My daughter just turned 16. I’m pretty sure she really wanted one of those glitzy sweet 16 parties, but things being what they are, she ended up deciding to take two friends on a weekend trip to San Francisco. It sounded good to us.
She had the whole thing planned out. We’d leave Friday morning and go to an amusement park. The next day there would be shopping and lunch in the city. But the highlight of the whole weekend was a preseason football game on Saturday evening. The San Francisco 49ers vs. the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park. For these teenagers, it sounded like a day they’d never forget. It did turn out to be an unforgettable day.
Kickoff was at 5 p.m. I hoped to be at the stadium by about 4 p.m., but it’s hard to rush shopping with three 16-year-old girls. By the time we got to the ’Stick, it was a little after 5 p.m. Eventually, we found a place to park in a dirt parking lot that seemed to go on forever. Thousands of people were there. The amount of alcohol being consumed was unbelievable.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no teetotaler. I can understand having some beer before going into the stadium. After all, beers inside cost $10 or more. Still, this was a situation that seemed like it could easily get out of control. It was like a frat party on steroids.
I never saw any security people in the parking lot. The laws against open alcohol containers and public intoxication couldn’t be enforced because no one was there to enforce them. It was mob rule. And the mob was getting very drunk.
This surprised me because we were in San Francisco, one of the most sophisticated and forward-thinking cities on the planet. It’s an area that’s always been on the cutting edge of technology, political correctness and all things considered hip. But today it seemed as though the Neanderthals had taken over.
The sheer volume of empty beer bottles, cans and trash thrown everywhere was appalling. When people finished their beverage, they simply dropped the containers and moved on. The bottles and cans were piled six deep on the sides of the stairs leading to the entrance. In a community that practically invented the “green” movement, I didn’t see any recycling containers or even any trash cans.
Most people were courteous. But there were many loudmouths who seemed to be feeding off one another. It was only a matter of time before something bad happened.
According to ESPN, attendance at the game was 69,732. Figuring conservatively (allowing five patrons per car), that’s nearly 14,000 vehicles. With parking at $30 per vehicle, that’s at least $420,000 collected in parking fees. One would think they could have afforded to hire security.
Once inside, it was fun to watch the game. But fights kept breaking out in the stands, and that made following the game a little difficult. Some of the fights appeared to be started by women. One woman was so drunk, she fell down as she took a swing. Eventually four cops hauled her away in handcuffs. She was too wasted to walk on her own.
As we were leaving after the game, we heard gunshots. Someone was shooting off fireworks in the parking lot, so most assumed that’s what it was.
In fact, two men were shot in the parking lot.
Another man was severely beaten in a bathroom.
It would be easy to blame one team’s fans over the other’s, but in reality, both sides demonstrated equally irresponsible behavior.
The 49ers have announced they’ll implement new rules for tailgating and season-ticket holders who sell their tickets to troublemakers. Police have promised DUI checkpoints and stepped-up enforcement of laws against open alcohol containers around Candlestick.
I’m sure the three men who ended up in the hospital wish the authorities would have implemented those measures sooner.
Kristi Marinelly is a marketing designer at The Tribune.