Following that rarest of things -- a Super Bowl that came down to the final snap -- New England Patriots fans will be endlessly playing over the events in their minds. If only that ball had fallen one foot closer to Rob Gronkowski. If only Gronkowski hadn't momentarily paused. If, if, if.
Fans of the San Francisco 49ers were thinking "if, if, if" throughout the entire game. If only for so many factors, that could have been our team out there. Naturally, fans start to dream about next year and the year after that. But, in the 49ers' case, this becomes awkward. When imagining a future championship, should we dream of a victory parade through San Francisco, or Santa Clara -- where the team is all but certainly headed -- or both? When one's sporting fantasies begin to resemble a divorced family's holiday logistics, you've reached an uncomfortable place.
What's most uncomfortable is not just that San Franciscans will be kissing their team goodbye -- but that this is the right thing to do.
Yes, in 1997, the city's voters approved $100 million in bond money
to build a new 49ers stadium. This money hasn't vanished, even though the 49ers soon will. But beyond locals' pride and more than half a century of tradition, there aren't many solid arguments to keep the team in this city. Emotional arguments aren't invalid -- but they carry less weight when the city may grow insolvent.
No political leader we've spoken to could produce any numbers justifying keeping the 49ers in town, let alone doling out hefty quantities of money to do so. Erstwhile Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to treat the team's owners like they were infected with chlamydia
remains one more bizarre element of his administration. But it's hard to imagine a deal where the Niners could have been made to stay without scads of public money being shelled out, regardless of the relationship between the mayor and team ownership.
If the team wants hefty public financing to erect a state-of-the art stadium in a vast parking lot and charge fans astonishing sums of money
, it can do so. Just not here.
It'll be sad to see the team up and leave San Francisco -- but, it warrants mentioning, eight other teams play outside of their home cities, including both Super Bowl participants. (The list: The New York Giants and Jets play in East Rutherford N.J.; The Washington Redskins play in Landover, Md.; The Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington, Texas; The Miami Dolphins' new stadium is actually in Miami Gardens; The Buffalo Bills are, for now, located in Orchard Park, N.Y.; The New England Patriots call Foxborough, Mass. home; and the Phoenix Cardinals are based in Glendale, Ariz.).
The 49ers' corporate headquarters are already located in Santa Clara. They practice there. Many of the team's players and personnel already live there. At most, they were in San Francisco one day a week. Like the aforementioned divorce, we could see where this one was going. It's sad and awkward, because divorces are sad and awkward. They're even keeping our name.
So long, 49ers. We do get visitation rights on weekends. But it's going to cost us an arm and a leg
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