Being an armchair quarterback requires a lot of energy -- and more scheming and play-calling than Jim Harbaugh could manage on his very best day.
I make this audible with a lot of experience behind me.
Football was not something I was very interested in during my younger days. I grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., a city made famous years later by a certain chemistry teacher-turned-drug-kingpin.
With no professional football teams, you basically had two choices: the Denver Broncos to the north or the Dallas Cowboys to the east. My brother took the Cowboys. I took whatever team was playing against the Cowboys, but the thrill of annoying my big brother was short-lived, and I pretty much ignored the whole thing until I moved to the Bay Area 25 years ago.
I arrived in the midst of the Oakland A's championship season and the San Francisco 49ers third run to the Super Bowl. I ended up a member of the Faithful during the waning minutes of Super Bowl XXIII. I was working the day shift. My assignment, as I recall, was to watch the half-time show on television and rate the coolness of the first-ever 3-D version of the extravaganza, then rush across the bay and find some 49ers fans watching the game.
As I drove across the bridge with my radio tuned to the game, the Niners were behind; I was expecting to find some glum fans at the other end. By the time I made it there and found a place to park, there were three minutes and 10 seconds left to play, and the Niners had the ball on their own 8 yard line.
As I stood on a sidewalk with dozens of other fans, watching a TV the bar owner had set up in the window, I saw the miracle that was Joe Montana. The memory still sends a chill down my spine. When John Taylor caught that pass in the end zone to give the Niners the win, I was initiated into football fandom. I couldn't believe I'd have to wait eight more months to see that magic again.
As it turns out, I've discovered that magic isn't only performed on the field. For your team to win, the fans have capture some of their own. It becomes your duty.
A lot of fans have uniforms -- special shirts, socks or undies that are worn for every game and in a particular fashion. For me, it's more about language, body and otherwise. For one, you never, ever voice the opinion that your team is going to win. That is very bad juju. Even this past weekend, when the Niners played the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, I couldn't speak of a blowout. I was just smugly happy when we got one.
I feel it's also my duty to watch any and all pregame shows I can find. Unfortunately, all of them have at least one analyst on the podium that irritates the Gatorade out of me. But I strap on my virtual helmet and hurl insults at them (I'm talking about you, Terry Bradshaw and Michael Irvin), especially when they predict that the Niners are going to lose, or worse, that they're going to win (see previous paragraph).
Then there is the game itself. Every fan worth his or her salt has superstitions that help or hurt the team. I used to be ashamed to admit that I actually considered, in sort of a joking, half-serious way, that the position of my feet on the recliner in my den actually could have an effect on the outcome of the game. Imagine my surprise when I learned it did.
If one position isn't working, then I have to switch it around and find another. Sometimes I have to stand up or have one arm down to my side, a certain finger extended in the direction of the opposing team. If that doesn't work, I switch television sets. Cursing the referees is always helpful.
I know -- it makes absolutely no sense, and trying to keep up with everything is exhausting, mentally and physically. Lately, I've adopted a Zen attitude, and it seems to be working pretty well. The Niners have won five straight since I've adopted the "dead to the world" recliner position.
Things are getting tricky now as we enter the second half of the season. I may have to make some changes to get us through New Orleans and Seattle. For one, I've noticed that when my sister leaves the room, the Niners' play improves.
That's going to be awkward -- but it's all for the good of the team.
Joan Morris is the Pets & Wildlife columnist. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.