to follow the 49ers marketing department’s advice: Wear Red. Get Loud.
And remember: whatever happens, win or lose, never, ever say it’s just a game.