For the past few years, my daughters have treated me on Father’s Day by taking me out to the ballgame.
But after a busy summer and their recent return to school, we just hadn’t been able to set aside the time to take in a Giants game at AT&T Park. Realizing we were running out of time, we instead decided — being born-and-raised Hoosiers — that we’d take advantage of a rare opportunity for us to catch our beloved boys in blue, the Indianapolis Colts, squaring off against the 49ers in San Francisco.
Not only was Sunday our first opportunity to cheer for the Colts on the road, but it also offered us our first family foray to Candlestick Park, which will also likely be our last as the stadium is set to be demolished after the season in favor of the new $1 billion Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, where the 49ers will kick off next fall.
My only previous excursion to Candlestick was a business trip as I was there to cover a preseason matchup between the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, for whom former Nevada Union High School star Spencer Havner was suiting up, a few years back. Certainly, having been confined pretty much to the press box and the locker room for that game, I knew I was in for a whole different experience this time out.
For starters, the sticker shock on the tickets themselves was enough to work up a sweat, leaving me to wonder which daughter would be willing to forgo a few meals this week in order to balance the budget. Seats in section UL17 (Upper Level) had a $39 face value — or so I was later told — but after some not-so shrewd searching online, I managed to get them for a mere $98 each. Throw in $30 for parking and the fuel to get to the game, and we were about $500 into our venture before even riding the escalator up to the Stick.
By the time we reached the stadium, however, it wasn’t only the difference in the dollars we spent that seemed a drastic departure from our family’s outings just up the Bay at AT&T Park. On the way up the escalator, my Colts jersey drew disdain from a 49er fan, which is certainly to be expected on another team’s home turf. But this woman seemed already to have had a few too many adult beverages, evidenced in her slurred shouts of “49ers all the way!” and seemingly non-stop use of the N-word.
How’s that for family fun?
And then came halftime, with the Colts clinging to a 10-7 lead, so we headed down for a restroom stop. As I entered the door, I was very glad to be the father of daughters, who therefore weren’t alongside their dad in the men’s room. Standing over a trash can, a man wearing a Patrick Willis jersey was loudly losing his lunch — and from the smell of it, several cervezas. As unsightly as the scene was, I was even more surprised to see a member of the Candlestick Park janitorial staff high-fiving the guy and offering him a halftime pep talk, “There you go, 52! Now you’re ready for the second half!”
Back inside the stadium, my wife pointed out a short video clip with a few 49ers reminding fans not to be a “jerk” and spoil the game for others seated nearby. It’s apparently a common theme shared in similar videos across the league. And judging from what we saw Sunday, it’s certainly a message worth sharing.
After the game, a surprising 27-7 Colts victory, my wife joked that maybe our family of four wasn’t safe to be leaving the stadium in such a blue hue. But with thousands of 49ers fans leaving the stadium early — hoping they could at least beat the traffic if not the Colts — we felt some strength in numbers with more of the blue-clad crowd prevalent.
Yet upon reaching home, I wondered whether we hadn’t been a bit naive in even taking our girls to the game.
I read a report from the San Francisco Chronicle about a 40-year-old man who had suffered a concussion at Candlestick Sunday, along with a broken arm and nose, after being beaten by a 29-year-old man, who didn’t appreciate the 40-year-old urinating in his car.
Reports of other assaults at the game were also logged Sunday with stadium security, the Chronicle reported. 49ers season ticket holder Daisy Barringer said she was kicked and punched by another 49ers fan. The 36-year-old said she has seen violence at both home games this year and during the preseason.
“There’s so much violence — it’s Niners fans on Niners fans, women assaulting women,” Barringer told the Chronicle. “I just feel like it’s taken a dark turn. If we win, people drink too much and are happy drunk. Because we lost, it turned into anger. I’ve just had so many problems there.”
Barringer told the Chronicle she’s seen this darkness before during a game against the Green Bay Packers. Niners fans took pleasure in heckling two Packers fans in her section, who were just there to enjoy the game. At a Raiders preseason game, she said she’s experienced people groping her in the crowd.
But those incidents seemed to pale in comparison to some 2011 reports I read on violence at Candlestick. Who knew?
“It just changed,” Barringer said. “I don’t usually make generalizations, but the caliber of fans has just gone downhill. People are looking for a fight, and I truly just don’t understand it. I just don’t understand any of this.”
Me neither. It’s one thing to enjoy a beer or two, it’s quite another to consume so much alcohol that you’re puking in the potty or looking for a fight because your team lost the ball game.
Although that sparkling new facility in Santa Clara is to open for the 2014 season, until the organization and security on hand cracks down on the kind of behavior currently being seen at Candlestick, 49er football games still won’t likely be much of a family affair.
Brian Hamilton is editor of The Union. His column is published Wednesdays. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 530-477-4249.
… upon reaching home, I wondered whether we hadn’t been a bit naive in even taking our girls to the game.