"The Stick" - A Lifelong Niner Fan Takes a Moment to Look Back

"The naked bootleg" (photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Josh Hunsucker (@JPhunsucker)

Today is more likely than not the last 49ers game at Candlestick Park (although Seattle and New Orleans losses next week and a backdoor number one seed would be nice). For the past week, it seems as though everyone is providing their memories of the reinforced concrete, wind vortex, traffic deathtrap, bog of a stadium the 49ers (and Giants) played inside of before concussions “existed.” The 49ers did a nice job of listing the Top 10 Candlestick moments and countless other pundits have recapped The Catch, T.O.’s TD catch against Green Bay (I refuse to call it Catch II), and the Vernon Post.

In some ways what I am writing is no different, even though as you will see it is clearly not the same. I was barely alive for The Catch, I still lived in Texas/Oklahoma during Steve Young’s scramble against the Vikes, and I never witnessed anything at Candlestick Park live (football-wise) until after Y2K didn't happen. So if you were expecting some “classic” moments you probably won't get them here unless you love Kurt Manwaring and Jeff Garcia.

The first time I remember being at Candlestick was to watch the Giants final home game in 1993 with my buddy JB and the TJB Cat. For those who don’t remember they had a murders row that year: Bonds (his first year in the Bay), Matt Williams, Willie McGeee, and Will “The Thrill” Clark. The final home game at Candlestick that year came before a crucial four game series in L.A. that would determine the Giants' playoff lives. During the September pennant race the Giants were in a dead heat with the Atlanta Braves. The Giants PA announcer kept giving in-game updates on the Braves game and we were constantly watching the scoreboard to see if the Art Howe led Astros could upset 20-game winner Tommy Glavine. That day, Salomon Torres lasted 2 and 2/3s, gave up two bombs, and left the Giants fans biting their nails in vain as the Braves got the win. The Giants went on to lose 12-1 to the Dodgers on the last game of the season, sealing their fate as the best team of all-time to miss the playoffs (103 wins).

In 2000, I went to my first Niners game at Candlestick. Miramonte High School booster, Orinda legend, and namesake of the Stockholm Store, Jim Stockhom, took me and another player from the football team to the game. That day marked the first and only time I would ever be put in a position that would have violated NCAA regulations, which was awesome in its own right. The Niners, sitting at 2-8 and slogging through a dismal season, met the Chiefs and the most under-utilized Golden Bear in history, Tony Gonzales. It was a 1:05 kickoff, sunny skies, no wind. As we got to our seats at the end of warm-ups and the stadium was buzzing. My eyes immediately locked into Flash-80 and fixed on him as he seemingly floated across the field catching easy- ups. The game itself was ugly. I remember T.O. only having one catch for maybe five or six yards. Jerry didn’t do much either. But El Jefe found a way and Chalie Garner chipped in 100-yards for a Niners 21-7 win.


When you are dating someone, very rarely do you get put into the position where the signs are so clear that you couldn’t miss them. In the infancy of my wife and I’s dating circa 2003, she called me up over the winter break and asked if I wanted to go to the final Niners home game that season against Seattle. The only catch was that I had to double- back from Orinda to Stockton to pick her up. Maybe this is different from some people but in my experience I don’t usually get offered Niners tickets out of the blue from girls that I was kind of dating. Bold move on her part. Although the game wasn’t great, we lost 24-17 and failed to salvage an 8-8 season, I had checked off the "likes and knows football box" for my future game day viewing partner.

I’m going to combo my last two “bonus” moments. Full disclosure, I wasn’t at either of these two events. The 2011-12 season was my favorite season since the 1994-5 Super Bowl year. I loved that team. I had just moved back to California after being gone for almost seven years and the Niners had this upstart coach and low expectations. Somehow, they kept winning these close games that they had always managed to lose during the previous 10-years.

The fourth quarter of the Saints game was one of the most emotionally draining sporting events of my life. Two heavyweights landing haymaker after haymaker with the other refusing to go down. The Alex Smith bootleg run may have been the happiest I have ever been for a Niner only to be spoiled by Darren Sproles crazy catch and run. Any Faithful watching that game is lying if they said that the Niners should have gone for the win on their next drive. I kept yelling at the TV “all we need is a field goal.” Frank chips away a few yards, then Vernon gets loose for almost fifty. The next two plays Frank for six yards and a Smith spike reeked of the classic NFL conservative play calling. Then it happened. Alex Smith dropped back and fired a laser to VD. Great catch, great throw. The Stick is going absolutely nuts at this point, I’m throwing my 1 1/2 year-old son in the air probably doing some irreparable harm to his body. Pandemonium, bedlam, joy, tears, and the feeling like football is finally back.

