It’s a tough time of year for the non-football fan in San Francisco.
Everywhere you go, it seems like people are talking about the 49ers and the Super Bowl. Your friends might be having a conversation about Colin Kaepernick and the “#QuestforSix,” and all you can do is smile and nod along. You’re thinking, Kaper-who? Quest for what? Which Coach Harbaugh? – but you don’t want to seem out of the loop. You’re worried your fan friends might laugh.
For Bay Area residents who want to get in on the Super Bowl fun, but don’t bleed 49ers red-and-gold, here’s some basic information that can help you get through the weekend, and might even help you enjoy the game.
Q: Are the 49ers usually good?
A: The 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history, having won five Super Bowl championships since 1981 (the team is hyping this year’s Super Bowl run as the “#QuestforSix.”) It’s the only team to have played in more than one Super Bowl without losing. The team’s roster in the past three decades has included some of the game’s greatest players, including wide receiver Jerry Rice (who holds the league’s career record for touchdowns scored), quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, running back Roger Craig, and defensive back Ronnie Lott (Rice, Montana, Young and Lott are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame). The 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s, including three under Coach Bill Walsh. The team last won the Super Bowl in 1995 and went into a long decline in the late 1990s, failing to make the playoffs for a decade after the 2001-02 season. The team returned to playoffs last year, its first season under Coach Jim Harbaugh, going 13-3 and reaching the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1997. The 49ers ended this regular season with an 11-4-1 record.
Q: Are there any players on the team from the Bay Area?
A: Linebacker Larry Grant (No. 54) and receiver and kick returner Kyle Williams (No. 10) are the only 49ers who are Bay Area natives. Grant, who plays mostly on special teams, was born in Santa Rosa and attended Foothills High School in Sacramento as well as City College of San Francisco. Williams, who will miss the Super Bowl because of a knee injury, was born in San Jose but grew up in Arizona, where he was a high school sports star. A few more players were born or attended high school in other parts of California. Safety Dashon Goldson (No. 38) was born in Carson and attended Narbonne High School in Harbor City; linebacker Clark Haggans (No. 51) was born in Torrance and went to Peninsula High School there; tight end Delanie Walker (No. 46) was born in Pomona and went to Pomona High School; guard Mike Iupati (No. 77) went to Western High School in Anaheim; and backup quarterback Alex Smith (No. 11) went to Helix High School in La Mesa. But arguably the most notable 49er with California roots is starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, No. 7. Kaepernick was born in Wisconsin but moved with his adoptive parents to Turlock, south of Modesto, when he was 4. As a fourth-grader at Turlock’s Dutcher Elementary School, Kaepernick wrote a letter saying he hoped he would grow up to play for the 49ers or the Green Bay Packers.
Q: Tell me about the Harbaugh family.
A: 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens Coach John Harbaugh have one sister, Joani. She’s married to Tom Crean, the head basketball coach at Indiana University. Jim, John and Joani’s father, Jack Harbaugh, is a former college football coach. Their mother’s name is Jackie.
So, to summarize, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh have three children: Jim, John and Joani.
Q: Do the 49ers have a mascot or something I can dress up as?
A: Meet 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam.
If you really want to go that route, you can always try and find a vintage Yosemite Sam costume. But generally, fans of pro sports teams don’t dress up as mascots. Maybe just show your spirit by buying a team T-shirt; they’re relatively cheap and plentiful. A jersey with a player’s name on the back can cost $100 or more. If you really want to go all out, consider dyeing your hair and getting decked out in face paint and team swag.
Q: What’s the deal with the point system?
A: It’s complicated. A team can get points a few different ways, including:
- Scoring a touchdown, which is worth 6 points.
- Kicking the extra point, which is worth 1 point. After a touchdown, the offensive team is given one additional play to score extra points. If they use that play to kick the ball through the uprights, they get one point, called the extra point.
- Kicking a field goal, which is worth 3 points. A field goal occurs when the placekicker for the offensive team boots the ball through the uprights. (A note for the football fans reading this: we realize this is a very basic explanation of scoring. If we get into two-point conversions and safeties, and the differences between field goals, kickoffs and punts, we’ll just create confusion that will distract from the purpose of this post.)
The history of kicking and scoring in football can be traced to its roots in rugby and soccer. Many of the rules for American football were derived from rugby rules.
Q: How long does the game actually last?
A: A football game is divided into four 15-minute quarters. However, the running clock often stops for incomplete passes, injuries, timeouts and television commercials, as well as after a team scores and when players travel out of bounds at the end of a play. There also are breaks between quarters and at halftime. As a result, the average game lasts about three hours from kickoff to the final whistle.