At a time when the 49ers’ surprising and deeply satisfying drive into the playoffs has displayed an on-field team of impeccable class, it is time for the entirety of San Francisco fans to step up and act in a way that will make the games pleasant for everyone.
The vast majority of San Francisco sports fans behave in sportsmanlike fashion before, during and after the matchups in our city. There are, however, the rotten apples that can spoil the events and leave a stain on otherwise momentous occasions.
It was just before the start of this football season that a shooting and fights marred an exhibition game between the 49ers and the Raiders. While not as dramatic, nearly 20 people were arrested and others tossed from Candlestick Park during last weekend’s game with the New Orleans Saints. That was to their detriment, since they missed what could be the most memorable final five minutes of football ever played, but such a spectacular win by our hometown team does not need a footnote about the rowdy fans.
In the lead-up to the NFC Championship Game this Sunday at Candlestick Park against the New York Giants, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr has urged all fans to be civil.
While the police are prepared to deal with unruly fans, it should not come to this in San Francisco. Sports fans here have seen enough violence, including the disgusting beating in Los Angeles of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow. The 42-year-old paramedic from San Cruz was beaten outside Dodger Stadium after the season opener. A previous incident outside AT&T Park in May 2008 — in which two teens got into an alcohol-fueled spat after a Giants-Phillies game — also shows how quickly violence can turn deadly. In that case, one punch felled the victim, who hit his head and later died.
San Francisco has world-class sports teams, and the sophisticated fans from the entire Bay Area need to follow the lead and show the nation what we all stand for without the looming threat of a police crackdown.
This is a joyous time for 49ers fans and San Francisco as the team is one win away from a Super Bowl appearance. All fans, including those with families, need to feel safe cheering on their team, whether that be before the game at tailgating parties or inside the stadium during the match. Visiting fans should also have the space and freedom to root on their team without any feelings of intimidation. The real matchup is on the field, and that is where it needs to stay.