After my time at Candlestick Park in San Francisco when the 49ers played the Raiders just a few short weeks ago, I put together a feature here on SB Nation Bay Area talking about my experience. It was a great atmosphere, despite a game that wasn't all-that-great itself. While I hate the awful repition of Madden NFL 11 commentary, Cris Collinsworth, despite the fact that I personally find his commentary style to grate on my every fiber of my being, makes a great point when talking about The 'Stick: "It's just a good ol' fashioned place to enjoy a football game," and it's true.
The stadium is old, the walls are dirty and unsightly with age, cheap banners are thrown up around seating sections with players faces plastered on them in an attempt to add novelty and hide the decay beneath. I find it a little unsettling that I reside in Ted Ginn's section, I'd much rather be a member of "Justin's Justice," or "Staley's Men." But the history just leaks through the place, the Edward DeBartolo Hall of Fame is a small monument that houses monumental significance. The Lombardi trophies were there on Monday night, and beyond that there's the shrines dedicated to the greats who have played for San Francisco. As a 49ers fan, I cannot get over how great it feels to be at the stadium.
Back to the Raiders game for a moment. We are season ticket holders, four seats between us, and it just-so-happens that my brother backed out (something about being honestly afraid of Oakland, which is hilarity all in itself) and we brought a friend of the family, by the name of Darrell. Darrell is a St. Louis Rams fan, and from the get-go was insufferable. Oh there was some light jawing, harmless. He intoned with that slur of his that the Forty-Whiners and their cheeses and whines were going down sooner or later. So we decided we'd bring him along to the Rams game.
Oh, what a horrible, awful mistake. It just so happens that he was only bearable during the Raiders game because the majority of the league dislikes them, and it was easy to not hate the guy that was clamoring for the Raiders to go down in a ball of silver and black flame, regardless of divisional standing. He was hoping for three wins on the year for his Rams before the season began, he told me eventually. That's why it was easy to not care if the 49ers won a game.
But when we loaded up the truck that morning, and he comes walking out of his house with that number thirteen Kurt Warner jersey on, I knew it was to be a long day. I immediately set on him with the customary "Warner? That guy's a Ram? Pretty sure he's an Arizona Cardinal." Best to ruffle his feathers early. Though I guess Rams don't have feathers.
We had problems that morning I won't go over in that much detail, but thank you to the people within the 49ers organization who replaced the fourth of my four season tickets before the game. There were issues and I thought one of us weren't able to make it due to a lost ticket, but they had one waiting for me will-call, which was great. Protip, it would have been the Rams fan who stayed behind. Just saying.
Arriving at Candlestick is always great, to me. Finding out parking and then getting out of the car - taking that first whiff of the morning air. Smells like football, smells like history, rich, rich history ... smells like winning. I bellowed a cursory "NIIIIIINERS!" to the heavens and settled into setting up the tailgating fare.
Over at Niners Nation, we had a tailgating fanpost, in which I posted up a few pictures of my setup, so go ahead and click here and check them out. The food was amazing.
Garlic chicken, grilled potatoes with garlic and bacon, burgers, hot links, pineapple brats, cheesebread ... so much delicious, delicious food. The Rams fan was parading about with his St. Louis Rams official flask or some such. Suffice to say that we ate well before the game, me standing there over my delicious potatoes and my dad in the back of the truck, in the biggest chair I've laid eyes on. See pictures of it in the aforementioned link. People were actually coming to see the chair. When people walked by, they commented on it, and one man asked if he could sit in it, to which we obliged and he had his wife take a picture. The chair is powerful indeed.
Fast-forward and I'm entering Candlestick. I will stop to note the stupidity of some people amazes me ... the lines that all the females are in, being searched by another female? Those are for females only. Going to the front of that and then sliding over to the male line is not clever, and it doesn't often work. In fact, it angers people like me, who aren't afraid to throw a punch, especially before entering the stadium. What are they going to do, kick me out of outside the stadium? Not likely!
