More news from the “Where have I been?” file, but has anyone noticed what the culture is like at a 49er game now? I went to the game on Sunday, the 49ers vs. the Detroit Lions, and I was shocked at how different the culture of the crowd had become since I last was there.
The last time I set foot in Candlestick Park (it was actually Candlestick then, and I was happy to see it has changed back to Candlestick) was about 1998. And there have been a lot of changes. Mind you, the team itself has gone from perennial powerhouse to basement to working its way back up to respectable, and the Bay Area as a whole has changed dramatically in ten years as far as diversity and makeup. But nothing could have prepared me for the scene I would see as I drove into Candlestick on Sunday to tailgate.
Before we could even get there, there were two accidents on Highway 101, one going North and the other going South. We were dead stopped on the way up, and again on the way back from the game. Once we got there, it was about an hour and a half from kick off, which I learned was the biggest rookie move of them all. Barely a place to park, and so little room to drive as the place was filled with people who’d been drinking for four hours at that point.
We were good-naturedly heckled through our window because we had no red on (my sweatshirt was in the back seat) but I feared that good nature would change as their blood alcohol level did too (the heckler was carrying a handle of tequila). So we parked and got out of there as soon as we could.
Trying to find our friends who were tailgating was like finding a needle in a haystack, but thank god for cell phones and large 49er Jumpy House landmarks—we finally met up with our tailgate. I found myself sitting in the back of the truck, just marveling at the crowd that was filing in to the game. I never remembered this the last time I was here, and it was night-and-day different when I was a kid. What happened? Or better yet, when did this happen? And why? It used to be more families and now it was kids and young adults, drinking, blasting music and partying. It was just different—and not in a good way.
Inside the game, we had seats right above the 50 yard line. Not cheap seats by any stretch, and many people have had those seats for years and generations. But many most certainly did not. By the fourth quarter, we looked over and saw all this commotion, and punches being thrown. A 30-something man was throwing punches at a 60-something man, while all the people around them tried to break it up. Once they got the 30-year-old escorted out, I still saw punches landing on the older man’s head. When I looked at who it was, it was a woman, dressed in 49er gear from head to toe. If I were a Raider fan, I might want to point the finger on the other side of the Bay too, because someone else may deserve the same bad rap.
I think I know now why they say football is better on TV.