My husband Jim was a 49ers fan when a boy growing up in San Jose. He used to attend games at Kezar Stadium regularly with his dad Harry and his Uncle Chris. When we began to date, he brought me to a game at Kezar Stadium, too. It was there he discovered that I had no idea what a "down" was despite having attended almost a hundred football games in high school to cheer, "First and 10! Do it again!" That very date began a lifelong lesson on understanding the game of football. If I were tested today, I'd probably get a B, but by the end of the season I might deserve an A.
Jeff had bought four tickets in the lower box, rows L and M - great seats! We let the guys sit in front to talk man football, and Zoe and I enjoyed the game in our own way. We agreed seeing the action live was much different from viewing the plays on TV, where an announcer explains it all. But Zoe, too, since meeting Jeff has become interested in the game and even noted Sunday how much more enjoyable it is to watch the game when one understands it. We certainly felt the nightmare of watching those Falcons cross the goal line - again and again and again.
But still, Sunday was magical, from the time we pulled off the freeway to drive by lot after lot of enthusiastic tailgaters. We had our own picnic lunch at our tailgate although we kept it simple - no barbecuing. Then it was time to head with thousands of other red-clad fans into the stadium. It took awhile to go through security to pass through the gates to be welcomed by horribly loud rock music. Guess they were trying to hype us up. Normally I would have run screaming in the other direction, but somehow in this setting it worked and we enthusiastically headed for the escalator to go up to our section.
The fans were amazing. We all began the game so eagerly. After all, the 49ers were favored to win against the Atlanta team. One self-appointed cheerleader a few rows up kept urging us all, in a loud hoarse voice: Stand up! Cheer! Stand up! And mostly we did. At least in the first quarter.
Although the Niners scored 10 points, the Falcons scored again and again - right in front of our disbelieving eyes. We disagreed with some of Mike Singletary's coaching decisions, and so did the other fans. And they let him know it as their loud cheers turned into boos. Then a few fans started shouting at each other. The good mood turned less good for most of those in the stands. But not for us! We were at Candlestick Park on a lovely day with our kids. Does life get any better? Admittedly a win would have improved the enjoyment of the game but we were happy campers.
Mostly the other fans, too, kept their equanimity and headed peacefully for their cars. Then came another test of the mood as we all waited for our turn to exit the parking lot. Some started another tailgate party, stoking up the barbecues and settling back with yet another beer. Others began their own football games, and we could see footballs flying over the crowds in every direction. Most of us sat in our cars and finally began to inch forward. There has to be a better way, I thought, until I realized that 65,000 had attended the game. So exiting the parking lots was the equivalent of evacuating Alamo, Danville, Diablo and Blackhawk and then some. Seen in those terms, our wait wasn't bad.
When we first moved to Contra Costa County 25 years ago, we became Raiders fans. It was easy during the glory years of Coach Tom Flores. We used to attend Raiders games, too, and it was easy on BART. Now our attendance at professional football games is rare, but we had high hopes for the Niners on Sunday. Nonetheless seeing a game life gives me new appreciation for the game on TV. All I can say is: First and 10, do it again!