Farewell to Candlestick?
Posted on November 12, 2013
Instagram of the interior of Candlestick Park with fans during the game between the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 10, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
When I bailed on a boring football game Sunday afternoon near the end of the 3rd quarter and made my way out of the nightmare that is the parking lot on Candlestick Point I wondered if I was making my last escape from the “pigsty” by the bay. The San Francisco 49ers were on their way to a disappointing 10-9 loss to the visiting Carolina Panthers. They will be teeing it up next year in a sparkling new palace an hour or so south in Santa Clara. Candlestick Park will be nothing more than a memory.
I don’t shoot much football anymore, but contrary to popular belief I can still make a decent football frame every once in awhile, despite the good-natured kidding I get from my photographer friends on the rare occasion that I show up to shoot a 49er game. “What are YOU doing here?” is the question I get when people see me before a game. This happened over and over this past Sunday when I got a last-minute credential and showed up at The Stick before the ballgame on a bright, sunny day in San Francisco.
The first time I shot a 49er game was way back in November 9, 1986 when my dad’s old college roommate at Pacific and former 49er tight end Clyde Conner got me onto the field when I was a photojournalism student at San Jose State. It was Joe Montana’s first game in action after missing the previous six weeks because of back surgery.
I had no credential, just a business card from Clyde’s buddy and former 49er legend R.C. “Alley Oop” Owens (see below). Owens took me onto the field before the game, pointed me out to a security guard and told him I was OK. No pass. No armband. No vest. Just R.C.’s business card and I was free to shoot the game with my Canon F-1, 300mm 4.0 lens, and a pocket full of Tri-X.
In 1987 I started interning at the Contra Costa Times, and began shooting games on assignment for the paper with real passes and everything! Since then I have shot well over 100 49ers games at The Stick. Since this is the last year they will ever play in the incredible golden light we get there I wanted to make it back for one last game.
The older I get the more I appreciate the historical significance of the the pictures we make as photographers. I knew I had to shoot some basic overalls both inside and outside of the ballpark to have in my archive before they tear the place down. Nobody asked me to shoot these pictures, but it was a self-assignment that was very important to the little boss inside of me.
I used to really enjoy shooting football. Of course we were very spoiled here in the Bay Area being able to shoot great 49er teams with stars like Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young. Over the past 10 years I have become more and more of a baseball guy. I have loved diving deeper and deeper into covering baseball from the first pitch of spring training to the final out of the World Series. I haven’t shot much football lately, and I am sad to say I haven’t really missed it.
Things have changed so much in the NFL since I started covering the league in 1986. It has become so bad that the minute I stepped on the field Sunday afternoon I couldn’t wait to get the Hell out of there. Before the game there were thousands of rich fans on the field watching warmups. The field was so crowded with corporate assholes it was disgusting. I know this is nothing new, but it has become worse and worse. Yuck. Give me batting practice before a big league hardball game any day of the week.
There is still a chance I might go back and shoot one more 49er game this year. If I do I will try and do a better job of shooting historical images of the great ballpark I loved so much as a young fan. Everyone hated Candlestick when I was a kid in 1970’s. It was cold. It was windy. Nobody went to games there. The park sucked. But I loved it. Candlestick was MY ballpark. I even loved the Astroturf they had covering the playing field from 1971 thru 1978. Long live Candlestick Park. NFL football? Not so much.