With all the hype about wanting to provide the ultimate game-day fan experience, the owners of the 49ers only forgot one thing: the fans.
As boring and risk-averse as the 49ers have been on the field this season, the York family has proven to be utterly conniving and duplicitous off it. Under the publicity-driven guise of trying to finally fulfill the long-promised San Francisco football stadium to the 49er faithful, it turns out the organization was engaged in secret talks with the city of Santa Clara to move the team south.
Oh, and if it happened to sink San Francisco’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics as the final decision neared? Hey, not our problem.
So, having turned their backs on longtime fans, the Yorks have managed a difficult feat — they’ve actually turned some of their biggest supporters against them, with several seasons left in rotting Candlestick left to play.
This led me to Sunday’s experiment — assembling a tailgate crowd for a new fan experience: rooting for the other team.
Silly, sophomoric, supercilious? Sure. But, hey, this is football — a bunch of 340-pound behemoths engaged in hippo wrestling on a striped field. You can’t take it all too seriously. And besides, it provided an opportunity for a Bush (Reggie) to be cheered in the Garcia household for the first time ever.
The only rules: no vocal support for the hometown team. And the first person to spill sausage or beer on the carpet had to do the dishes.
Now that may sound a lot easier than it is — I have been rooting for the 49ers since the days when a Christopher Milk coupon could get a kid into the bleachers at old Kezar Stadium. Those seats offered a great view of the beer cans raining down on the tunnel entrance used by the highly mediocre 49er teams — such a common occurrence that the organization was forced to place a Cyclone fence above the exit to protect the players.
Yet all those memories of bad seasons and a few close losses in championship games to the dreaded Cowboys all seemed to vanish during the team’s miraculous run in 1981 to its first Super Bowl victory, when The City all but skidded to a halt during an evening of drunken revelry. And from that emerged one of the best teams and organizations in the history of the NFL — that is, until John and Denise DeBartolo York took it over and reduced it to its current state.
But I digress. The disloyalty showed by the Yorks to The City that gave the team its name was never more apparent than on Sunday, when the 49ers played the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. The Saints had to roam around the country in the wake of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina last year, but owner Tom Benson ultimately brought them back to the Big Easy, and this season the Saints have become the best story in the NFL. Signs thanking Benson for doing the right thing were on view all around the stadium. That’s a far cry from the greeting the Yorks have received since they announced that they were taking the much-anticipated city stadium plan and chucking it like one of Alex Smith’s wayward passes.
And let’s face it, as much as we can all admire the grit and toughness of running back Frank Gore dancing behind his huge offensive line, the 49ers are dreadfully boring. For that we must thank coach Mike Nolan, who insisted on kicking field goals in three straight games when they should have gone for touchdowns. That Nolan lucked out in two of the games due to other teams’ mistakes hardly inspires confidence, especially since he continues to insist that his decisions are always right.
So the 49ers got drubbed rather easily by the Saints. And they appear to be on the road to another losing season. But now the question is, what are they going to do to make nice to San Francisco, given that they need a stadium for another six years and the wretched concrete crate that is Candlestick is all that remains, thanks to the Yorks’ inability to get a replacement in the works for eight years now.
That’s a winning formula — put out a fairly miserable team, have it play in the worst stadium in the National Football League and keep raising ticket prices. And then treat your longtime fans as if they’re a bunch of suckers by having them believe you were actually sincere about replacing the stadium — despite all evidence to the contrary.
Yet the Yorks have actually done what the 49ers could not. Without any opposition, they’ve actually managed to throw themselves for a loss.
Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (415) 359-2663.