To be a true San Franciscan, you've got to complete the Big Five: 1) Having ridden Trains on Bay Bridge (Key System); 2) Auto Ferries on the Bay; 3) Saw the Giants at Seals Stadium; 4) Saw the Niners play at Kezar, and 5) Rode the Roller Coaster or played in the Fun House at the Beach.
Number 4 is obviously fresh because of the passing or YA Tittle. Who could ever forget the Alley Opp to RC Owens? That was a signature play and every kid in the Richmond (and other neighborhoods) ran down field (read: down street) to leap for the ball in the hopes of completing his own version. A vigorous discussion always preceded the play: who would be Tittle, and who would be Owens. Either way you were a winner.
And those games at Kezar? Talk about days gone by. We could sit in the Christopher Milk Section for free, or pay 50 cents to sit in the East end zone. From 43rd Avenue, we'd pay a nickel (using a punch card that cost 50 cents for 10 rides) and take the 5 McAllister (never call it the 5 Fulton) to Stanyan Stree and walk downhill to Kezar. We'd see the game, then in the fourth quarter, as the seagulls invaded, we'd quietly move to the expensive seats on the 40-50 yard line, sit on the steps in waiting, and swoop in to collect seat cushions after the game ended. We got a nickel for each one we turned in. On a good day, we'd leave Kezar with 50-75 cents in our pocket ... and felt like Rockefeller.
Traffic and parking? No problem. Not because the stadium was empty. It usually had 50-60,000 folks there. It worked because there was no regulation, no permit required, but rather, entrepreneurial creativity as people "rented" their driveways to fans with tickets. And lots of folks took public transit.
Then again: not everyone was inside the stadium. There were countless fans who watched from nearby rooftops stacked one above the other, up the hill toward Parnassus street.
I still recall the first game I ever saw live. Seeing the players walk across the parking lot to enter the east tunnel. Hearing the crunching sound of the red rock surface as they walked through that tunnel. Seeing (breathing!) the cloud of red dust that emerged on the other side. Then, finally, seeing the players emerge from that grimy Golden Gate Fog. The first guys I saw were linemen for the NY Giants....and they looked like super-heroes to my youthful eyes. Until the Forty Niners came out. That's when I saw the real super-heroes. Seeing No. 14 was a thrill . I just could not believe I was in the same place as YA Tittle. For a kid from 43rd Avenue, it didn't get any better than that.
I went to Levi's Stadium once. Not to see the Forty-Niners, but rather, the Pac-12 title game. $40 for parking. Not the same. Won't be back. My needle is stuck in the days of Tittle, Owens and Eisenhower. Better times. Much better President.