There is no perfect group of fans. Seahawks fans aren’t perfect because they have a collective nickname, and 49ers fans aren’t perfect because their team has won five Super Bowls.
But when ESPN showed that overhead, make-you-queasy view from their zipline camera before kickoff on Monday night, the CenturyLink stands were full and the fans stood and cheered on cue. The Saints got the ball first and were hit with a wall of noise, and we all know what happened from there.
While the “12th Man” thing is unoriginal and cheesy, it says a lot about a team’s marketing efforts when their crowd looks so fiercely unified on national television. As a result, the 49ers are probably jealous. As they prepare their new stadium — which probably won’t boast the same noise-enhancing acoustics as “The Link” — for next year, Seattle currently has the title of “biggest home field advantage in sports.” That’s something they’re very fond of letting everyone know, too.
An internal memo became a national punchline of sorts this week. It came from the 49ers, and what it showed was a set of steps the team planned on emailing to fans (season ticket holders?) that explain how to create a home field advantage in painstaking (and patronizing) detail.
“The key is getting people to their seats early, in time for player intros. It’s all about setting the tone early and having a packed, jacked house when the ball kicks off. This our chance to show the Stick to be as tough a place as any to play,” the memo read.
The three steps were as follows:
STEP 1: DRESS THE PART
Pull out your favorite 49ers gear and put your loyalty on display. Wear Red!
STEP 2: BE ON TIME
Arrive early and give yourself time to enjoy the tailgate experience, but remember to get to your seats for player introductions. We need you there to give your 49ers a proper greeting as they run onto the Bill Walsh Field!
STEP 3: KNOW YOUR QUEUES
QUIET ON OFFENSE
Communication at the line of scrimmage is critical. Keep it quiet when the 49ers are lining up the ball on offense. Save the noise for the play!
DEAFENING ON DEFENSE
These are the fans’ downs. This is when we throw the other team off its game. From start to finish, when the 49ers are on defense don’t let the other team’s offense hear the play call or the snap count. Impact the game!
RITUALS & RALLYING CRIES
“LET’S GO NINERS!”: You probably know this one better than any other… simple but pure. Listen for the drum queues and let them hear you, Faithful!
FIRST DOWN CRY: Introduced at the start of last season, the chant grew to the point where it was heard throughout the Superdome during the Super Bowl. When we announce a 49ers first down on offense, you come back with “Ahhh-Oooo, Ahhh-Oooo, Ahhh-Oooo!” This is our celebratory battle cry.
FOG HORN PREGAME: You will heard this sound at the 90 (three blasts), 60 (two blasts), and 30 (one blast) minute marks prior to kickoff. This is our way of letting you know the show is about to begin. Get to your seats!
FOG HORN SCORE: The fog horn blast follows any type of 49ers score: Touchdown, Field Goal, or Safety. If you hear the fog horn during play, start celebrating Faithful because your 49ers just scored!
Good intentions, but the execution was pretty heavy-handed — especially during the “RITUALS & RALLYING CRIES” portion.
- Whoever can’t figure out “Let’s Go Niners” probably can’t figure out email, either.
- “Get in your seats!” Is this an NFL game or a seventh grade math class?
- “Was that the foghorn? Did we just score a Field Safety? Yayyyyy, I’m CHEERING!”
There’s nothing wrong with emailing fans to inform them when things aren’t totally obvious, like the new bag policy. And let’s face it — lots of 49ers fans think one of the best times to cheer is when the 49ers break their offensive huddle and Colin Kaepernick starts barking out signals. But this list of steps seems like overkill before a game against the Seahawks. The fans probably could’ve used some lessons on how and when to cheer before the Cardinals game, when they did the wave while medical personnel tended to an injured Calais Campbell.
Jim Harbaugh during his Wednesday press conference:
“I would hope for that this week, that Candlestick, we get it cranked up. Make it a real great environment, because it’ll be a great football game. I know players will be very enthusiastic for the game. If this doesn’t fire you up, if this doesn’t fire up the fans then what does? I suppose Abraham Lincoln riding across the field with a frock and a top hat, riding a horse, waving an American flag. I doubt that would fire them up, if this game doesn’t fire them up. The people that really love football would be fired up by this matchup.”
The Lincoln quote predictably garnered the headlines, but before that tangent Harbaugh was sure to let the fans know that he didn’t just hope they’d get loud, he expected game-changing noise. And why shouldn’t he? Each team went through the last offseason with an eye on the other squad, and there’s nothing the 49ers and their fans want less than to see Pete Carroll, Richard Sherman and Golden Tate celebrate an NFC West title after the penultimate game at Candlestick Park.
A full house before kickoff looks better on TV, but Candlestick generally fills up before the game gets going (depending on the speed of the security lines, which tend to bog down before the most important games — as you can see to the right). If the Seahawks get turnovers and jump out to an early lead, the 49ers could flash the rules on the scoreboard the entire game and it wouldn’t matter. If the 49ers show early that they’re ready to put the Seahawks in their place, the crowd will be loud.
49ers fans may not be perfect, but they’ve taken to Harbaugh’s defense-first teams and now they yell louder for that unit than they ever did during the Joe Montana and Steve Young years (even though a lot of those defenses were really good). Despite the unfortunate language contained in Step 3, 49ers fans aren’t worse than Seahawks fans. They’re “good” fans, just like any other group that sells out every game. After two straight bad losses to Seattle, they’ll come into Sunday’s game with the NFL’s recommended daily dosage of anger.
“I think this is the kind of game that will really get the true football fan fired up,” Harbaugh said.