My friends and I were pretty thrilled to find out that tickets to the game between the 49ers and Seahawks were reasonably cheap. We checked prices on StubHub after Game 4 of the NLCS had already been scheduled for the same evening, which might explain why upper reserved seats were as cheap as $45, but I wasn’t going to be one of the thousands who stayed home and wore out the “last” button on their remote controls. As BASG pointed out, that turned out to be a pretty good decision after all — no thanks to all the hooligans in attendance.
The Seahawks game was the second that I’ve attended this season, the other being the Sunday night game against Detroit. I sat in the north side upper deck during both games – above the jumbotron in Week 2; in the corner to the right of the big screen last night. Both experiences were extremely disconcerting.
Rich with history, devoid of tradition
My dad had season tickets to the 49ers when they stilled played in Kezar Stadium and he carried them over to The Stick when it was built. He had already suffered through the awful teams of the 1970s and experienced the magic of the ’80s by the time I was old enough to go to games. Some of my earliest memories include tailgating in the parking lot of Candlestick Point and sitting in UR 43 with him back when the Saints and Falcons were still in the NFC West and the 49ers dominated them every year.
We sat around a bunch of people that Raiders fans probably classified as “the wine and cheese” crowd. The people who had season tickets next to my dad were up there in age, not exactly standing or getting loud on third down, and often spent their afternoons quietly listening to Joe Starkey call the game on their walkmans. Nevertheless, they were respectful, knowledgeable, and always a pleasure to sit with.
Fans like them still show up at Candlestick, but in much smaller numbers than when I was a kid. The ratio of black J.T. O’Sullivan jerseys to scarlet Bill Walsh-style sweaters is staggering, and over the last few years I’ve seen more uncomfortable expressions on the faces of that older crowd than the smiles that I saw as a child. There were two lifers sitting in front of us last night – they frowned and shook their heads at the drunken fight that broke out (between two 49ers fans) a section over from us. They got up and left when a female fan a few seats down lit a cigarette and smoked it uninterrupted in the fourth quarter.
The trouble with liquor and violence
49ers fans are no longer allowed to criticize Raiders fans for their “gang mentality” or “violent image.” It occurred to me while walking out of the parking lot last night that Candlestick Park is now a more dangerous environment than the Oakland Coliseum. What with the 2011 preseason shootings (I was at that game; it felt like a bad acid trip) and the most recent stabbing, 49ers fans have no ground to stand on in that argument. The majority of this fan base – the one that shows up at the games, at least – have deteriorated into drunken miscreants with no filter and no self-control.
Some examples of poor fan behavior from last night:
— Three different fights occurred within three sections of where I was sitting. Two of them were 49ers fans fighting with each other, and one of those was a man fighting a woman.
— Pot smoke lingered for pretty much the entire game where I was sitting. Security was strong at halftime to keep people from smoking cigarettes in the breezeways, but nobody did a thing to stop people from smoking in the stands while the game was going on.
— A lot of fans stood and screamed while the 49ers were on offense, especially on 3rd down and when San Francisco was in the red zone. It sounded like the 49ers’ defense was in a goal line stand when Alex Smith faced third down – he ended up throwing a pick in the end zone.
— Fans gathering in unison to start a “F- the Sea-Hawks” chant, uncensored and unadulterated in the fourth quarter.
— The word “unsafe” would fail to characterize the feeling that I had walking from the stadium to my car. I’ve felt more secure walking through the Tenderloin, and I wasn’t wearing an opposing team’s jersey last night.
As loyal as I’ve been to the 49ers through good times and bad, last night was probably the last game that I will attend at Candlestick Park. The police presence isn’t nearly enough to make me feel protected. Their “fan experience attendants” do very little to improve the fan experience. And last but not least, the fans that show up at the games make me ashamed to call myself a “49er faithful.”