Of all the major team sports, football’s the one where the live experience is valued least. It’s true, being at the game means you miss replays from all the angles and you need to have (and use) a smartphone in order to get injury updates, unless you’re one of those who listens to the radio broadcast of the game on your headphones.
And as much as I listen to sports on the radio, unless I’m attending a game by myself I won’t go there — and I can count the times I’ve rolled solo to a game on one hand.
Watching an NFL game live does have its advantages, however. You can see all the players at once, which means a perspective on each team’s secondary that television never provides (partly because the NFL is so stingy with their “All 22” camera angle).
From our vantage point on Saturday (Lower Reserved Section 11, south end zone) we could see certain plays develop before the result was evident on TV. Like when Dashon Goldson sniffed out a handoff to Darren Sproles before Sproles had the ball in his hands, leading to Goldson stuffing Sproles for no gain. Or Alex Smith’s bootleg run down the left sideline to put the 49ers up 29-24 — from the moment he got to the outside we knew he’d score, and the fact that Smith was running toward where we were sitting created a memory everyone sitting in our section will always have.
My new — and very unlikely — favorite song
I knew the 49ers’ coverage teams were badass, and I knew they liked to get hyped by bobbing and weaving in rhythm with Future’s “Tony Montana.” And after re-watching the first quarter-and-a-half last night of the 49ers/Saints game (after my wife finally watched the last episode of The Tudors), I saw Fox showed a little bit of the kickoff coverage guys getting into it. And ESPN put the spotlight on the pre-kickoff routine during the 49ers’ 20-3 win over the Steelers (you can check out the video after the post).
But until I went to my first game of the season at Candlestick Park, I had absolutely no clue how much I’d love the coverage demons’ dance party. Here are five reasons why I’m looking forward to seeing it again on Sunday:
1. Kickoffs are always a positive thing, unless you’re kicking off to start the second half with a large deficit. So seeing the team so hyped up projects an air of confidence (since it’s criminally overused these days, I refuse to use the word that starts with “s” and rhymes with “dagger”).
2. Actually, it’s not just confidence … it’s psychosis. Coverage guys are asked to do something that’s completely insane, something that goes against all self-preservation instincts humans possess. “Okay, so your job is to run as fast as you can and hurtle your body toward the guy carrying the ball with as much force as you can possibly create.” So the fact that the Niners — led by the maniacal Blake Costanzo — seem so loose and happy before embarking on this task makes the whole coverage group seem more than a little unhinged.
3. You can tell that these guys really, really like each other. That might not seem crazy, but it’s hardly a given in the NFL (anyone who watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 is slowly nodding right now as they read this).
4. The whole routine has to drive opposing teams crazy. Hey, this is the NFL! This is supposed to be serious business, and the Niners are all huddled up together, dancing like a bunch of kids at a house party, before they spread out into formation and David Akers blasts the ball into the end zone. So if you’re the Saints this past Saturday or any other team the 49ers have faced, these crazy hip hop enthusiasts are creating an environment that’s probably just as annoying as it is unsettling.
5. It’s easy for the crowd to join in. The beat isn’t hard to sway back and forth to while standing in front of your seat without looking too much like a dork, and the chorus is even easier to understand and sing along with … if you so desire. (And yes, during Saturday’s game I sang along in my gravelly I-yelled-way-too-much-but-I’ll-keep-on-yelling voice.)
I love Scarface, and after watching too many Cribs episodes in my younger days I even had a Tony Montana poster in my apartment (I rationalized the somewhat-clichéd purchase because it was a poster I’d never seen before) … but let’s face it, a rap song about Tony Montana isn’t exactly a unique idea.
However, as simple as the song’s concept and structure may be, it’s just another example of how this team has so quickly reconnected with the fans, only in a different way than before. Kind of like how the team is now fueled by its defense, leading the crowd to react in kind with more noise than ever.