I (Natalie) was the only one amongst the 4 of us who had never been to an NFL game. I've seen the Hollywood movies and I've had many male friends. I've been told many times that a great NFL game can sometimes be a thing of legend, can sometimes bring brothers, families and friends together. Funny enough, I also thought that these things could also tear these same people apart....(maybe that's just Hollywood speaking).
I was lucky to be seeing this particular NFL game through the lense of a lifelong 49ers fan. It was kinda like bringing a 5-year old to Santa's village. Everything about the game was like a trip to Germany for me. Everything about the game was like a trip to Mecca for him.
We walked through the expansive parking lot which was filled with entire families barbecuing, playing cards and throwing around a football. You could hear laughter, music and fun. Some came equipped with stereos, barbecues, TVs and I even saw a generator. These people are serious about their football....but they are JUST as serious about their tailgating. There was no lack of comfort.
Walking into an NFL stadium for the first time is something of a religious experience even for a football neophyte like me. The size of the crowd, the size of the stadium, the size of the field...none of which even compares to the size of the hearts on display....which are all hoping, wishing, praying that the 49ers would lead them to victory on the homefield. The cheers, the boos, the smell of hotdogs and most of all the laughter. There is no other way to describe these fans...but as a family.
Throughout the game complete strangers came together believing in one single thing...that the 49ers should WIN this game. I saw 60 year old men dancing and 3 year old girls waving and cheering. But on Christmas Eve, it was not to be.
As the game wound down, 49ers down by 7, dozens started to make their way down the aisles, back to their cars. The final game of the year would not be one of legend.
Others straggled in the aisles, exchanging Christmas wishes, hugging fellow fans and extending warm handshakes "See you after Christmas" was heard all around me.
I didn't learn much about football on December 24th, 2006, but I learnt a lot about football fans. In a word they are Faithful....faithful to their team, faithful to their sport and most surprisingly.... faithful to one another. It was a good day.