Ever since someone first suggested that the 49ers' season is "Super Bowl Or Bust," the matter of proper expectations has become a thing. A stupid thing, I grant you, since expectations are always eye-of-the-beholder nonsense. If you think they should go 14-2 and they go 11-5 and reach another Super Bowl, did they fail? No. Your opinion, like mine, like all of them, are dreadfully tedious things that actively weaken the nation.
But here we are, doing it anyway because it's really the outer limit of our engagement with football this year. So your expectation for the 49ers should be as follows.
Nothing. Imagine them as continually terrible, a wall of knee injuries and hamstring strains across the board. Think of them as you would the Jets.
And why would you do such a daft thing? because as you learned last year, there is nothing better than exceeding fretfully low expectations. It's the best feeling in sports for anyone not paid by a team. The 2010 Giants World Series was the best one ever, and so was the 2015 Warriors NBA Championship because they came WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS. You got to be pleasantly surprised every week or every game, and when things got tight around the neckwear, you could use the "This is nerve wracking as hell but it's fun" excuse.
And that's what you want in the end. Fun. The joy of pleasant surprises. The team you thought was mediocre becoming maxiocre before you even had a chance to send out for beer and snacks.
I mean, what's the fun in, "They need to be 12-4," or "If they miss the conference final it will be a disappointment" or "If they don't win the Super Bowl Kyle Shanahan has to take Jimmy Garoppolo into the woods, strip him naked and dip him in honey, abandon him in a tree and then send for the bears"? You're just making things lousy on yourselves.
Besides, if you';re the kind who likes to make bold pronouncements like "They'll be 14-2 and win every game by three touchdowns," you're going to be wrong, and if you're going to be wrong you can't pretend that you're a wizard about football to your friends, and besides, even if you're right nobody wants to hear "I told you so back at the cookout on Opening Day." You'll sound and act like the kind of jackwagon people trade out for better and quieter friends. Truth is, kids, none of us know how anything is going to p-lay out ever, at least not until the networks and their casino partners figure out ways to fix the games, and then you've got wrestling, and suddenly you've become a certified weirdo.
No, it is always better to keep your expectations low to experience the happiness of "I never imagined this could happen." The 49ers have made that difficult by both being good before their time and failing at the final turn, leaving the only avenue for improvement a championship that history shouts they won't even participate in let alone win. This may mean you'll sound a bit gloomy to your friends, but who cares about them and their feelings? They don't care about you and yours, after all. I mean, how many times have they interrupted you in mid-sentence to make some arcane point that you didn't need to hear but they needed to blurt out? That's a tell, and what it tells you is that they don't want your opinion, they want to assign theirs to you. Frankly, your friends suck.
So here is your expectation guide for 49ers 2020:
1. Aim for 8-8. It's value-neutral, and if they're good, you'll get that giddy feeling of amazement no later than Week 10.
2. Don't share your expectations with anyone else. They'll be too busy sharing theirs with you, and when they clock in with 16-0, you'll know what you're dealing with and can remind them of their own misjudgments in the fullness of time.
3. If the worst does happen and they do limp in at 8-8, at least you can pretend you knew something they didn't. It's a hollow victory because you know that you knew nothing more than anyone else, but they can't lord it over you.
And 4. Nobody remembers any of it anyway. Ever. It's like people boring you with their fantasy teams. You never asked, you don't want to know, and yet they force it into you like a machete in a slasher movie. You don't care, and neither does anyone else. So if someone asks you what you think about what the 49ers will do this year, just ask for a beer and stall them out. If they insist, tell them you're now a Jaguars fan because it's the cool new thing to root for teams to lose. They'll lose interest in your opinion soon enough, and then you can lose interest in it too. Sports without phonied-up expectations is a glorious thing. You'll be stunned to learn how liberating it can be.