Anyway, the jolliest guy I'd ever seen in my life patted me down and I felt a bit violated, but stories of people being fined in the upwards of $20 thousand for not complying with airport security had me a bit on the less-than-confrontational side when it came to pat-downs. I entered the stadium and scanned for my program guy.
You see, they sell gameday programs for five dollars and I always get one, but there's one man in particular whose name I do not know, he gives me programs for free. Mostly free, rather, as to what he charges for the service? A trade-off, I give him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he gives me a program. I'm not kidding you. I bring one with me every time, but he's not always there. This was one of those times, so I moved on up the escalator to my cheap seats. Upper reserve, section 46, row 22, seat 2. That's where you can find me, bearded, belligerent and badass.
We arrive shortly before the game begins, and I'm immediately unhappy. To my right is the Rams fan, to his right my father, and to the left my mom. To her left were four or five people that tried to swindle us out of one of our seats, and three young 'uns. They were 49ers fans, but I could tell the dad was the only one who cared. They ended up leaving in the second quarter because the kids were unhappy and unable to pay attention to one thing for longer than fifteen minutes. Behind me? Five Rams fans. Five angry, loud, slightly weak-of-mind Rams fans who I was sick of early on. Eventually we bonded, but I'll get to that.
There were penalties immediately, which means I was unhappy. The game itself was a lot of trash talking with the Rams fans around me. I began to get frustrated with the penalties, and then my dad exploded. I'd never seen it before, he freaks out after yet-another touchdown is called back. The big freak out comes on the roughing the passer call on, I believe it was Travis LaBoy where he was hit immediately. My dad lost it, screaming and yelling. The Rams fans behind us laughed.
Our Rams fan? He was in the bathroom or smoking for both Rams scores up to that point, plus he missed two penalties called on the 49ers and argued vehemently that they "probably," were supposed to be penalties. Ignorance is bliss and he stuck to his tune of "Forty Whiners," throughout the game. My dad left sometime in the third quarter, to walk around and calm down. For all I knew, he went back to the truck.
Then the game got good ... then it got bad again, and then good, and a lot of things happened. The Rams fan kept going on about how sorry a coach Mike Singletary is and how all he wanted was three wins this year, so he's happy. "Two years," he claimed, "two years and the Rams will be a fantastic team. This will be a rivalry." That might be true, but today the 49ers were going to win it, I told him.
"Just like a 49ers fan," he said, which I didn't quite understand. He told me it was silly for me to declare a score before it happened. Then we converted and scored, and he shut up pretty fast. I was shaking and scared as the minutes counted down. When the 49ers scored, I was so relieved, but I didn't cheer. My legs were shaking, and I looked to our Rams fan. "You know, this game is essentially probably meaningless, yet I'm terrified."
Commercial break, and they show a Dallas Cowboys touchdown. The stadium erupts in boos, and I turn to the Rams fans behind me. "Can we all at least agree .... **** the Cowboys?" We bonded then, a fist bump later and we were pals. Because everybody hates the Cowgirls, right? After the 49ers score, I looked to the Rams fans behind and I said "I'm not even happy right now." They laughed, sharing my absolute terror at this game.
We made our way down the steps as the fourth quarter came to an end. We needed to find my dad, but we watched overtime on TVs and occasionally, I ran up to watch it live through the halls. Eventually, my dad met up with us at the truck, he had walked to the lower levels and was watching the game, needing to cool off. It was actually a worrying experience, wondering what happened with him.
Our Rams fan was drunk, my dad was surprised, I was tired and my mom was worried. But it was a glorious day, no? Darrell, the Rams fan, kept telling us that he would put us up in a four-star hotel if we traveled to St. Louis with him to watch the second meeting of the two teams. On the surface, he was OK, his Rams exceeded his expectations. They took solace in the fact that last season, this game was a 35-0 beatdown, but underneath, he was crying. He continued to give us crap all the way home, but I was blissfully ignorant of his forty-whiner insults.
Was a great day at the game.