While it seems most people have put last Saturday's Saints loss to the San Francisco 49ers behind them and are looking forward to the 2012 season, one aspect of the game hasn't gone away. Some who went to the game at Candlestick Park said the behavior of some 49ers fans went far beyond good-natured rivalry. (Exhibit A: Renee Peck's essay for NolaVie.)
This surprised me, because I've visited the Bay Area many times and always found it a friendly city. (And it has a lot in common with New Orleans, including great food, unique and beautiful architecture, lots of eccentrics and the charming delusion that it's the center of the universe.) So I don't think San Franciscans as a whole are like this. There may be some jackass Saints fans — but I've been in "mixed" crowds of football fans before, and I've never seen Saints fans (or their opponents) go beyond teasing. It's supposed to be a good time, and generally it is.
They're even discussing this in San Francisco. Check this blogpost by a member of the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle — a post titled "Should 49ers Fans Be Worried About Hooliganism?"
I’m posting a letter to the editor from a shocked Saints fan that ran in the Tuesday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle because it deserves a broader community discussion. The letter, written by Don Moses of Mill Valley, describes ugly and profane epithets hurled at him and his two teenage daughters when they went to Saturday’s 49ers game against the New Orleans Saints. Moses decries the combative fan culture. His was not the only letter The Chronicle received from horrified Saints fans.
I emailed Lois Kazakoff, deputy editorial page editor of the Chron, and asked her whom she'd heard from on this issue, whether there were any opposing viewpoints and how many letters she'd gotten. Kazakoff replied:
both people living here and people who flew in for the game
Some of the letters mentioned that San Franciscans were cordial in some stands, and in the hotels.
I don't know how many letters. I think I received 5, but I'm just one editor. The blog post has 280 plus comments on it.
That was three hours ago, and the blog post now has 466 (!) comments. A few of them are under the jump — and the comments are a lot more reflective than defensive ...
I went to a game last year for the first time since I had season tickets 1985-1998. The friend who took me gave me a warning. He said, "It's not the same as it used to be." He was right. When I got there, I thought of George Bailey returning to Bedford Falls after it became Potterville. Everything was still there as it was, but it had turned meaner and dirtier. The parking lot was no longer a place to make friends, but a place to keep your head down and avoid trouble. The stadium was full of foul-mouthed, drunks taunting the other team and it's fans like it was a midweek Dodger game in the old Candlestick bleachers.
This letter is so depressing. I've been to one 49ers game in all the years I lived in SF and the "fans" made it an experience I never wanted to repeat. The vulgarities and unnecessarily confrontational behavior was disgusting.
In December I attended the first 49ers game I had been to in years. Being a long time fan, the opportunity was always such a treat. But after my experience last month, I said that I would never set foot in Candlestick again unless the Eagles (the band) played there and that I would never attend another NFL game unless Johnny Depp was sharing his luxury box with me. From the moment we were trying to park-when some obnoxious, drunk tailgaters refused to move their jumbo, over-the-line pickup truck to help us, to the time we got back to the car, when, even drunker, they didn't like it that I was not happy that their door was open and probably leaning on our car. One of them was ready to fight my 82-year old father (who, I will admit, should have kept quiet when they got abusive, as should I have.). During the game, I saw fans wearing the wrong colors being bullied, yelled at and almost overcome by some drunk niners fans and I was appalled. But, being 5'2" I could only look for security.
All this made me remember the fiasco that occurred in 2001 when Seattle decided it could put on a Mardi Gras. The West Coast does many things very well (including many things New Orleans just can't manage). But I've heard people say "New Orleans knows how to have fun," and it's always seemed to mean "New Orleans is always up for a good time." But, no, it's more literal than that — I think we do know how to have fun.