In the early 1960’s, I attended every San Francisco 49ers game while sitting in the Christopher’s Milk section. The 49ers played their home games at Kezar Stadium and the section in the corner of the endzone was used for kids programs, I was a newspaper delivery boy (in those days, it was proper to call us boys not persons).
Most kids only got to go to one game a year, but in 1962 for my birthday I got a transistor radio and the adult chaperone for the newspaper delivery boys loved listening to Lon Simmons call the games and got me in every week so he could use my radio.
While I grew up a 49ers fans, my first professional job out of college was with the Oakland Raiders beginning in 1973. That year coincided with the fall of the 49ers, who had been to the playoffs three straight seasons beginning in 1970 but eliminated from the playoffs all three years by the Dallas Cowboys.
In those days, the Raiders were a Super Bowl caliber team and the 49ers a doormat. One afternoon I was with Al Davis, the Raiders owner and General Manager, and he told me how he had hoped the 49ers would improve. He went on to explain that when both teams are good it is good for Bay Area sports, and if ever the Raiders had an off-season if the 49ers were good the interest in football in the area would not take a beating.
I don’t really think Davis at the time was anticipating the Raiders ever having a down year, they hadn’t since he joined the team in 1963. But, what he was more concerned about is if both teams in the Bay Area were down at the same time, and what that would do to fan loyalty.
Mr. Davis was of the opinion that the only thing that attracted fans was winning, and while I had debates with him on the virtues of taking care of fans would ensure their continued interest during even down years, he would have none of it. I pointed out the loyalty of Chicago Cubs fans in baseball without wins to attract them, but Davis was lending no interest in anything but winning as the answer, and emphasized his point by saying, “Why do you think we have a waiting list for season tickets? It’s because we fu**ing win.”
His worst nightmare cast a cloud over football in the Bay Area in recent seasons, as both the Raiders and 49ers were bad football teams. But, alas, welcome to 2019, where fans on both sides of the bay have had more to cheer about than in recent seasons.
The 49ers are the lone undefeated team in the league, and the Raiders meet the Chargers this Thursday night while leading Los Angeles in the standings and only one game back in the loss column of the frontrunning Kansas City Chiefs.
The schedule makers got it right this week, featuring the hot Bay Area teams on national television twice. The Raiders kickoff the weekend with the Thursday night game, and the 49ers complete Week 10 action on Monday night when they host the Seattle Seahawks.
According to my charts, all this optimism for Bay Area football is in for a very challenging week. The Chargers opened this season with a disappointing two wins in seven games, but victories the past two weeks over the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers have gotten the Chargers back into the playoff hunt. This slow start fast finish routine is nothing new for Los Angeles Quarterback Philip Rivers, who always seems to be a part of a Chargers team that starts slow and then makes a second half of the season surge to the playoffs.
As for the 49ers, their perfect record will be highly challenged by a Seattle squad that comes in two games back in the NFC West Standings. The need to win and cut the deficit to one game is a much stronger motivator than a team looking to extend their advantage over a second place team to three games.
Still, the 49ers faced a similar situation four weeks ago when they met the Los Angeles Rams on their home field and downed the defending NFC Champions to pull 2½ games ahead of them in their division race. In that game, the 49ers were 3 point underdogs, this Monday, the 49ers are favored by six points or more.
While some may jump at the line thinking it is too many points, I add caution to that move based on the books making the Seahawks look too attractive on the spread.
It is primetime weekend for the Bay Area football teams. If they were to win these two games, Al Davis would be pleased that both sides of the Bay have the winning necessary, by his assessment, to add fans in the stands.