What Is This, Soccer?! / by Lars Garvey Laing-Peterson

Photography by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle

Photography by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle

As someone who spent a decade of their life in Europe and once followed football (that game we call "soccer" here) with something verging on obsession, I should be in a far better position than most to write about today's San Francisco-St. Louis matchup, the first game since the Philadelphia-Cincinnati game in 2008 that ended in a most un-American fashion: a draw. And yet, I'm left with this lingering question: How does a Pro Football fan reconcile themselves with this result?

Obviously both sets of fans can take some comfort in the fact that they didn't lose, but nobody won, neither set of fans gets to hold anything over the other set of fans (most distressing as this was a NFC West matchup with possible playoff implications down the line, especially if those damned Seahawks keep winning games). As this isn't the English Premier League, where this kind of thing happens with some regularity, how is an American Football supporter meant to feel? ESPN called the whole thing "a dramatic dud." I would venture that isn't too far off, except I don't see the word "frustrating" anywhere near that (albeit rather short) soundbite.

The Niners were saved far too many times by the Rams' sheer inability to stop committing penalties, yet neither team could win when they had every opportunity in the world laid out before them to do so. It may have been dramatic, but it was intensely frustrating, and all of that wonderful built-in suspense, all of those plays called back, field goals that went wide, fantastic chances and painful gaffes, all of it came to naught. When I realized I couldn't yell at the images of Jim Harbaugh and his team on my television the way I was able to do after that embarrassing drubbing at the hands of the New York Giants—as they didn't lose, as they kept themselves firmly in the game all the way until the bitter end, especially after losing Alex Smith to a concussion in the first half, a setback Colin Kaepernick remedied by playing a phenomenal game—I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself other than say, half in disbelief, "Hey, at least we didn't lose."

At least the Bears looked fallible tonight against the Texans. That's something. But they'll likely come out playing angry after that loss. I'm not sure how the Niners will handle today's game, unable to feel confident with a hard-fought win or plagued with the knowledge that they have a lot to prove after an unexpected overtime loss to a division rival. As Donte Whitner said, "It feels weird. We're about wins here." I suppose we'll see what kind of coach Jim Harbaugh is in a little over a week as he deals with the injury to his starting quarterback and a team that played five quarters of football only to walk away with little to show for it.