The two hour time difference from Austin has, as I expected, caused me to wake up early. I’m not going to fully adjust in the two days I’m here. So I just need to deal with it. But it does give me more time to catch up on my diary. Later, I leave the room at 10.20 am to catch the 10.40 am VTA to Levi’s Stadium for today’s 49ers game.
Whilst waiting for the train standing on the station platform, wearing my 49ers polo shirt of course, a US couple about my age approach me. They ask me which train ticket to buy to get to the game. So here I am, now the experienced veteran of Levi’s, offering advice to a couple of Americans. The irony. They are from Boise in Idaho. She’s a Cowboys fan, he supports the 49ers. They do tell me their names but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten. Sorry guys.
We sit together on the train and continue to chat. He used to work in San Jose many years ago, so as we ride along he keeps pointing out buildings where such and such happened. She’s got a bag with her that will not pass the stadium’s security policy. It also becomes apparent they haven’t read any of the other stadium policies. So I politely tell her about the bag and advise she’ll have to leave it at the bag drop. On the journey I also give them some more tips such as making sure they leave enough time to see everything before the game starts. They are however in the United Club, as I am again, so when we bid farewell at Levi’s station, we say we might see each other inside.
I wander through the tailgating area again, and it’s as wild and bizarre as ever. And a brilliant atmosphere. I go inside in good time and check out where my seat is. It’s not as good as last year’s, I knew that, but I’m still pleased with where it is. Some of the resale tickets for the United Club were very expensive this year so I compromised a bit on location versus cost.
Watch short video clips of the tailgating on YouTube here and here.
Remembering and Reliving Past Glories
49ers Ring of Honor
I exit the Club and walk around the stadium concourse. Apart from soaking up the pre-game atmosphere, I wanted to see the new ‘legacy’ billboards that have been erected since last year, which commemorate past 49ers history. These do improve things and anything that can help develop the atmosphere at Levi’s can only be good. They are quite high up in the concourse roof. However they certainly caught my eye, so I hope others saw them as well.
I get emotional again as I walk around, as I have on every visit. It’s that element of setting myself a mad goal a few years back – of seeing a 49ers game every year from now on whilst I’m still able or interested – and then achieving that goal. Like I have today. Back around the concourse and I re-enter the United Club. I have a hot dog and beer for lunch. When finished I head off to my seat – and on the way bump into the Idaho couple! They greet me like long lost family…
But, despite my advice, they’ve only just got inside the stadium and it’s nearly kick-off time. So they haven’t seen anything – like walking the concourse as I suggested – or gone to the Team Store to buy a 49ers cap as he wanted to do. They say they crashed a tailgate party and got carried away…
But they insist on buying me a beer – more people have bought me a beer on this trip than ever before – and then I bid them goodbye again as I want to be in my seat before kick-off. They seem a bit disorganised to me, what with her bag and the train tickets earlier. Very nice people though, shame on me for forgetting their names.
The game is a blowout, 40-10 to the Cowboys. There are loads of their fans in the stadium but they are well behaved, at least the ones around me. The 49ers are terrible on offense and defense, and even special teams, which before this game had been a bright spot in a year that everyone knew was a rebuilding project. Still a long way to go then…
The game was designated as Dwight Clark Day. At half-time all fans were requested to remain in their seats, and mostly everyone did. Even most Cowboys fans, which is ironic given The Catch, for which Clark is most famous, was against the Cowboys in an NFC Championship game. For those Cowboy fans that did stay, thanks guys. Joe Montana then led a very emotional tribute. He was on the pitch with over 30 of Clark’s former 1981 SuperBowl XVI teammates. They’d all been flown in by the 49ers ownership. Dwight, who now has ALS, was there, high up in the south stand, and he spoke to the crowd. It was very emotional, and not a little sad too.
After the game I sit in the emptying stadium reading the immediate press reports of the game on my phone for a while. I then walk to the Team Store, which is as busy as it was last year post-game, but there’s nothing I fancy (again). So my 25 year old retro polo shirt will see another year of service at least.
I leave the Store for the VTA and all crowds have gone as hoped. There’s a bit longer to wait for a train this year, about 10 minutes, but half an hour or so later, around 6 pm, I’m back downtown. I then receive a reminder from Virgin Atlantic via app to check-in for tomorrow’s flight. But I then recalled last year’s panic when my phone battery was dying when I was about to board the plane. So I decide to print my boarding pass out at the hotel rather than get it electronically.
Rookies Sports Lodge For Dinner
Around 7.30 pm I leave the hotel and walk up South 1st Street to a new sports bar, Rookies Sports Lodge. This opened in the past year, replacing Billy Berk’s, a restaurant I remember looking at when here before. There are TVs wall-to-wall, literally, on all of the walls. It’s busy as well with only one free seat at the bar. There are lots of folks at the tables in the bar as well, and there’s quite a buzz in the air. Patriots vs Falcons is on all of the TVs and it’s well into the second half. The Patriots eventually win 23-7.
There is a wide selection of beers to choose from, which I sample through the evening. For my last supper I have some very good wings. I can definitely recommend Rookies. No-one is talking to me however, they’ve all got mates with them, and so I just write my diary. The people around me change as the evening wears on and around 10 pm I rest up from writing. A particularly perky barmaid then asks if I’ve “finished my homework.” I tell her it’s my road trip diary and that I go home tomorrow. She then decides to announce this to the whole bar. Thankfully there’s not many people left in the place by now but those around me all start asking me questions. The new guy to my right also happens to be a Brit, about my age, but he’s on only his second ever visit to the US.
Other folks drift away and I end up talking to the Brit about my travels, the USA, and also his travels, which have mostly been to Africa. It’s a good chat but the bar closes at 11 pm and we both depart into the night on our separate paths. It was good to nearly finish my diary but also to close off the trip with some good bar chat. I head back to the hotel and bed. Home beckons tomorrow.