Like a jilted spouse whose significant other abandoned us for a South Bay Sugar Daddy or Sugar Momma, we sat on our stools in San Francisco bars this football season, taking a modicum of joy in the travails of our long-gone “San Francisco” 49ers.
What a rocky first year it’s been since the 49ers decided we were too outdated, especially because we weren’t willing to wreck the rest of our economy to build them the type of stadium that would wrest the last nickel from the bank accounts of every customer, with vast write-offable luxury suites populated with folks more versed in restaurateur Michael Mina than in running back Frank Gore.
For $1.3 billion, the Sugar Spouse built a crappy new venue. While, for
instance, Green Bay Pack-ers fans stand in blizzards, in one-for-all solidarity with their team, the new 49ers stadium has chopped the fan base more effectively than Napoleon slicing and dicing an enemy army. At halftime at Levi’s Stadium, swarms of rich folks in the lower bowl burrow to under-the-stands restaurants and lounges, and do not deign to attend and cheer on the Niners for the second half.
After the first home game, then-49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh admonished the fans for not being loud enough. But it’s hard for them to be loud when their mouths are stuffed with crab cakes. Spend! Spend! Spend! Being a fan has been trivialized. Is that what the 49ers brain trust wanted?
So the rest of us ob-served, we longtime Niners fans who debated ourselves and our loved ones, eventually balking:
- Paying thousands of dollars for a seat license,
- Driving an hour each way, and
- The nightmare parking stories.
We sat on our bar stools and sofas and chuckled at the grow-resistant grass installed at Levi’s, at the regression of quarterback Colin K., at the dysfunction between the front office and Coach Harbaugh, at the mediocrity enshrined in an 8-8 record. This from a team that two years ago almost won the Super Bowl.
So now, in the winter of 2015, we’re feeling superior. But the fact remains that our team jilted us, that Candlestick faces the wrecking ball, and that the 49ers are playing in a shiny, dysfunctional stadium the architecture of which seems ideally designed to trap and amplify late-summer South Bay heat.
But, still, how’d we all feel if the Niners were on a playoff run, with Kaepernick playing better than any other QB, with the receiving corps clicking, with Harbaugh ensconced in a multi-year contract? I think we’d feel pretty good.
Despite our schad-enfreude, we still have a big soft spot for our old team. And when they start winning, a lot of us will find our way to the South Bay stadium. Maybe we can hijack a RocketBoat, take it to the southern end of the Bay, avoid all the traffic.
The economics of building a football stadium are questionable, where only eight regular-season games per year are played. But there is significant prestige in being the home of an NFL team. As our century goes along, as San Jose and its suburbs grow, as shiny skyscrapers begin piercing the horizon of South Bay hills, as the economy of the region booms and busts and booms again, proud South Bay denizens will point to the 2014 opening of Levi’s Stadium as, perhaps, the moment San Jose/Santa Clara was put on the pro sports map. Up here on the foggy tip of the Peninsula we’ll adjust, and perhaps admit that we lost something special.