Niners fans invade Los Angeles. Sourdough Sam declared king

Thousands of The Faithful have arrived in Southern California ahead of NFC Championship Game against the Rams

LOS ANGELES — The line stretched around the corner, through the square, down the sidewalk and then further down the street.

To be honest, I couldn’t see the end of it.

That was the scene in downtown Los Angeles Saturday, where thousands of Niners fans gathered to rally around their team ahead of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Rams. It was a remarkable show of force for a fanbase that was told to stay away.

Apparently, no one was listening.

Folks were blowing horns, waving flags, wearing sombreros and lucha libre masks. It was a kind of nutty, like a Sourdough Sam fantasy. (And, yes. The Niners’ miner mascot was on hand, taking selfies and scaring small children.)

The whole thing was happening across the street from the arena formerly known as Staples, in the heart of The City’s rejuvenated events district. A giant statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looked over the scene in horror.

Niners officials told me they hadn’t really done anything to promote or market the gathering. It just spread organically. So much so, people waited in line for over three hours to get into what appeared to be the world’s largest sports bar.

Jesse Mendez of San Jose, part of the 408 Faithful fan club, pictured outside of a rally hosted by the 49ers in downtown Los Angeles ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship game against the Rams. (Christopher Victorio/Special to The Examiner)

When Jesse Mendez finally got into Tom’s Watch Bar, he marched through the crowd waving a flag and shouting at the top of his lungs. The Faithful responded in kind and the party was on.

“It’s crazy! We’re all here to support our team,” said Mendez, a 51-year-old San Jose native who’s part of the “408 Faithfuls” fan club. “We went to Dallas. We went to Green Bay. We’ve expanded our reach to every place the Niners play.”

Like everyone else following the team, Mendez heard the Rams didn’t want their own fans to sell tickets to Niners fans. That strategy appears to have backfired spectacularly.

“Seattle does the same thing every year,” said Mendez. “And it works up there. I knew it wasn’t going to work down here because L.A. doesn’t have the fanbase. Rams fans still got creases in the jerseys they just bought at the gift shop!”

Ouch. That one’s gonna leave a mark.

Courtney Haynie, 37, was one of the many fans on hand who hails from Los Angeles. She had been standing in line for nearly three hours and still wasn’t that close to getting into the party. But that didn’t stop her from smiling and chatting about her team.

“My boyfriend’s a diehard Niners fan,” she said. “He couldn’t come, so I came to represent.”

Jose Valazquez, 46, traveled to L.A. from San Rafael. I asked him why the Rams seemed so concerned with a fan invasion.

“It’s fear,” he said. “When you try to prevent real fans from trying to come out. It says something about you as a city. It sucks.”

David Semillo, of Stockton, shows his loyalty after getting an autograph from 49ers legend, Eric Davis at a rally hosted by the 49ers in downtown Los Angeles ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship game against the Rams. (Christopher Victorio/Special to The Examiner)

David Semillo, 37, arrived in Los Angeles with a towel that said “Levi’s South.” The Stockton man explained that, “It’s just something in the culture of The Faithful. We’ll go anywhere.”

Where they ended up was Los Angeles, where you don’t really see many Rams jerseys around town. Maybe it was moving to St. Louis for 12 years. Maybe it’s sharing a stadium with the Chargers. Maybe people still love their Raiders here. Whatever the case, the Rams have some work to do.

It was always said that Los Angeles cared more about their college football, cheering on the Trojans and Bruins with gusto. We’ll see on Sunday what kind of NFL town it’s become.

I asked Niners’ legend Eric Davis what he thought of the crowd that had amassed in the City of Angels. He wasn’t surprised.

“Niners fans have always done that. It’s always been one of things,” said Davis, who was there glad-handing the fans. “Even back when we were playing in Anaheim, it was always red. That’s just a part of it.”

“I also think there’s a ton of Niners fans in L.A. This is a legendary franchise. Because of that, you have fans all over the country.”

True that. As I walked out of the party, I could hear fans chanting, people shouting and clapping, Niners fans one and all.

The invasion was successful. Sourdough Sam is the King of L.A.

asaracevic@sfexaminer.com

Niners mascot Sourdough Sam hams it up with the fans at a rally held in Los Angeles ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game. (Christopher Victorio/Special to The Examiner).
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