There has always been a substantive difference between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, and Sunday was the latest and greatest proof yet.
The 49ers elevate wins beyond their station and make the quarterback the recipient of all their love. The Raiders construct unimaginable ways to lose and curse the gods that incinerate them. These are their designated places in the Great Narrative, and so, apparently, shall it always be.
The 49ers are enthused beyond reason by their fourth win of the year, and all the credit apparently is going to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for setting up six field goals in a 25-23 win over the Tennessee Titans.
And the Raiders are encased in despair and rage after being out-index-carded and weird-fumbled in a preposterous 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that spits down the throat of conventional sport in almost Shakespearean ways – as in, “There are more whackadoodle things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your barely-a-rulebook.”
And you, the lucky fan, get to decide what matches your personality best.
Elsewhere, Comrade Maiocco explains how the 49ers are completely and utterly enthralled by their third consecutive victory, one in which they moved the ball with impunity all day long against the absurd Titans but only scored one touchdown and needed Robbie Gould to kick them back from the jaws of death.
Here, we will discuss how the Raiders – and ONLY the Raiders – could lose this way, with these things, done in these ways, and have it all explained by head coach Jack Del Rio by saying, “I don’t want to get fined.”
They lost because of a 21-yard fake punt by Dallas’ Chris Jones on a fourth-and-ten – with nearly 20 minutes still to play. They lost because quarterback Dak Prescott ran one yard and one folded index card in referee Gene Steratore’s pocket that didn’t fit between the first down stick and the ball on a fourth-and-one-yard-no-card-needed to keep the game-winning drive alive.
(Absurd Nonsense Addendum: Steratore told pool reporter Vic Tafur of The Athletic six times in six questions that he didn’t use the index card to make the ruling but only to “reaffirm” what he saw with his eyes, thus trying to render the nickname “The Office Depot Game” moot. Sorry, Geno, no dice. You did it, we saw it, and it lives forever).
And they lost because their own quarterback, Derek Carr, dove for a touchdown on a play that he had already converted for a desperately needed first down but fumbled out of the end zone with 39 seconds left, thus losing possession entirely and ruining a potentially great comeback. Better yet, it was a play he wouldn't have called had his favorite target, Michael Crabtree, had been in the game at the time rather than the concussion pup tent.
So allowable trickery beat them, a first-down conversion never conceived by humans before beat them, and a fumble that made a successful play they didn't want to run a disaster beat them.
Hell, it makes the 14 penalties for 100 yards an afterthought. It surely eliminates the value of Carr’s most intrepid game in three months.
And it leaves the poor unlucky bastards . . . err, the Raiders hoping for one bizarre combination of scenarii to occur in the final two weeks:
1. The Raiders beating Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers.
2. The Miami Dolphins beating Kansas City and Buffalo.
3. The Tennessee Titans losing to the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville.
4. The Bills losing to New England as well as Miami.
5. The Baltimore Ravens beating either Indianapolis or Cincinnati.
*Raiders could make a five-way tie at 8-8 if the fifth team is the Chargers.
The odds of all these things happening, based on 100,000 simulations, is less than one percent. A lot less.
But that is, for the moment anyway, less important than the narratives. The 49ers and their fans will make as much out of their quarterback’s work in a game won by six field goals as the Raiders and their fans will make out of finding new and bizarre ways to turn gold into zinc and then into styrofoam packing peanuts.
And both teams and fan groups will find their own comfort in those massively divergent world views. One team waits for a quarterback to love and to love them back, and the other waits for a trick of circumstance to hate. It may explain why 49er fans live in hope even in the most ridiculous of times, and why Raider fans die in agony even in the most glorious events.
Besides, the index card really was a hell of a prop that will never be repeated. Nobody’s ever losing a game by outmoded office supplies again, damn it. Next time, knowing them, the Raiders will get beaten by solar flares from the eyes of Zeus.