There’s nothing more exciting than traveling on the road for a sports event. The flight where your ears pop, mouth-watering food, and the stadium atmosphere make it ultra-exciting for the average fan. That’s especially true if it’s your favorite team.
That’s what I got to experience at the end of September by flying out to the Bay Area. I got to check out the San Francisco Giants win against their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, at Oracle Park, the day before. But the big event was going to watch my favorite NFL team play against the Arizona Cardinals.
My Origin Story For My Fandom
So, storytime. My numero uno football team is the San Francisco 49ers. It started with playing with my Joe Montana Tackling Buddy at my grandmother’s house as a child. Then, the Jerry Rice beanie baby came with the Russell Athletic 49ers sweater. The rest is history.
I also come from Michigan, where people are subjected to rooting for the Detroit Lions. The Lions represent the city of Detroit, from the UAW right down to the suburbanites in Birmingham. My parents tried their damnedest to get me into Lions football. When I say “try”, I mean my aunt buying me a Lions hoodie and taking me to Ford Field.
There was also watching Barry Sanders slip through everybody and “Same Ol’ Lions”, which didn’t really stick with me for long. Don’t get me wrong: Barry Sanders is one of the best running backs of all time. It’s just the Detroit Lions were one of the worst football franchises of all time.
Rooting for the Detroit Lions is akin to rooting for getting the biggest aneurysm possible. It’s not a fun experience and you’ll probably end up dead as a result. That’s why I love the 49ers so much. They have a decorated history filled with iconic moments, from “The Catch” to Montana calming his teammate’s nerves by pointing out John Candy in the Super Bowl audience. They’re also less likely to leave you dead from watching them. You can’t beat that.
What Makes The San Francisco 49ers Unique?
Today, I equate the 49ers to a similarly beloved sports franchise: the Detroit Red Wings. Eddie DeBartolo would make like Mike Ilitch and spend money on the best players possible. Combined with solid drafts (Hello, Jerry Rice!), the Niners won five Super Bowls under Eddie D’s watch before a little riverboat gambling license drama ended his tenure.
Montana was like Steve Yzerman: The unequivocal leader of the locker room who was cool under pressure. You could rely on Joe Cool to come through in a clutch the same way Red Wings fans could rely on Stevie Y to score in overtime. Jerry Rice? He was like Sergei Federov, only he had staying power with the San Francisco 49ers. Rice was a speedy playmaker who played with flash and poise, similar to the Russian legend. Then, there was Ronnie Lott, who had the defensive awareness and hard-hitting style of Nicklas Lidstrom.
The San Francisco 49ers had some solid NFL history even before Mr. DeBartolo came into the fold. During the 1950s, the Million Dollar Backfield came into the NFL with their T formation and penchant for breaking NFL records. With a unit consisting of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, John Henry Johnson, and Joe “The Jet” Perry, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most celebrated NFL franchises.
Traveling To The Bay Area
Now, let’s explore the tourist part of the Bay Area, i.e. the lifestyle. First, I’ve been to California before. I always travel to the Los Angeles/Orange County area during Christmas time to get away from everything. Southern California would always be a fun time, especially with the scenic views and relaxing vibes.
But the Bay Area was a different beast. The drivers were a bit slower and more relaxed than their SoCal counterparts, where people were trying to drive you off the road. It was also different regarding the local economies, with the Bay Area being more tech-savvy and Southern California focusing on show business with Hollywood and Disney.
I will say that getting around the Bay Area took a bit to get used to. It was easy to get lost and miss your exit, which can be frustrating. Either that or my iPhone 7 is an ancient fossil and needs to be replaced. I think it’s the phone and my antiquated Apple Maps app combined with the general layout.
What’s There To Do In The Bay?
The obvious answer is seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, if you’re not going to see the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, what are you even doing there in the first place? It was literally in the intro for FULL HOUSE! Luckily, I took a brief detour and got to witness this manmade bastion for myself. People from all around the world got to see this beautiful structure. Whether it was those from Mexico, India, or Vietnam, everyone stood in awe of the Golden Gate Bridge and took numerous pictures.
