We all remember our very first Niners game. Maybe it was at home. Maybe it was on the road. Maybe it was raining all game and left you wet as a dog; maybe it was clear as can be and felt like a truly Californian experience. Perhaps you were on the 50-yard-line a few rows up, screaming with joy at George Kittle after he just made an incredible catch, or you were just doing your best to annoy all of the opposing fans around you up in the nosebleeds. The circumstances of that first experience don’t matter. We all remember it with such excruciating detail. I’ll go first.
I went to a 49ers-Raiders game at Candlestick with my mom, dad, and sister. I couldn’t have been more than six-years-old at the time. I really don’t remember much – other than Raiders fans being trashy and throwing things at the 49ers who were beating them. But I do remember 13 years later at a new venue, in a new town, what it was like to watch my favorite team with my own two eyes.
I was 19-years-old and a sophomore at the University of Georgia. For those who don’t know, I was born in Redwood City, moved from the Bay Area after pre-school, lived in Atascadero Kindergarten-8th grade, then moved to Ventura County, where I went to high school. I now live in Florida, but that’s a story for a different time.
Back to the 49ers game. It was a chilly December day in the Bay Area, and the Niners were hosting the Chargers. I had been to the practice facility behind Levi’s Stadium and driven by, but never inside the hallowed gates.
I don’t think my eyes have ever been wider than when I took in every detail of Levi’s, sitting shoulder to shoulder with fellow Faithful. The Niners would go on to lose by three, 38-35, but I certainly didn’t care. I’d been a Niner fan my whole life, but that connection to the team felt even deeper. It would be the memories I shared with my dad that would last longer than any recollection of plays on the field.
The 2021 season was no different for fans who went to their first-ever 49ers game. I talked to a few who shared their experiences with me.
Let’s start with Jose Briseño of Ukiah, California. Briseño and his brother wanted to do something special for their dad on his birthday. That turned into getting tickets to the Vikings game in November, just after Thanksgiving.
It was both his and his brother’s first game, and he said getting to share the moment with their dad made the experience even more meaningful: “It was such a blessing to see my 49ers in person with all of the fan interactions and meeting everyone,” said Briseño. “I really didn’t know how to act until the game started to get going.”
Briseño and other Faithful around him flew their Niners flags and cheered until their lungs hurt.
“[I met] a player that helped make a childhood dream of meeting a real NFL player come true,” said Briseño, who posed for a photo with Talanoa Hufanga before the game. “It’ll go down as one of the best days of my life. Forever a memory that I’ll cherish.”
My first ever football game I attended with my father plus at the same time got to meet this cool guy who scooped up the blocked punt in Lambeau for a TD pic.twitter.com/WIW7uNG8CP— Jose (@jose_briseno620) February 3, 2022
How about Scott Johnson, who made the trek from Johnston, Iowa to Lambeau Field on a freezing winter day. But this trip was a unique one. Johnson bought tickets to the Niners-Green Bay game before the Niners had even beat the Cowboys, hoping that San Francisco would live to see another round of the playoffs. This elaborate plan was inspired by his dad, a lifelong Niners fan who grew up in the Bay Area listening to games on the radio.
Johnson never lived in the Bay Area himself but adopted his love for the Niners, and it was quite the journey to get himself and his dad to Green Bay. Johnson left his home near Des Moines, drove east to Cedar Rapids to pick up his dad, and then drove another five hours to the frigid north. But they were prepared.
“Being from the Midwest, we already had what we needed to stay warm,” said Johnson. “It’s a historic stadium, the Green Bay fans were mostly great, the snow starting at halftime was amazing.”
Going to my first game with my dad who is a lifelong fan pic.twitter.com/nwT4CmkpYe— Scott Johnson (@scottcj262) February 3, 2022
But something else was the cherry on top.
“By far, the best part was the 49ers winning, of course,” said Johnson. No kidding. That’s enough to keep you warm at night.
“The scene with the 49ers fans after the win was so much fun, and we met so many people from so many places,” said Johnson. Those included a man from his dad’s hometown and a couple who had driven nonstop from Mississippi to catch the game.
These are just two of the hundreds of fans who likely experienced their first Niners game. You never forget your first, and we sure as hell won’t forget this season.
Here’s to another season of firsts, and hopefully – a sixth ring in about a year’s time.