While escaping New England for a few days on the west coast, in the Bay Area, just ahead of all that unexpected October wind and snow, I decided to catch a 49ers game. They were playing the Browns, and according to locals, tickets would be easy to get. They were right. A college friend who lives in Cali met up with me and we got two tickets, with face values of $100 each, for 85 bucks. It was a buyer's market.
If you're used to the way that Patriot Place gleams from being so new and well-maintained when you're in Foxboro for a game, the first thing you will notice while approaching Candlestick Park (I know it's officially called Monster Park now, but to me the place will always be Candlestick), located in Hunter's Point, is that the neighborhood is more than just a little bit decrepit. We exited the train and walked down Gilman Avenue, but the stadium wasn't even in sight. Without all of the people wearing scarlet and gold, you could have easily thought that you were just hiking into a dicey, cutthroat barrio. All cities have rough parts, but the rest of San Francisco is so beautiful and aesthetically pleasing that the shiftiness of Hunter's Point seems even more pronounced. If I had been passing through there at night, by myself, I would have been straight up scared.
But then, the light towers come into view, and you can't help but get excited! This was the stadium where Willie Mays made the catch. It's also where Dwight Clark made the catch, not to mention the fact that the Beatles played their final concert at Candlestick. The place has history. Joe Montana. Barry Bonds. Ronnie Lott. Y.A. Tittle! (I tried to informally determine which 49er players were the most popular, as represented by the jersey-wearing fans. The results were not surprising. In descending order, it went Montana, Lott, Gore, and Crabtree, with current quarterback Smith tied with Hall of Famer Steve Young for the least loved.)
Candlestick itself is a big, old relic. There was nothing nice about it, although we had very good seats, right next to a married couple who had been season-ticket holders since 1970, the year I was born. They were great fun, with the lady, who looked like Betty White, swearing each time Frank Gore carried the ball, because she thought that the offense was too focused on him. When the PA announcer informed the crowd that Gore had just become #2 on the 49ers' all-time leading rushers list, she made a face like she was trying to hold in a fart. It was hilarious. The home team was in firm command, defeating the Browns 20-10, in a game that was not as close as the lopsided score might indicate.
After the last whistle, while walking back down Gilman Avenue to the train, we saw two young black kids walking among the traffic, holding puppies up in both hands the same way that roadside merchants will hold up bags of oranges. They had several nine-week-old pitbull males, going for 150 bucks each. The animals were beautiful, sweet, and scared, with soft, gray coats; my friend, an animal lover, was so upset about the obvious specter of dog-fighting looming over those pups' lives (the kids selling them were discussing dog fighting with some of the people inspecting at the animals), that she made arrangements to buy one for her young son.
The puppy's new name will be Montana. How perfect is that?
Rick Wormwood can be reached email@example.com.