The 49ers organization and its fans continue to embarrass themselves when it comes to crowd noise and behavior at games. The leak leading up to the Seahawks game — which exposed a set of steps spelling out how important noise on defense and silence on offense is — was a big enough black eye. Now this picture of a fan card from yesterday’s game is making the rounds on Twitter and pulling down the pants on one of the most tradition-rich franchises in the NFL:
— Bill Hanstockings (@sundownmotel) December 9, 2013
I have strong feelings about Candlestick Park — I grew up going there with my dad, witnessed countless games during the glory era and continued to go to games as a fan when the 49ers were downright awful in the 2000s. Not all fans are built the same way, but just the same way I find SAP Center’s “Don’t Lean Forward While Watching Hockey” rule impossible to abide by, asking a fan to sit during a football game is asking too much.
The section I sat in during the 49ers-Packers playoff game last year stood the entire game, and a big reason for it was the row that I sat in. Before the game, I checked with the people sitting in the rows behind me. The question was pretty simple: “Hey, this is a playoff game, so I’m going to stand for most of it and scream really loud? Cool with you? Cool.” If a fan nearby has an issue with it, the solution should be pretty simple: sit for offense, stand and cheer when offensive plays run successfully, sit for first and second down on defense, never sit for third down.
The team shouldn’t have to legislate fan behavior, and yet this is an ongoing problem dating back to Jim Harbaugh’s arrival. I still remember the emergence of those stupid “Quiet on Offense” graphics that they throw up on the jumbotron. This should be self-explanatory. Anybody who’s ever hit the right joystick playing Madden knows what it means for a quarterback to wave his arms when the crowd gets boisterous.
Defense is a different story. I’ve always believed in the power of crowd noise and home field advantage. It’s why, despite how detestable I may or may not find Seahawks fans, I’ve always respected their commitment to making CenturyLink Field a pain in the ass for its visitors.
The loudest I’ve ever heard Candlestick Park was during the 2011 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants. It was pretty tame for much of the season, but crowd momentum started to pick up when San Francisco played New York midseason, came to form against the Steelers and hit steroid-levels at the end of the Saints game. I was excited to see that same enthusiasm carry into 2012 and 2013, but sadly the 49ers’ return to contention didn’t translate with the fans.
The juxtaposition of a leftover Bill Walsh-era and a new, grittier brand of 49ers fan makes Candlestick Park a conflicted venue. I’ll try not to generalize too sweepingly when I say there a couple different contingents: one is comprised of fans who simply want to be in the park for the experience and watch the game peacefully, while another wants to get obliterated and rowdy in the parking lot before they … um … get more obliterated and rowdy in the stadium.
The product? A stadium full of people who either have no interest in cheering or must be reminded to cheer by the defense waving their arms during the offensive huddle. It’s a stadium full of people who believe the most effective way to lead their team to victory is by standing and screaming when the 49ers’ offense is facing a 3rd & 1 in the red zone, rather than bringing the ruckus while the defense is trying to earn a 3rd-and-long on the second drive of the first quarter.
All NFL venues are built differently, and Candlestick wasn’t constructed to hold noise in like The Link was. It shouldn’t make a difference; I’ve heard The Stick deafening. I’ve gone to bed with my ears ringing after a game. I suppose you shouldn’t expect 49ers fans to bring their most valiant effort in every game … but then again, why not?
If trying to match Seattle decibel-for-decibel isn’t something a 49ers fan wants to do when the Seahawks come to town, then why even leave the house?
If ushering the 49ers out of Candlestick with the most impressive fan showing in its history isn’t your plan, then why pay $40 to park?
If doing everything to help your team win isn’t your intention, then why show up at the game?
While Levi’s Stadium will probably price out a lot of the abhorrent behavior 49ers fans have become notorious for (the kind of behavior I’ve condemned on BASG in the past), you can probably anticipate an even weaker fan showing there. The 49ers’ new digs look even more wide open than Candlestick, so noise will continue to leak out of the top and escape through the open north end of the stadium. What’s worse — the cost of tickets will make the scene exponentially more corporate than dingy ol’ Candlestick, meaning fans will be more focused on their iPads than the field. But hopefully, to save embarrassment, the team will try to keep their fan legislation to themselves when the team christens the new stadium next September.