The next week, after Kyle Williams fumbled the punt(s) and the Giants kicked the game winning field goal (the second punt in OT never bothered me, great play by the Giants, but the first punt hitting his leg was inexcusable) I wasn’t distraught like I usually would be after a huge loss like that. We were back, a new era of Niner football.

And that is where we are now. While Candlestick will always have fond memories it’s time to move on. Tonight at the Stick will be a great send off for the team and the Faithful. Besides, wouldn't it be better to raise banner number six on opening day at Levi’s Stadium? Here's to "The Stick", and all that it's given us over the years.

Section 925 Podcast Episode 30 - A's Pennant Race, Niner Preseason

(Photo courtesy of the @TheBro49)

Connor brings founding father Josh "The Rogue" Hunsucker (@JPHunsucker) on the pod to talk shop on the A's and Niners. The two discuss the A's season up to this point and look at the upcoming American League pennant race. Josh also provides 49er Faithful with an in-depth report from training camp down in Santa Clara.

Listen Here: http://section925blog.podomatic.com/entry/2013-08-12T23_28_58-07_00

Section 925 Podcast Episode 14

"Owens, Owens, Owens" - Joe Starkey Click to listen... Section 925 Podcast Episode 14

Connor brings Kevin (@kpluswax) back for his second go-round on the pod to preview the Niner-Packer playoff match-up at the 'Stick. St. Mary's pending road game at Gonzaga is also discussed, not to mention an update on Kevin's New York Knicks. Other personalities mentioned include Omar "Broadway O" Samhan, David Lee, Greg Popovich, Chuck Klosterman, Patty Mills, Amare Stoudemire, Aaron Rodgers and Bob Rosenblum.

Section 925 Podcast Episode 13

JR Smith is not above biking around Gotham in the middle of the night with strangers he met on twitter. (PacificCoastNews.com) Click to listen... Section 925 Podcast Episode 13

Long time listener, first time caller Kevin (@kpluswax) hops on the Bianca's Fresh Take hotline from his digs in NYC. The 925 native dishes and swishes on his two favorite teams, the Knicks and the Niners. Weeks also delves into an array of topics including Jets and Giants, Boobie Dixon, Sonny Dykes, Jeremey Lin, David Lee, Rasheed Wallace, JR Smith and a whole lot more.

"New Morning" - Week 4

http://nfl49ers.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/gore-ir.jpg?w=417&h=290 Frank Gore looks to be an inconvenient truth for the Jets this Sunday.

By: Josh Hunsucker @jphunsucker

In case you were wondering, you can't just show up in another team's stadium and decide you are going to win without giving them a vote. Last week the Niners slept walked through four straight quarters of football and looked generally like zombies. The defense made Christian Ponder look like Madden '04 Vick.

The offense couldn't get any time of possession going, Frank Gore only touched the ball 12 times even though he averaged 5.3 YPC, and the game pretty much sucked the life out of me (the drive out of Tahoe that afternoon did not help either).

Here's the GOOD NEWS. The Niners are still the prohibitive favorite in the NFC West (despite the feisty Nards). The Niners are facing a Darrelle Revis-less Jets. Mark Sanchez is less than scary. Jesus Tebow barely gets on the field. Bart Scott is fighting reporters. The Niners had their 2.0 version of the bonding road trip to Youngstown, Ohio that was a catalyst for their success last year. So life is still good. The loss in Minny passed away quickly, and losses like that always do when the Niners are playing well.

Is there room for legitimate concern? SURE (the Vikings may be kind of good though but yes there is). Am I scared that we still haven't improved on offense since last year even though we seemingly upgraded? I will say that Mike Crabtree is finally making me smile each game. He is finally living up to my t-shirt jersey purchase, making tough catches, running hard, and generally being a man. Don't think that the change to the Jerry Rice facemask had nothing to do with it.

Did it make me sick to my stomach that a shifty guy like Percy Harvin (similar to Santonio Holmes) had a huge game against us (yes us), and was generally uncoverable? Yes, yes it did.

More good news, Mark Sanchez is considerably less mobile than Ponder and Shon Green is considerably less Adrian Peterson-y than Adrian Peterson.

If I can offer any hard hitting advice for Niners fans this week, don't under estimate the power of Jets' wideout coach Sanjay Lal, the great Miramonte WR coach of yesteryear. The Jets will be ready this Sunday and will be ready to prove that they are not the worst 2-1 team in the league.

