Guys I knew, and the ones I dated, tried to tell me that I knew absolutely nothing about football, let alone, how to pick a decent team.
I have always loved San Francisco. I fell in love with the Paris of California the first time I set eyes on its elegant row-housed skyline. I wasn’t much older than three.
In 1978, the 49rs drafted Ernie Hughes, a tall drink of water from Notre Dame. To Irish Catholics, loving Notre Dame goes hand in hand with loving the Pope. Not to mention the fact that Ernie sported the same last name as me. This HAD to be my long-awaited “sign”. My team was going to the Superbowl. I was sure of it.
Who else was on my team in back 1978?
I can hear the men yelling now: OJ Simpson.
Ray Wersching was my kicker and no one paid much attention to him and his barefooted ways. He was a CPA – big, sexy and brainy. What was not to like? And there was this new owner . . . Eddie. Flamboyant, rich and looking to make a name for himself. He, in turn, hired Bill Walsh. The first time I saw Bill Walsh I wanted him to marry my mother. There was hope for my aging football team.
Alas, the 1978 season was a bust and my beloved 49rs won only two games and lost the rest. It was a dismal season. At one point the Candlestick Park Stadium was so void of attendees that one could walk all the way to the bottom and sit in the front row.
The 49rs used local high school cheer leading squads as their cheerleaders, and sometimes you could even get a player to wave at you in the crowd. It was pretty casual. My boyfriend kept trying to convince me the Oakland Raiders were the team to love. Maybe this explains why I eventually broke up with him over the phone.
Later on in the 1980’s, my mother would re-marry our papa Dick, who was a season ticket holder with the 49rs since 1947. We loved him, and his love of the game. Dick knew everything there was to know about the 49rs football. It was the glue that bonded me with a new father. Every now and then he gave me his tickets to the games.
I felt loved by a father again.
Papa Dick passed away in 1998, but his tickets live on.
On Sunday, my mother and I got on a bus at 9:00am that takes die-hard 49r fans to games at now-named Monster Park. She was treating me to a live 49r game. Joe Montana and my team of the 80’s is long gone, but I was happy to see tailgating is alive and well in Candlestick Monster Park.
And the seats Papa Dick had are still amazing.
But it was different without Bill Walsh, Eddie D, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, Hacksaw Reynolds, Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Dwight Hicks, Jerry Rice, Fred Dean, Earl Cooper, Randy Cross, and Ray Wersching. There was this “connection” the team had back then and you could feel it as you watched. They were our “comeback kids.”
There were no Joe Montana passes . . . those Hail Mary Joe Montana passes. Those stop your heart, as the little piece of pigskin spiraled through the upper atmosphere, passes. There were no heart attack inducing – almost to heaven throws, or breathtaking, leap-through-an-army catches. No Bill Walsh pacing up and down the field.
Instead, we watched these 49rs defeat themselves. They had some bad calls, and yes they do have one hell of a kicker, which should make Ray Wersching proud, but it wasn’t the same. My team of the 80’s is just a distant memory, visible only by the last names on the backs of faded fan shirts.
Maybe I’ve changed too.
I was confused by who the 49r players are. What happened to me? Motherhood? Many of the wives and girlfriends of the players (who are always seated in this area) don’t seem the same to me either. I remember how Randy Cross’ wife in her long fir coats, and Jennifer Montana looking more like she was headed for a Paris runway than a football game in some odd couture outfit.
Danny Glover sat two rows up: his wonderful laugh bellowing above the roar of the crowd. If we looked around, there was always plenty of big, older guys sporting big, older Super Bowl rings.
Now, there are a just a lot of drunk fans and chair kicking kids. Am I getting old?
It used to be we cheered for the T E A M. The whole team, even though we might yell a little louder when our favorite individual players ran on to the field. Now, simple applause isn’t enough. Each player gets their own fireworks salute when they enter the stadium.
When did this happen?
Despite the overdone firework salute – they lost. The draft beers were $8.00 – our wallets lost. I think you should get a date with beer this expensive, or round trip tickets to any destination in the continental US.
Yes, it was fun. I sat next to a young man from Southern California who was such a 49r fan he could hardly sit still. He wanted to know the details of every game I personally witnessed from my seat. His eyes widened as I told him story after story, including the game where I lost my voice screaming for Steve Young when he stumbled into the end zone, out maneuvering every attempt at stopping him. This kid was sure the niners were going to pull out a miracle in the last minutes of the game.
The weather was one of the best sunny days I have seen in San Francisco in years. Everyone was smiling. Those $8.00 beers sold well.
By the end of a long day, I was reminded the beauty of my city by the bay, that I do miss my football heroes, and my mother seems to know just when I need a small adventure.
Until next time-
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