I’ve been to the Stick as many times as the Niners have won the Super Bowl. I consider myself very lucky to have experienced the times that I went. I am not unaware that many 49ers fans have never been to Candlestick, and now may never get a chance to experience it.
What does Candlestick mean to me? It’s a relic of greatness as much as it’s a symbol of futility. Candlestick has been host to so many different teams; some legendary, some inefficacious. Still, the most important aspect of Candlestick has been the fans. 49ers fans have helped to set one of the longer home sellout streaks in American sports, and considering that record includes the dark years of what I call the “Post-Garcia era,” that’s damn impressive.
Candlestick is also home for many unique memories for me. A point of contention I have heard recently in regards to going to any live game has been the value of going to said game vs. staying home and watching it in the comfort of your house. Looking back on my experiences at Candlestick, I would argue that going to a game is an entirely different event than watching at home, and not just for the obvious reasons.
When going to a game, you experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the stadium. Going to a game is best experienced amongst family and friends. The game itself becomes a backdrop to the day.
I remember going to watch the Lions face off against the Niners back in 2008. My sister had bought me tickets to see the game. So there we were, my sister, with her Niners apparel on, ready for battle; and me, my Garrison Hearst jersey on, backing my sis’ play. We had got there pretty early and started to head in, rucking our supplies from the car. We brought our own food: two-litre sodas, chips, big sandwiches. We also came prepared with cameras, just in case something important were to happen. We started making our way through the parking lot, to the one open area of fence where everyone was getting funneled into. We went through, got to the gates, and were let in. Victory! We made our way to our seats and enjoyed the scenery.
The football field before the game is a serene sight. I remember thinking about the past games that were played on that very field. “The Catch happened right over there!” I told my sister. “My boy Garrison Hearst burst for a 96-yard touchdown right here, in overtime!” The battles that had been fought on that field were plentiful, deep, entrenched in the very fibers of the grass blades at the Stick.
Yet, before the game, it is so calm. The field is empty, save for some employees doing whatever it is that stadium employees do. A kid or two running around; a coach’s kid perhaps. The fans are quiet, even the opposing team’s fans. People are cordial, not yet drunk enough to make them brash. The field before the game is a beautiful sight. It’s like going hiking and getting to the peak, looking down and, even though you know the city is bustling down there, right now, right here, it is sublime.
We ended up winning that game, led by none other than J.T. O’Sullivan. There are also many other memories from the few games I went to. They aren’t all pleasant, either. Many fights, people getting upset, kids crying, and adults behaving badly. Still, the good outweighs the bad, and I’m thankful to have gotten the opportunity to experience it.
So with that, I bid adieu to Candlestick Park. There will never be another like it. Candlestick is not dead; it will live in the hearts and minds of all 49ers fans until it becomes a distant memory to just a few of us that can remember it.
Candlestick Park – Thank you for the memories.