The Niners NEED to get something cooking on offense. I'd like to see a steady dose of Frank "The Inconvenient Truth" Gore and some nice play action, which stretches the field. All of which opens up the field for our best player, VD. How is the media not talking about him in the same breath as Gronk and Jimmy Graham? Bewildering?!?!

The early start time SHOULDN'T have an adverse effect on the Niners this week. I have to believe Jim Harbaugh addressed the lack luster performance in Minny and motivated the team to forget the past and look at the Jets game as a New Morning. In classic Neo-Niner fashion, it won't be pretty but it will be a W.

Niners 23-20 and the season will again seem as bright as a New Morning.

“Series of Dreams” – A 49er Faithful’s 2012 Preview

By Josh Hunsucker (@jphunsucker)

*Author’s Note: In a former blogging life I wrote a weekly 49er post called “The Displaced Faithful” (I lived in Kansas) with my good buddy and Connecticut’s #1 Niners Fan, “Huss”. Last year, as I boarded up my blog for law school, I consolidated my posts into an intimate email to my homeboys. Well, with the advent of Section925.com, I guess my weekly Niner posts are back and open for public consumption. Just know the titles will generally be musically thematic (if not all Dylan) and the analysis will be inspired, or at least completely biased and homerific-logic if you can suspend reality and not think too much about it. Gracias, enjoy, and Go Niners!

If any Niners fan considers last year as anything but an amazing and sublime journey that went down in a hail of gunfire, yet everyone at the funeral was glad that the person lived that long, then you weren’t a FAITHFUL from 2002-2010. For the new bandwagon fans please click this (Faithful please do not click this) and then do the math (no disrespect to the great Brian Jennings) of why we were not in the playoffs. So yeah, while losing at home on the NFC Championship Game because of one bone-head special teams play by the 49ers and one great special teams play by the Giants was a bummer, I will take heartbreak any day over being in a numb, heartless, failing relationship (plus we got this and this and that’s ok with me).

Looking forward to this season I was trying to think about how I would break down our (yes our) chances this year. As I kept thinking, I was never thinking of anything specific that I could focus on to say “X" is why we will be good. We have all 11 defensive starters back, Alex Smith does not have a new offense to learn, we added offensive weapons at the wide-out position, we have Jim Harbaugh, we have depth at running back, Aldon Smith is going to play on downs not named third, his brother Justin is a man of men, Boobie Dixon made the roster… the list goes on. On paper there is nothing too very scientific as to why the Niners are going to be good. When you’re constantly thinking about the 49ers, like I do, they are just a dog gone good team.

Even though the schedule, compared to last year, seemingly is a hand of cards that is no good to be holding (Green Bay, Jets, Saints, and Pats on the road and no crappy third place teams like last year), the strength of schedule is, by definition, ranked a lowly 26th (if you buy into that, I don’t really but sort of). The other thing is that the 49ers are road tested from last year, so a split on the road this year for those games is not bad. For the record, I’d put my money on losses at GB and NO and wins at NY and NE. I am still rattled by the Saints fans at the Superdome when I witnessed, first-hand, 72,000 people rooting against the great UC Davis graduate, JT O’Sullivan.

I know what the critics are saying. Similarly, I don’t think that the Niners will win 13 games this season because 1) we are not sneaking up on anyone and will get everyone’s best shot, 2) our schedule has the aforementioned “four BIG road games,” plus the Lions, Bears, and Giants (oh my…sorry I hate myself for that), improved Dolphins and Bills, and the always tough game in Seattle, and 3) nothing really bad happened last year so Murphy’s Law says it will happen this year via injury (knock on wood), Seattle being super good, or something screwy happening. Having said that, The NFC West still has the Nards and the Lambs and 10 or 11 games will get the job done.

I know that I’m not making any great connections about why the Niners are going to be successful this year. And unlike the years past I am not falling for some intricate scheme or a theory that wouldn’t pass inspection. On my internal confidence barometer it seems like the path the Niners have been hurled by Coach Harbaugh is the right one. Now, I’m not going to any great extremes, like Super Bowl or bust. BUT, 10,000 Elvises and 1 Boobie Dixon can’t be wrong. Sometimes it’s inexplicable, sometimes it’s ugly, but the Niners are a tough team that get it done and there is nothing that would make me think that is going to change going into the fall of 2012.

As us Faithful walk out of the darkness of the off-season and into the weekly shadows of doubt, I’m not going to go into any great trouble over whether the 49ers will make the playoffs this year. After thinking about the Niners' future this off-season, I believe it is whatever it seems. There is nothing too heavy to burst the bubble of them making the playoffs, and once they get there, who knows... I’m just thinking of a series of dreams.