San Francisco's Candlestick Park turns into combat zone 

So now what do we tell L.A.? That we have as many thugs at our sporting events as they do? That Candlestick Park is every bit as dangerous as Dodger Stadium? That the scofflaws and punks have imposed their will on society, just like in Southern California?

Fans entering NFL games are patted down. As if it does any good. Fights — brawls, really — were prevalent in the stands in the second half of the Raiders-49ers game Saturday. There were shootings in the parking lot.

What good is it to be checked at the gate when the weapons are in the RVs and pickup trucks?

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News blogged that the Niners and Raiders won’t be playing in the preseason any longer. Not after what happened Saturday at the ’Stick when they did play. When people in the seats were punched and people in the parking lot were shot.

Jed York, the 49ers’ CEO and president, said he will recommend to the National Football League that the annual preseason meeting between the two Bay Area franchises, which alternates between San Francisco and Oakland, not be held in 2012. Which means it won’t be held in 2012. And maybe never again.

League officials are worried continually about a terrorist attack, which is why every person coming through the gates is searched.

But what could be more terrorizing than a walk through the bottom rows of seats at the ’Stick in the closing minutes? It’s a combat zone.

An evening of football, game time 5 p.m., arrived after an afternoon of drinking.

Hours-long tailgate parties are predicated on more than a can of beer and a few chicken wings.

The troublemakers, and somehow they make their presence felt no matter how many police or security forces appear on the scene, are well-fueled for their task.

Someone wearing the jersey of the opposing team is a simple excuse to throw punches. Or pull triggers.

The Niners said Monday they will ban tailgating in the Candlestick lots after games start. As if those looking for a battle can’t drink enough before kickoff or in the stands.

The beer companies, which spend millions advertising NFL games, invariably claim it’s not their fault spectators turn violent, and technically they’re correct. But their products and the projected images of rowdiness only encourage the nastiness. Show me someone stone sober ever getting into a punchout.

The irony is that Oakland has the rep for tough fans — Raider Nation, The Black Hole and all that. But the Oakland Coliseum, whatever it used to be, now is safer and more fan-friendly than Candlestick. Pregame tailgates in the Coliseum parking lot are international festivals full of music and goodwill, not battle stations.

Maybe it’s the venue. When the Giants played at Candlestick, night games against the Dodgers were problems. Fights broke out frequently. But at AT&T Park, the atmosphere is different. The fans are boisterous, not belligerent.

Former 49ers president Eddie DeBartolo called Candlestick a pigsty. At age 51, it’s definitely a mess, and there’s no question the Niners need a new stadium.

But until that is a reality, the Niners and The City need to prevent the violence that took place Saturday at the old one. Frightening.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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