Great memories, but time to blow Stick up

AP Photo/Tony AvelarFireworks explode over Candlestick Park after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-24 during an NFL football game in San Francisco

Apparently the impending closure and demolition of Candlestick Park allows for mass self-indulgence among those of us who publicly offer opinions.

In other words: 'Tis the season to romanticize the dump of a headache we've pretty much hated for years.

The dynamic mirrors that of the reception that follows the funeral of a man you never really liked, but you have some sort of familial connection that prevents you from bailing on the services altogether. You know the drill: You go through the motions of reconciling conflicting emotions — you're glad he's gone, but you feel bad for being glad. So you manufacture niceties and exaggerate what little you liked about the guy while making small talk as your slovenly step-uncle knocks back six whiskey sours while loudly railing on about the money he's owed by the poor, dead bastard whose miserable life you're all there to ostensibly celebrate.

That's not quite where I'm at with the Stick, which serves as the backdrop of many of my most pleasant sport-related memories. I don't have to manufacture or exaggerate any of them. The post-mortem list of pros and cons, in fact, favors the pros in terms of volume. I'm grateful for those memories.

But in all honesty, the cons outweigh the pros. I have too many memories of various forms of misery — abominable weather conditions, insanely unmanageable traffic, etc. — that don't need to be exaggerated for me to spend much energy on lamenting the loss of a mere backdrop to spend memories.

I mean, really. Good riddance, right?

Alas, when in Rome. It's the thing to do these days to somehow verbalize or put in writing those warm and fuzzies that come to mind as our gigantic commode of a stadium preps for the wrecking ball. (Sad that a naked and singing Miley Cyrus won't be a part of it, isn't it?)

So here goes, my top five Candlestick Park memories:

5 Sitting in the metal bleachers during a pitching change, in the middle of a truly awful game between what I think was the Montreal Expos and Giants, astounded by the collection of mind-blowing talent and ego directly in front of me and standing side-by-side in the orange-and-black: Barry Bonds, Deion Sanders and Darryl Strawberry.

(Never mind that as I fact-check my memory, Baseball Reference says the three of them never shared the same outfield. That's what my memory has stored, and I'm sticking with it.)

4 Working the sidelines during the 1994 NFC title game as a photographer for the Pacifica Tribune, a weekly newspaper for which I toiled early in my career. I had no idea what the hell I was doing with a camera on such a massive stage, but hot damn it was cool.

(That was the first time I've ever written or said, “hot damn.” And the last. Sorry.)

3 Being smuggled into the victorious Cowboys locker room by Dallas lineman and Pacifica native Kevin Gogan after that game. It repulsed me to be with the enemy, but I was there to do a story on Gogan. I had to do something to show my loyalty, though, so I stole some gloves out of Nate Newton's locker.

2 Joe. Jerry. Whenever. Holy crap. How lucky were we? All of us.

1 I'm a Little Leaguer and my Dad somehow gets field passes before a Giants game. We're in the dugout. All of my heroes are at arm's length, and the great Vida Blue, in whose honor I wore No. 14 as a lad, treats me like a son.

Pretty cool stuff, right? But that's not the best part. No, that came when I walked tentatively out of the dugout bathroom. I wasn't sure if it was OK for me to use, but hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Vida understood. Tossing me a signed baseball as I cleared the door, he sensed my unease and said, “Hey, young fella! That was a major-league piss!”

Thanks, Candlestick. But still … good riddance.

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