But it isn’t just the overbearing bridge that you need to check out. Once you cross the path underneath the bridge, you’re on a winding trail that branches out to different paths and areas. There’s Crissy Field, where you can enjoy a brat or a picnic. Then there’s Baker’s Beach, where you can get breathtaking views of the waterfront. Yes, it’s more zen and relaxing than it sounds. For a guy who grew up surrounded by lakes and water, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane.
After my Golden Gate sightseeing, I took in a Giants game. Now I’ve been to the following baseball parks in my lifetime to watch a ballgame. These parks consist of:
- Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park in Detroit
- Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago
- Progressive Field in Cleveland
- Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, AKA Chavez Ravine
- Angel Stadium in Anaheim
- Chase Field in Phoenix
Out of all these stadiums, Oracle Park beats them all. You get a breathtaking view of the bay and watch the boats and fans in canoes in McCovey Cove. Ballhawks roam the waters in these canoes, which makes the experience even more unique. There was even one group that set up a bonfire on the water! Imagine trying to make that sort of setup!
My only gripe was finding parking. NEVER park at China Basin. EVER. Pinky promise me that you won’t if you go to a Giants game because everyone on the staff hates their job and the garage looks like Jeff Bezos built it. It’s also cramped and can be EXTREMELY confusing to get out. I haven’t even mentioned the ridiculous price of $150 for event parking. Avoid it like you would a Seattle Seahawks fan.
The Soundtrack For The Bay Area
Now, the Bay Area soundtrack is vastly different from its SoCal brethren. Southern California is more mellow, happy, and filled with ska-sounding bliss. It also has hard-hitting tunes from Tupac and Dr. Dre. Northern California doesn’t play into that as much, offering more variety. What should you be bumping while driving through The City?
This should ALWAYS be your go-to when you’re going to a San Francisco 49ers game. The Vallejo native is well known for his hit, “Tell Me When To Go,” which you can hear every time the 49ers score a touchdown. Plus, if you’re not blasting “Bang Bang Niner Gang,” are you really living?
Another legendary Bay Area group is Smash Mouth (R.I.P. Steve Harwell), which has numerous bangers. Whether it’s “Walking On The Sun,” “All-Star“, or their cover of “I’m A Believer,” you can’t go wrong with any of their hits. Just be on the lookout for Shrek if you see him, for he usually tags along with the band.
Another local band with numerous hits is a little group known as Metallica. Take your pick from their many hits: “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “Enter Sandman,” “One,” you name it. The legendary metal band has many hits that helped it earn its status.
If you haven’t heard of the Aquabats, they’re a ska band from the southern part of California. I know what you’re thinking: “Why this band?” Well, they have good jams such as “Fashion Zombies,” “Pizza Day,” and “Aquabat March” that’ll perk up your day. Plus, they have awesome suits that’ll save the day.
Taking Back Sunday
Taking Back Sunday is good for the trip home when you’re stuck in traffic and need to clear your head. “Liar (It Takes One To Know One),” “The One,” and “Carpathia” are good tunes to bump en route to your destination. Nothing like rocking out after a Niners victory.
The Gameday Experience
Tailgating with 49er fans was a blast. I’m talking about Jello shots in syringes, live DJs, and delicious food. When Niner fans throw a tailgate, they go all out. Levi’s Stadium itself was an incredible experience. Complete with a 49ers Museum, a breathtaking concourse in front of one of the big screens, and a stadium terrace, it was everything I expected and more.
Now let me get more in-depth about the 49er Museum. It had a complete history of the San Francisco 49ers, from Vic Morabito starting the franchise to Bill Walsh’s office setup. You could even see the leather helmets and programs from the 1950s on display.
But the biggest attraction was the Lombardi trophies. The 49ers have five Super Bowls to their name in their decorated history, and each title was laid out. With it came the Super Bowl’s description, the history and lore behind it, and how the Niners won the title.
Overall, I had an excellent time at Levi’s Stadium. I indulged in a hot dog and drank plenty of water while getting a nice tan. Yes, I also had a few drinks of alcohol, which made the experience even better. The Niners won as well, 35-16, which made things better. Winning usually does that sort of thing.
I’m tempted to go to another game in the near future. 49er fans know how to party and Levi’s Stadium is a good stadium for watching a football game. I’m giving this trip a… 9.1 out of 10. I would definitely do this again, especially if it were later in this season!