It is exceedingly rare to find true fans that are actively rooting against their own team. Sometime when a team is awful some fans start hoping that the team will play poorly enough to get a number one overall pick so they can select a franchise player that will help turn the team around, but that is not truly rooting against their team. Generally when a fan base turns on a team it is when the ownership of the team is perceived as either not attempting to win or has blackmailed a local government for funding. These cases usually involve teams without deep roots in a community or without a proud tradition of winning.
The San Francisco 49ers are among the most celebrated teams in all of sports. They have had arguably the best quarterback of all time and the best receiver of all time play for them. They have 5 Super Bowl wins, one behind Pittsburgh for the all-time lead. For over 30 years, that team has been synonymous with excellence in the NFL, and has been to the NFC championship game three times in the past four years. Yet despite all that, they may well have the angriest fan base in all of professional sports.
The owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York, fired one of the most respected and sought after coaches in the NFL and replaced him with the team’s defensive line coach. Jim Harbaugh turned around a moribund team and led it to three straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. Every single NFL team looking for a new head coach would have happily traded a draft pick and given Harbaugh a blank check to coach their team. For 49ers fans, it was bad enough that York fired such a universally respected coach, but then he poured jet fuel on the fire by hiring as his replacement someone that not a single other NFL team would have considered hiring as a head coach.
In firing Harbaugh and hiring someone named Jim Tomsula to replace him, Jed York has quickly gone to being a pariah among 49ers fans. It is to the point where many 49ers fans are actually hoping the team has an awful year next year, not to get good draft pick, but to make Jed York get his comeuppance for firing the coach who turned the team around. In some ways it is rather easy for 49ers fans to root for a disaster season. Few people would expect Jim Tomsula to improve much on Harbaugh’s 8-8 record this year, so if your best case scenario is missing the playoffs by a little bit, you might as well just hope for the worst case scenario. In for a penny, in for a pound.
All of the outrage on the part of 49er fans is fueled by the knowledge that the 34 year old Jed York did not buy the team with his own money; he was handed control of the team by his parents when he was 28. The idea that some young rich guy who has never had any great success on his own on either a football field or in the business world getting rid of such a great coach as Jim Harbaugh almost unspeakably galling. If the 49ers start next season 4-0, all will be forgiven, but if the team gets off to a rough start Jed York will find himself in the middle of a fan rebellion.