Harbaugh: 'That's the best birthday present I've ever gotten'
NaVorro Bowman's final stat line Monday night: 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, pass defended, 89-yard interception return for touchdown. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Programming note: Watch 49ers Press Conference Live with Jim Harbaugh today at Noon on CSN Bay Area, or streaming live right here.
Well, that went about the way nobody expected. Candlestick Park’s putative last stand is a brilliantly handsy touchdown by a linebacker to avert a near grisly loss caused by the same linebacker’s non-handsy play.
If that makes no sense to you, then Candlestick has done its job. NaVorro Bowman, who couldn’t field an onside kick that gave the Atlanta Falcons the ball inside the San Francisco 30, could field a deflected pass and turn it into an 89-yard touchdown, and the San Francisco 49ers snatched a 34-24 victory from the jaws of a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
It wasn’t the greatest moment in the joint’s history, or even in the Top 10. But as metaphors for the rank old concrete courtesan go – c’est magnifique!
And while most people will struggle to find a grand historical context for Bowman’s two moments, the truth is this: The win probably prolongs San Francisco’s futile chase for the first seed in the NFC playoffs, but shows the value of persistence in a joint where one had to persevere just walking inside.
The 49ers are still the five-seed, and facing the odd Chicago Bears in a first-round matchup (pending Sunday’s developments). They could still beat Arizona in Glendale, watch Seattle lose at home to St. Louis, and become the host to two more games at Le Stique – and talk about a case of what dead Romans used to call immatura festis.
More likely, Seattle will beat the Rams, and the 49ers will have to beat the Cardinals to stay fifth and draw either Chicago (not good) or Green Bay (slightly less good than that) and avoid playing either Philadelphia (not easy) or Dallas (infinitely preferable to nearly anything).
In that way, Monday’s salute to the Junkheap on Jamestown was a little less than full-throated, because it had to be – and also because it was mostly a whopping fib people told themselves to gain admittance to the party.
You see, nobody ever liked Candlestick even Monday; losing to the Falcons would have been just effective a metaphor as the one Bowman provided. Truth is, nobody even tried to own the old joint until it became fashionable, and it only became fashionable when the 49ers pulled the feeding tube and the ventilator. Everyone hated the place, for the low-tide whiff and the sod that couldn’t take root and the cold and the flooded parking lots and the wind and the fog and the narrow concourses and the gastrically aggressive seagulls and everything else. People even hated it through the earthquake, when the place had its finest hour, saving 63,000 in the building and countless thousands more who left work early to watch Game 3 of the World Series and missed the collapsed roads.
But now that the end is here, more or less, the warm feelings and memories and hidden charms never before discussed are oozing to the top in a frenzied burst of “Well, I have to write/say something because deadline’s in an hour” with a side of “This is a nice easy one. Round up the usual suspects.”
Fine. Pretend all you want. Candlestick knows. Candlestick heard every lousy thing you ever said, and gave it back in kind. This was a hate-hate relationship almost from the start, and to pretend it isn’t like that now is the height of disingenuousness.
And if you can’t lie to yourselves while watching NaVorro Bowman show why he is the best defensive player the team has, and while the 49ers can win, lose and win the same game in the final three minutes without blinking, you’re just not getting the real Candlestick Legacy.
It was a place where anything could happen, often did, and in weirder ways than you could conjure in your most febrile fantasies. And the real price of admission was losing the feeling in your extremities.
Monday showed us that was a small enough price to pay. It also showed us that the new stadium has a lot to live up, and down, to. Believe that.