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Marcio Jose Sanchez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) crosses the goal line for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter of an NFL divisional playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN FRANCISCO — They say patience is a virtue. At least that's the cliché that's been around for centuries.

However, in the sports world the idea of patience seems to be almost non-existent.

Everyone wants to win NOW. Rookies are often expected to produce right away. It's what can you do for us immediately, not months or years down the line.

One of the best examples of patience is the saga of Alex Smith, the former University of Utah quarterback. He came to the 49ers as the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and was immediately thrown to the wolves. He suffered through six mediocre to poor seasons, playing for a different offensive coordinator every year and four different head coaches.

He looked washed up at the tender age of 26.

Then along came a coach who believed in him and everything came to fruition for Smith this year. Not only did he help lead his team to a division title, but came through with a tremendous performance Saturday afternoon when he, not once, but twice, brought the 49ers back from what looked like certain defeat.

Over here, they're calling the two come-from-behind touchdowns "The Run" and "The Post," making comparisons to "The Pass" from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark back in 1982.

Good things come to those who wait. And Smith has been waiting a long time for success.

All of the Smith naysayers can't deny his heroics Saturday when he led the 49ers on two touchdown drives in the final four minutes, covering 80 and 85 yards. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 135 yards and showed that running ability he displayed so often at Utah, by running 28 yards around the left end for a touchdown.

Smith's final numbers were 24 of 42 completions for 299 yards for three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Some players might have taken the opportunity to respond to their critics, who gave up on them a long time ago. But the humble Smith didn't, when he had the chance after Saturday's game.

When asked after the game if he wanted to say anything to his critics, Smith replied, "No, no I don't. That's not why I play, that's not why I ever played. I don't have anything to say."

Along with Smith, there are other examples where sports fans and athletes could use a little bit more patience.

How about the BYU football team? Everybody had seemingly given up on quarterback Riley Nelson. But when given the chance, all Nelson did was lead the Cougars to eight victories in nine games and force the more heralded quarterback to leave the program.

And speaking of that quarterback, Jake Heaps didn't show much patience in deciding to leave BYU.

Sure there were other factors, but If he'd showed a bit of patience and waited, he likely could have played two more years at BYU as the starting quarterback rather than going to Kansas and sitting out for a year before hoping to become the starting quarterback.

How about the Utah basketball team? After consecutive 30-point defeats in December, many folks figured the Utes wouldn't win another game all season. However, they won two straight over a couple of mediocre teams, Idaho State and Portland.

Then came another 30-point loss to Weber State and a 40-point loss to Colorado and everyone said the Utes would go 0-16 in the Pac-12. Of course, the next three Utah games were a win over Washington State and two close losses to Washington and Stanford. It's going to take some time, but coach Larry Krystkowiak looks like he'll turn the Utes into a winning program in the next couple of years.

Then we have the Utah Jazz, who haven't won a championship in the 30-plus years they've been in town, although they've come close a few times. Now the Jazz have a young, talented club that could make a run at a championship. However, it may not happen for another four or five years or never at all, but for now Jazz fans must be patient.

Finally there's sports' ultimate example of patience, the Chicago Cubs. Those of us who have been Cubs' fans our whole lives have been as patient as any fans on earth. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 and haven't been to a World Series since 1945.

Someday . . . OK, maybe there is an exception in the sports world for being patient.

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