The 49ers, The Falcons, And The Bucket List

Tom BaumbergerCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2010

The Bucket List.

Made popular in the recent movie, there comes a time in everyone’s life, when they need to consider their own bucket list.  For me, that time has come.

Last year about this time I came down with H1N1.  By the time it was over, between Halloween and New Years, I had been in the hospital for a total of one month.  Add to that a lot of recuperating at home.  The infection scarred my lungs permanently.   My lungs now work at about 30% efficiency.

The end result is I have a condition where I can catch a common cold, and die.  I could die next week, or in 20 years.  I don’t know when I’ll slip up, touch something, and forget to use a wipe before I scratch my nose or eye.   I do know my new nickname is Monk.  I’m OK with that.

Add an inoperable blockage in one of my coronary arteries and you have a walking cardio-pulmonary time bomb for sure.  If a cold doesn’t kill me, tossing around hay bales here at the farm, just might.  For some of us the phrase "maybe next year" takes on a different connotation.

With the uncertainty of my longevity and the fragility of my respiratory system, I started my bucket list.

Moving from California to South Carolina in early 2000, it had been 10 years since I last attended a 49er game. 

Going to another Niner game was placed immediately at the top of my list.  In fact, it was #1 in big, bold letters.

I purchased the tickets in July, the very day they went on sale.  I wanted mid-field seats so as to take it all in.  This was before the team went 4-0 in preseason and before they went 0-3 in regular season.  I’ve had those tickets in my hot little hands since before preseason started, chomping at the bit to get to Atlanta.

I couldn’t wait for the day to come.  I just knew the Niners would be bringing retribution to Atlanta.  I wanted to be there to see it.

Between the arrival of the tickets, and Saturday when we left the house for the drive to Atlanta, my view of what would happen changed.  Coffee quits.  Balmer quit the team, and just the day before Michael Lewis quits.  Jimmy Raye is fired, within hours of Mike Singletary saying he’d be there for the entire year.  Players are squabbling on the sidelines and in the locker room.  At times the franchise seems to be in a constant state of turmoil.

The big questions in my mind were: What is going on in the Niners camp that has players leaving?  Why is a team with that much talent sitting at 0-3 and knocking on the door of 0-4?  What is going on in San Francisco that makes players want to walk away from million dollar contracts?

The team that was picked to be a long shot sleeper to win the Super Bowl, was slipping farther away from that by the day.  I left the house thinking the worst.

What about the way they played the Saints?  What about the way they played in Seattle until the 12th man won?  They could make a game out of this.  I was debating not going. 

We were already over $500 into it by now with the hotel room already paid for.  We decided to go.  After all if the right team got on the plane, I stood the chance of missing a good game.

Just before I left, a friend mentioned it is considered to be bad luck to wear your team’s stuff in another team’s house.  That was part of the bucket list, wearing a Niner jersey in the opposition’s stadium.  Now I was really conflicted.

I've worn Niner jerseys in Seattle, Philly, St. Louis, Charlotte, Phoenix and many times in Dallas.  Once in Dallas it was for an NFC Championship game.  I'm getting feeble for my young age of 59.  I can't run if things get rowdy like they did in the City of Brotherly Love.  I can't stand my ground again should things get out of hand, like they did up north.

The people of Atlanta and the Falcons fans were gracious hosts.  Southern hospitality at it's best.  All y'all are stand up folks.  I can't say enough good things about you. Philly?  You might want to look up the definition of brotherly love.

Jersey, or no jersey.  I struggled a bit with the decision.  After all, that game had all the potential of going a different way.  I didn't want to be one of those forlorn looking fans.  You know the ones.  The ones with the long faces when their team is getting their butts handed to them in their hats.

One of the first articles I wrote on the Bleacher Report was just after the draft.  I couldn't find much information on Phillip Adams so I compiled as much as I could find into one article.  At the end I said if Phillip made the team I'd wear one of his jerseys to the Falcons game.  

I decided I'd go through with it and left the hotel room clad in my red Phillip Adams jersey.  About 10:00, as we ate breakfast, I started seeing lots of red jerseys show up.  Out on the streets, in the hotel lobby and the restaurant. 

They weren't Falcon red jerseys either.  There were Niner jerseys all over Atlanta on Sunday.  I talked to people from Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Washington DC and even a young couple from California.  All of them in their Niner jerseys.

As the game started I wondered.  What would unfold?  Would we all be there, on the jumbotron with our long faces, clad in our Niner paraphernalia?  Whose face would go up there next when the Falcons scored the eighth touchdown?

Instead, we saw a really great game.  There were two really good teams playing on Sunday.  Ours and theirs.

I was expecting to walk out of the Georgia Dome dejected.  Maybe having to help my team carry their butts to the locker room or maybe help with the hat it was in. 

When I left it was quite the opposite.  There is hope for this team.  There is hope for the rest of this season.  I saw it with my own eyes, live and in person, on Sunday.

Defense.  You guys did great.  The media was all taking about how the Falcons would tear you up.  They said if you blitzed, Ryan would cut you up.  You kept the Falcons in check.  Keeping Matt Ryan, Roddy White and company out of the end zone is no easy task. Speaking of Roddy White, Phillip Adams stuck to him like glue when he covered him. Great job, all of you.

Special Teams.  Atlanta had some half way decent returns but they never broke it.  What about the blocked punt for a TD?  Zeigler, Walker and Mays. You guys are awesome.

Offense.  I saw Josh Morgan open for a sure TD.  Josh smoked his guy, all he needed was the ball somewhere he could catch it.  Crabtree. I usually cap on him because of his holdout.  I was capping on him earlier because it didn't seem like his head was in the game.  It is now, Crabtree is back from wherever he has been.  Frank Gore, what can I say.  Vernon Davis stretching out for that touchdown.  Dixon, they had you stopped short and you forced your way through them for that much needed first down.  Oline and Norris, great job.  Where is Westbrook in all this?

The San Francisco Forty Niners can play against anyone and win, save for one thing.  They need a QB.  Alex Smith is not our guy.  He never has been and I doubt he ever will be.  I've never said he doesn't have QB skills, he does.

Yes, he can pass.  Yes, he can get the first down with his legs.  Yes, he can toss up an INT and give the opposition the points that beat us.  Yes, he can.

Alex Smith didn't let me down yesterday.  He proved to me once again that I am right, when I say he does one thing consistently.  He is consistent about being inconsistent.

He is inconsistent because he gets rattled.  When he got rattled, he tossed up garbage for an interception, that lead to a field goal.  When he got rattled, he tossed up a shuttle pass forward while still inside the tackle box. The ensuing 10 yard penalty took us out of field goal range. As many years as he's been in the league, he shouldn't be making mistakes like that.

All of the teams know it.  It's in their game plan to rattle Alex.

There's a new Smith in town, and his name is Troy.  If Singletary knows what's good for his career he'll drop Alex for the new improved model Smith.

Troy Smith.