Going to a 49ers game ranks up there as one of my all-time absolute favorite activities. Like, I like it more than sex. Or cookies. Not more than an awesome powder day, but definitely more than “alone wine” and maybe even more than sleeping. AND I LOVE SLEEPING.
So you can imagine how excited I was to go the 49ers/Raiders preseason game on Saturday. “Battle of the Bay” they call it, in an effort to give it some kind of importance, since everyone knows preseason doesn’t mean jack. I mean, I spent the morning before the game curling my hair and putting on a full face of makeup. I didn’t even do that for my fancy anniversary dinner last week.
I was stoked. I was armed with your awesome advice about how to behave at a game and I was determined to make you proud. Unfortunately, when I arrived at Candlestick Park, it was immediately clear that I was the only person with that goal in mind. (Apparently 49ers and Raiders fans aren’t reading xoJane? Wassup with that?) But these fans weren’t just cussing too loudly and being poor sports. That, my friends, would have been lovely. These fans were starting fights. All over the stadium.
Yes, the 49ers have a rivalry with the Raiders (only because we’re located within spitting distance of each other, not because of anything truly football related), but these fights weren’t even necessarily between opposing fans. Within minutes of the start of the first quarter, I saw two incredibly intoxicated female 49ers’ fans going at it. Kicking, screaming, punching, hair pulling. The police finally arrived and broke it up, only to have the girls hug and make up … And then start fighting all over again! It took four police officers to get one of the girls in handcuffs. As they took her out of the stadium, her “friend” followed, pumping her fists in glory.
And that was just the beginning. I saw guys in red and gold pummeling a Raiders’ fan for minutes before the police arrived. Men in black and white hitting a Niners’ fan until there was blood coming out of his mouth. Chants of “Raiders Suck!” filled the stadium while the Raiders’ Quarterback lay hurt on the field. It was overwhelming, upsetting and shocking.
As you may have heard, the violence only got worse. Two men were shot and one man was assaulted and knocked unconscious in the bathroom. One gunshot victim and the man who was assaulted in the bathroom were listed in critical condition on Saturday. They’ve both since been upgraded to “fair.”
When I admitted to being a bad fan in that earlier post, I did so somewhat lightly. What I didn’t think about was how quickly hurled insults can turn into hurled beers which can turn into hurled fists. Someone suggested I behave as though I were sitting behind a row of Boy Scouts. Let me tell you, the game I attended on Saturday is the last place I would EVER want a child to be.
I don’t know who these people are that are starting the fights. They don’t seem to be real fans of the teams, though obviously I have no way of proving this except my theory that if you care about the game, you don't get blackout drunk before you go to it. In fact, I estimated that only about 15 percent of people in attendance were actually paying attention to anything that was happening on the field. I’ll admit I used my binoculars to check out a few fights, but the guy a few rows ahead of me had his back turned to the field for almost the entire duration of the game. I guess watching 300-pound guys take each other down in the stands is more entertaining than watching the ones who get paid to do it on the field?
What makes me sad is that this culture of violence is somehow tolerated and, even worse, encouraged. I watched a few videos of fights from the game online and in them, the person filming is laughing and cheering as women viciously attack each other for minutes on end. Could these women name three members of our starting line-up if they stopped punching each other and came up for air? I don’t know. My guess: probably not. So why are they there? To get wasted and fight? When did that become something people think is fun?
The 49ers won on Saturday. But, ultimately, we all lost. Parents no longer take their kids to football games because it’s not a family-friendly environment. More and more people are watching on TV because they don’t want to hear the obscenities and they don’t want to see fists flying. Football fans are scared to go to a game and root for their team, for fear of being assaulted or harassed. And so the good fans, the true fans, the real fans: They’re staying home. And, as a result, the stadium and parking lots are filled with even more people who perpetuate the dangerous, life-threatening behavior seen on Saturday.
Will it stop me from going to the games? No. I love the 49ers too much. I can’t imagine watching from my couch when they’re playing mere miles from my home. But from now on, when (not if) I get tempted to swear or yell at an opposing fan, I’ll remember why we’re all there: to root for our team, show our support and have a good time. And if that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll just remind myself that the person I’m about to insult? He might have a gun.