I am a huge 49er fan. Always have been. When I was a kid, the team practiced just up the road and my dad would take the three of us girls out to watch. I even have a war story (and maybe a scar or two) from the time I got Jerry Rice’s autograph.
Needless to say, this climb back to glory the Niners have undertaken is quite exciting for me. There have been so many moving pieces and parts to track as the franchise fights their way back from nearly a decade of struggles. One of the more recent, and more colorful pieces to watch dance has been head coach, Jim Harbaugh. From his hard hitting handshakes to his vein popping tantrums on the sidelines, he is quite a character. And I like characters.
When he came to San Francisco, he brought with him a saying from his childhood that has really become the anthem of the team and, in turn, Niner Nation. It goes a little something like this:
The story of how that saying came to be is here, but the real genius of it is found in how Harbaugh’s used it to build a culture around his players. Early in the season (obviously) I caught an interview Bob Costas did with Vernon Davis and Alex Smith. Bob Costas asks Alex (and I’m paraphrasing here) how, through all the years, through all the criticism, was he able to maintain belief in himself. This is what Alex says:
For me, I think, I looked around at the league, especially at the quarterback position, and you soon realize that nobody has it easy. No one had the easy way to become a starting quarterback and playing well. Everybody’s gone through things, everybody deals with things. It’s the good ones–the guys who stick around are the guys who focus on what they can control . . . The people that allow the other stuff, the negativity to creep into their head, allow it to affect them, you aren’t going to be around very long. You’ve got to be thick skinned. You can’t let those things change your work ethic, change your approach to the game.
Wise, right? And because I think sports are a great metaphor for living, that statement has stayed with me. I assume it’s stayed with Alex as well. I hope it has. It’s all part of that culture, isn’t it? It’s a mindset that says, “NOBODY has it better than me. Everyone I am tempted to compare myself to has stuff to fight. They have things they must battle through, mountains to conquer. No one has it easy.”
I don’t know, maybe I’m just overly excited about tonight’s game. And nervous. I’m nervous. Because we’re playing the Packers. And since every game moving forward is possibly our last I thought I’d take this opportunity to share this lesson I learned from Coach Harbaugh, Alex Smith, and the Niner Nation.
Who’s got it better than us?