The Seattle Seahawks have one of the most inauspicious, generic histories of any team in the NFL. In 37 seasons, the franchise has exactly one Super Bowl appearance (a loss), two conference championship game appearances and a grand total of two Hall of Famers who spent the majority of their career in Seattle in Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy.
And yet, their fans are arguably the loudest, most rabid fans in the entire NFL. They've had little to cheer for and yet they go absolutely bonkers eight games a year and nine times every once in a while.
At the same time, the San Francisco 49ers, in the same time span, have been to five Super Bowls (victorious in all five), 11 conference championship games and have sent 10 players to the Hall of Fame since 1976. They have 16 division championships since 1976 while Seattle has seven.
The Bay Area is known for its great fanbases in general. Warriors fans are arguably one of the best and loudest groups in the NBA and the only fans better than them have actually had something to root for. Likewise with San Jose Sharks fans, especially considering that there isn't a frozen pond within 100 miles of their arena. Oakland A's and Raiders fans don't support their teams in very large numbers, but the fans that do support them do so with the best of them. And is there a better atmosphere in professional baseball than at San Francisco's AT&T Park?
At the same time, Seattle does not have a reputation for fan loyalty and fervor to anywhere near the same extent. They lost the SuperSonics and the Mariners were a pathetic franchise up until their last few years in the old Kingdome. They have since reverted back to apathy and a half-filled Safeco Field.
But there is no denying that the Seattle Seahawks' fanbase, at least the portion of it that goes ballistic in CenturyLink Field, is far superior to the 49ers' fanbase. Why? Or, more importantly, how can San Francisco fans elevate their status beyond the brie-and-cheese crowd that only seems to dial it up a notch or three during playoff games?
With the 49ers moving into a new stadium in 2014, a slightly new breed of fans will very likely fill the stadium. Gone will be the thuggish, alcoholic element that populates a good portion of Candlestick Park. In its place will be a more upscale, corporate element that isn't priced into oblivion by the massive PSL fees the franchise is charging season-ticket holders just for the right to purchase drastically-increased tickets each year. Chances are that the new breed won't outnumber the old, diehard faithful, but they won't be any louder either.
I don't get a chance to go to many games in person anymore, but I was at the last home game and I was absolutely appalled at the contrived, hokey cheer the fans engaged in after every first down. The scoreboard would flash "ahh-ooooo" on the board and the fans, like good little lemmings, would follow suit. I've been to my fair share of games over the years, and until this season, I have never seen a sign on the scoreboard urging the fans to be "quiet please, offense at work" on fourth-down attempts by the 49ers. Do we really need to be told to hush up? I hope not.
It's as if the 49ers front office or director of stadium affairs or whoever the hell is in charge of these pathetic attempts thinks it's our first football game. There isn't a fanbase in the NFL that has seen more big-time games and players on its home field in the last 35 years, and the half-hearted, overly-forced attempts to create some bastardized tradition are a complete insult.
Except that the fans aren't really that into it compared to their hated rivals up in Seattle. As a result, the media wizards in the front office can't be blamed all that much for their hokeyness. What's next? A picture of Ric Flair on the board after every big hit, followed by the obligatory "Woooooooooo!" Heck, that wouldn't even be that bad, really.
So what can be done to create a group of fans in the stadium, in the postseason and the regular season, befitting of this franchise's proud, storied history? I don't know, but it can start with the fans going completely bonkers this Saturday when NorCal native Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into picturesque Candlestick Park.
Is it too much to ask for a deafening sea of alizarin crimson so hostile that the Green Bay players are too uncomfortable and scared to sit on the bench near the stands on the east side of the stadium? Would it kill anyone to bring some cowbells or some drums or some air horns or a bandolera of firecrackers? How about throwing blocks of cheese at the Packers bench? Or the next time Seattle comes into the stadium, how about throwing a dead seagull or two at the visitors' bench?
If that's too much to ask, I and every other fan not fortunate enough to attend the game this Saturday will settle for a stadium so loud and ear-splitting that it can be seen shaking even from our views through the Fox TV cameras.
And more importantly, it would be nice to see that sort of rabid enthusiasm carry over into next year's regular-season games and into the new stadium as well. The Santa Clara stadium doesn't have the artificial advantage that the Seattle stadium's more enclosed architecture creates, so fans attending the game will need to make up for this with a more crazed, feverish attitude. It's the least fans could do to repay this glorious franchise for all the memories.
I've seen and heard the fans turn into wild beasts with the decibel level of a Led Zeppelin concert at old Kezar Stadium (MNF against the Steelers last year; Saints playoff game last year; all eight NFC Championship Games played in gorgeous Candlestick Park), so there is no reason why this can't be the case for every game, not just the big ones.