Gold To Lead: Violence Mars SF-Raiders Game

There's a tradition for the Bay Area's two NFL teams to play one another during the pre-season (they meet up occasionally during the regular season). Usually this involves a lot of trash talking and good-natured ribbing, especially if you wear a Raiders jersey to Candlestick. But, this year's rivalry game was a little more...intense.

San Francisco police were seeking witnesses Sunday to the shooting of two men and the severe beating of a third in a restroom at Candlestick Park, as city and league officials condemned a rash of attacks and brawls that marred the annual preseason football game between the Raiders and 49ers.

The most severely injured victims from Saturday night - a 24-year-old wearing an anti-49ers T-shirt who was shot, and a 26-year-old who was beaten - were listed in serious condition at San Francisco General Hospital, suggesting they would survive.

Meanwhile, video footage of fights between fans at the stadium popped up on YouTube, showing a chaotic and dangerous scene at an event that drew tens of thousands of fans.

Memo to excitable football hooligans: it's a pre-season game!!! At this point, you're not even seeing the starters any more. Are you really going to go to jail over that?

More seriously this looks like a real watershed event for the 49'ers. Maybe the Raiders have the rep as a bad boy team, but all of this happened at Candlestick, with Raiders fans apparently bearing the brunt of the attacks. I heard on the radio this morning (so it *must* be true) that the the NFL stadium with the most arrests last year was (drumroll) Candlestick. Clearly we are a long way from the days when 49'ers fans were derided as brie-eating wine sippers. After the Giants won the World Series last year, I wrote that this had marked the moment when San Francisco officially went from being a football town to being a baseball town. Now, it's even worse. Now, it's gotten to the point where a lot of regular people - folks who have been 49'ers fans for decades - won't even go to games any more.

Like a lot of people I haven't been to Candlestick in years (maybe not since the late-1990's), but word on the street has been that it has become more and more unpleasant with each passing year. We're talking a drunken scene in the parking lot, boorish fans in the stands, and lots of fighting. Not surprisingly the 49'ers descent has tracked its ownership troubles. Before Eddie DeBartelo was pushed out when he got mixed up in a gambling/corruption case in Louisiana, he at least was able to field a winning team, and ran a classy operation. No more. The Yorks have demonstrated once and for all that their frank disinterest in the team (they still live in Ohio, for pete's sake!) has caused it to fester and fall apart. And that's not to mention the team's persistent losing ways.

Also, everyone's dancing around this, but there was apparently a heavy gang presence at Candlestick on Saturday night. ESPN is reporting that many of the fights arose from tension between ... get this...Nortenos and Surenos gang members. Random acts of dumb violence in public - it's another job that Americans won't do!

The obvious solution is to increase security at the games, both with the police and private security guards. But, that's only the beginning. Football games, especially those involving mediocre teams, are often little more than elaborate beer delivery systems. That has to be cut off at some point. But the 49'ers have to deal with the fact that at least some of their fans are become more trouble than they are worth.

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