Author’s Note: As one of the great Bay Area sports teams, the San Francisco 49ers football team figures in my ebook SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. The volatility of their yearly success or failure will be uppermost in the minds of loyal fans.
By Lee Foster
Anything I write, at this start of the 2019 football season, will quickly become of mere historic value as the games proceed. The hopes and dreams of fans remain untarnished by reality at the start.
Bay Area Sports Teams
If you haven’t been recently to one of the Bay Area major sports venues (49ers, Giants, Warriors, A’s, Raiders, or Sharks), it’s a treat to experience the roar of the crowd once again. Lose yourself in an apolitical moment. This is live theatre, somewhat different from the TV or movie experience. The pylon-cam of 2019 TV football enhances the home-entertainment option. But there will always be something special about the live-theater aspect of sport.
The purity of sport is a refreshing aspect of excellence on Earth. An ability in football to move your body forward through other bodies is a feat of physical prowess and considerable cunning. The ability to put a basketball through a hoop is one of the purest tests of all. A diamond-like elegance in baseball presents an entirely different aesthetic experience of long pauses punctuated by intense 100 mph moments.
Sport focuses our aggressive and competitive tendencies on something relatively harmless. I remember being in the Mayan district of Mexico, seeing the historic ball courts of the pre-Spanish Conquest era. For the Mayans, sport amounted to hitting a small rubberized ball through a hole on the wall of the court. Athletes competed vigorously, and it was said that sometimes their lives depended on it.
The Beginning of Fan Life for 49ers Football
The point at which live human beings become “fans” is difficult to determine.
Maybe, for my family, it was the day we were returning from Yosemite one fall weekend in our VW Camper. The five of us (Lee, Anke, Bart, Karin, and Paul) stopped for a pizza on the way back. We gazed up at the TV screen in the pizza parlor. We saw Joe Montana throw The Catch to Roger Craig. Possibly, our fan life solidified at that moment.
My Recent Disappointment with “Cousin” Reuben Foster
As a travel journalist, I must create an evergreen presentation that will be accurate for today and hopefully forever. The fortunes of the team may oscillate from euphoria to depression, year on year.
For the 49ers, the only direction possible was up towards the end of 2017. The third Jimmy G victory suggested a new era. Possibly my young grandsons, Paul Foster Jr. and Charlie Foster, experienced a moment that they will look back on forever, as their lives proceed. Perhaps they witnessed the start of the new Jimmy G glory years at Jimmy G’s first start at Levi’s Stadium. Perhaps this hopeful prediction is way overblown and disaster exists soon ahead. That is the chancy essence of sport.
My experience with “Cousin” Reuben Foster is a recent case in point. Reuben Foster, with his robust skin pigment, may not have shown up as an exact match for me on Ancestry.com. However, as a fan, I was not expected to behave rationally when the player bore my last name.
There I was, at Levi stadium, with my son Paul, and his sons Paul Jr. and Charlie, both wearing “Cousin” Reuben’s jersey. “Cousin” Reuben was an effective linebacker who let very few runners though the line. He could tackle in a manner that runners might remember.
The grandsons were wearing cousin Reuben’s jersey and cheering him on. However, “Cousin” Reuben had off-the-field issues and no longer ranked as a poster child. So he eventually exited and wound up with the Redskins on injured reserve. Jimmy G also limped off the field that day, licking his wounds for a season.
Sport as a Metaphor for Life
Sport is a great metaphor for life, especially if carried on in the purest possible way. Physical prowess quickly vaults beyond class distinction (no rich or poor, except in sports where the parents need megabucks for training, as in skiing), or racial advantage, or religious persuasion, or ethnic background.
The purer the sport, the more glorious is this great leveler. Possibly the purest sport of all is the worldwide focus on soccer. Soccer requires nothing more than a ball and brilliant footwork. The barrier to success in soccer is perhaps the least burdensome regarding incidental factors of all sports.
Here is my 49er entry in my ebook SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Francisco 49ers Football
A glorious past helps the follower to accept the uncertain present. As everyone knows, fortune can change quickly in sport. There was hope towards the end of the 2017 season that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and defensive players such as linebacker Reuben Foster could turn the franchise around. This did not happen.
Your Best Shot: Memorable photos can be made if you are in the stadium, looking down at the gladiators, recording yourself and the contest.
The 49ers have been one of the legendary franchise dynasties of the National Football League, so fans always await in down times a return to the glorious past. The golden era was the 1980s and early 1990s, when the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 14 years, four of them in the 1980s.
The dynasty began with the appearance of Coach Bill Walsh in 1979, followed by the acquisition of quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, plus pass receiver Jerry Rice. Coach Walsh strategized to develop a “West Coast offense” of short pass gains that proved difficult to defend against.
During the glory years, the 49ers played at windy Candlestick Park in south San Francisco. In 2014 they moved to the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
If you take the 49 Mile Drive self-tour through San Francisco, you pass close to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. Kezar was the original home of the 49ers. The setting has a quaint and retro feel to it, recalling football before the modern era of huge television emphasis and multi-thousand fan seating. The San Francisco 49ers joined the NFL in 1949.
Sports fans in San Francisco have three main options for professional teams. Besides the football 49ers, there are the baseball Giants, who play in a handsome stadium along the Embarcadero. The basketball Golden State Warriors are the third great sports franchise, playing at their new San Francisco venue, the Chase Center in Mission Bay, as of late 2019.
The following information is for the 49ers.
If You Go:
Area: South from San Francisco to Santa Clara, along the Bay
Address: 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Price: Expensive, for game day tickets, if the team is winning