The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers have won their games on the same day rarely enough in this decade – eight times in five years and 84 weeks. Indeed, their shared history in the Bay Area is largely a monument to one-upsmanship/one-downsmanship; they have both made the playoffs in the same year only four times in 44 years.
It is an all-encompassing tribute to their combined avoidance of mutual joy that helps to make each fan base largely unbearable to the other. It is an inspiration to angst-junkies everywhere.
So when you get a day like Saturday when both teams win in radically different ways, it makes a certain perverse sense that nobody was particularly happy about it.
The Raiders' 33-25 victory over Indianapolis was a catastrophe in every way save the scoreboard, and in the aftermath their spirits were as broken as quarterback Derek Carr's right fibula. They had Super Bowl aspirations, and in one otherwise innocuous moment with less than 11 minutes to go in a game long ago decided, those aspirations were drastically torqued downward.
The 49ers, in the meantime, came from behind for the first time since January to beat Los Angeles, 22-21, and when combined with Cleveland's win against San Diego and Jacksonville's hammering of Tennessee kept the San Franciscii wedged in the No. 2 draft spot this coming April. Since they had no future to plan for save that, what with the front office and roster about to be drastically reordered, and since the win itself didn't make a material difference in their place in the NFL – better than the Browns, worse than the Jaguars, hurray – nobody was particularly enthused.
Nor, frankly, should they have been. They didn't even fail spectacularly enough, the way the 2008 Lions (0-16) or 2001 Panthers (1-15, winning the opener than being run by the table) did. They won a game nobody cared about, a game nobody ever will. The next important thing they do is determine who will run their football operation and the huddles therein, and beating the Rams does nothing whatsoever for that.
And Merry Christmas.
The thing that keeps sports from being a fleeting moment in an otherwise gray world, and keeps fans shopping for new sweatshirts, jersey, beer cozies and dog sweaters, though, is the notion that even days like Saturday can be replaced by something better.
The Raiders could beat Denver in Denver to assure themselves a first-round bye, or at the very least to put the final boot into the soon-to-be-former Super Bowl champions. Matt McGloin, the new Carr, could look a lot more like the old Carr than anyone imagines is currently possible – though that plainly isn't the way to bet.
The 49ers could beat Seattle this coming week and ruin the Seahawks' thin hopes of a first-round bye – though that plainly isn't the way to think, let alone bet.
But Saturday stands alone as a perfectly wretched Christmas Eve at the office – one in which both teams won and either felt awful or worse, nothing at all.
Next year will be different. Carr's leg will have mended, and the aborted possibilities of 2016 will become the hunger of 2017. The 49ers will have new people in charge of new people unless Jed York lets his stubborn refusal to acknowledge error get in the way of the overwhelming evidence, and 2017 can't possibly be as bad as 2016 – we think.
But this Christmas Eve 2016 will endure as one of those rare days in their shared history when both got what they sought and felt awful about it.
Now that's a fresh hell for the holiday season. Ho ho ho that, Skippy.