In regards to the title, I'm always a fan, but I try and make sure my articles here on SB Nation Bay Area are open-minded and unbiased. I am an expert and analyst of this team and will always be a 49ers fan, regardless where my career takes me. The 49ers are in my blood, and though I wasn't around to watch it when it happened live, I felt like I would still be "reliving" the moment of their Super Bowl victory over the Bengals in 1981 - their first of five. So I was to set off for the Super Bowl Under The Stars event at the 49ers training facility in Santa Clara on Saturday night.
I woke up late, which was still early because I fell asleep late, and with my throat swollen almost completely shut. To be honest, I sort of figured the Super Bowl Under The Stars event was going to be pretty unremarkable, and was simply going because my brother and my parents were going. I was also pretty excited about going to Amici's Pizza - as I don't live in the Bay Area, any time I get to grab a slice of delicious heaven, I'll do it. So that was the first part of my day: driving from Empire, CA to San Jose, getting a New Haven Clam pizza and a couple Blue Moons, and I was off to Santa Clara.
I get there, and it's nice outside. On the hot side, but a good breeze going to make things nice. There was a line of people sitting in chairs waiting to go in the gates, which worried me because I didn't bring a chair big enough for me. We go in there, I grab a Shock Top (they crumpled my ticket, which read "Seat 2206", which apparently meant nothing because there were no seats outside of two or three different bleacher sections), and I lay down a blanket in the front on the turf.
There was a pretty big screen, and across a gate I saw some of my favorite 49ers players of the past. A crowd built up around said gate and Dwight Clark ended up going over. I didn't even think about going and braving the crowd to ask Clark for an autograph. Though I'm a fan, it really hasn't crossed my mind to ask for things like that since I've begun writing about the team as much as I do. It just seemed weird, not that it was below me or something, I just didn't see myself in that throng of people. It was all mostly Clark, as far as signing autographs goes.
So Eric Davis and another guy whose name I can't remember got up on stage and started talking about Super Bowl XVI. It was a fun and laid bake affair up on stage, and that suited me fine. Then they announced the alumni present, and I got a little more excited. Up on stage came Dwight Clark, Dwight Hicks, Fred Dean, Keena Turner, Ray Wersching, Mike Schumann, Dan Bunz and Willie Harper.
The first thing I noticed: Dan Bunz is in full-on hippie mode. Awesome. I was enjoying myself at that point, despite the fact that I was sitting on the ground while the four people I was with had chairs. They started sharing some anecdotes and everyone tried their best to remember who Mike Schumann was/is. Then they told a story about The Catch - you know the one. Anyway, apparently Schumann had made the catch before that and then Clark heard the playcall come in.
Without anybody telling him to, Clark tells Schumann "Hey, let me get this one," and went in and ... well, he made The Catch. So now whenever Clark sees Schumann he tells him "Well, it could have been you!" which is just hilarious in my mind. I'd rub that in whenever I could, but I'm kind of a jackass, so that's to be expected. Then they had Keena Turner talking about the goal-line stand and there being only ten men on the field directly prior to it.
He thinks he did well by getting that penalty called, otherwise they wouldn't have had that fantastic goal line stand. Yeah. About that.
Then the game started. John Madden and Pat Summerall got started with their rather unique brand of commentary, most notably from the former. It was the first Super Bowl that Madden ever commentated on and ... well, I mean, it was exactly as I expected. I'd seen the game before, obviously, but I didn't have the commentary when I watched it. Madden explained things that didn't need to be explained and Summerall did his best to not trigger a Madden rant.
I have to say, it was amazing. Just to be taken back, watching with all those people, and to actually cheer as though the game were happening now. People in the crowd booed and cheered, clapped and groaned. They said "Coop" when Earl Cooper got a carry. Sitting there on the ground, entirely uncomfortable and sick, actually in a great deal of pain, I was having an absolute blast. Game-wise, perhaps the best moment was when the screen showed Eddie D. celebrating with only seconds to go after Clark recovered the onside kick. The game itself was great to watch, but there was a particularly special moment at half time.
At halftime, people flocked around the gate again. Dwight Clark drew the biggest crowd and some of the other guys did well too, but again, I stayed where I was. Then the one guy I was hoping to see come to the fence came there, and I got extremely excited. It's true that I hadn't planned on getting an autograph, but when big Fred Dean came up to the fence, I had to go. So I grabbed the pennant, walked up, and was getting really pumped up.
There was a girl in front of me getting three things signed, and I was thinking, panicking, wondering what I should say. At some point between feeling like I was going to spill stats out of my mouth and contemplating asking him to sign every article of clothing I was wearing, the girl in front of me interrupted to ask if I would take a picture of her and Fred Dean. So I did ... and then before I knew it, I was right there.
In my head it went something like "FRED DEAN YOU'RE AWESOME I WILL GIVE YOU $100 TO PUNCH ME IN THE FACE!" but in actuality, I told him I'd be honored to get an autograph. So he signed it and I told him it meant a lot to me. Then I got a handshake, and what was pretty awesome about this one was the fact that the sharpie was still in his hand.
So then after I shook his hand, I looked at it, there was a bit of sharpie on my hand. Two dots and a line, because the cap was still off.
Holy awesome. Fred Dean signed my hand.