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The San Francisco Forty Niners: When I became a Niner Faithful
Everybody loves a winner! When a team is on a winning streak more fans are attracted to that team. As I write this article, my favorite team, the San Francisco Forty Niners have been on an unexpected winning streak during the 2011 NFL season and have advanced to the playoffs. The Forty Niners have developed a large fan base over the last 30 years when the team won its first Super Bowl back in 1982. With subsequent Super Bowl victories (five and counting) the fan base has increased even more and now after a ten year winning drought the team is attracting even more fans. I say welcome to all you new fans jumping on the bandwagon. Enjoy the ride!
Why I became a Forty Niner Fan
To understand why I became a Forty Niner fan I need to give you a little history about my football origins in the State of Football also known asTexas.
To be or not to be a football fan is not a question Texans ever have to fumble over. Football is just a way of life in Texas. You see a Texan’s DNA has a football gene firmly imbedded on the polymer. But I digress…back to the history.
I grew up in a divided household; my parents went to rival high schools in San Antonio. The very first football game I attended was the annual “Chile Bowl” at Alamo Stadium between Fox Tech and Lanier High Schools. (The last Chili Bowl game was played in 2009 after 67 years when the football program was discontinued at Fox Tech.) I didn’t actually see the game but I could hear it from inside my mom’s womb. Attending “The Game” was an annual ritual for my family and I firmly believe it was the primary cause of our family’s dysfunctionality (made up word but you know what it means).
Then I moved to California in 1974 when I was 20. Since my wife and I lived in the City of Pacifica just 8 miles south of San Francisco, I began to follow the home team, the Forty Niners, just as I had supported my high school team back in San Antonio. That football gene makes you do it. So I followed the Niners through the 70s and by 1979 with a record of 2 wins and 14 losses I was looking forward to see what this new coach, Bill Walsh would do with the team.
By the 1980 season the fans were few and those that stuck with the team are known as the Forty Niner Faithful. It was during the 1980 season that I was able to attend my first Forty Niner game at Candlestick Park. On Friday, December 5, 1980, I was offered two tickets to the game on Sunday against the Saints, known then as the Ain’ts (they were even worse than the Niners). I accepted the tickets without hesitation and started asking who’d like to attend with me. No one accepted. So as not to waste a ticket and go to the game alone I took my 7 year old son, Jason, to the game.
We were so excited to be in attendance on that day on December 7, 1980 (a day already living in infamy). The stadium was practically empty. Only the Faithful were in attendance and a few Saint’s fans wearing brown bags with openings to see out of covering their heads.
I got to see this new quarterback from Notre Dame in action, Joe Montana. After the two quarters of play things were looking pretty grim for the Forty Niners. The score at half time was New Orleans Saints 35 and the San Francisco Forty Niners 7. During half time I notice that quite a few of the Faithful were not so faithful after all because there were now even more empty seats at Candlestick. Oh well, I wasn’t about to leave. I was determined to see it through the end.
By seeing the game through the end, my son and I were privileged to witness the greatest come back in NFL history at the time. By the end of the game, Joe Montana had brought the team back and the score stood at 35 all. Then in overtime, Ray Wersching kicked a field goal to give the 49ers a come-from-behind victory over the Saints! Oh what a day, early December back in 1980.
And the rest of the story is history now. The following year was the first Super Bowl year for the Niners. And we celebrated. The Forty Niners continued through the 80s and early 90s to be champions. Candlestick no longer has empty seats and every game is sold out.
Win or lose, the Forty Niners have given me many cherished memories, like the one back on October 11, 1981 when they beat the Dallas Cowboys on my birthday. Yes, win or lose, I will always be a Forty Niner Faithful fan!