Kezar was at the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park, adjacent to the Haight-Ashbury District. In 1967, there was probably no greater side-by-side contrast of the diverging trends in American culture than between the people inside that stadium, watching a game played on grass, and the people outside the stadium, smoking grass.
At the age of 9, I followed pro football -- that is, the fate of the 49ers -- with passionate intensity. I did not care about the extraordinarily odd and presumably transient people on the other side of the stadium wall. I assumed the only way they could have a long-term impact on my world was if, say, one of them, driving stoned, ran me over in his Volkswagen bus.
My father and I in those days followed a rigorous yet gleeful schedule on fall Sundays. We woke early, attended 6:30 a.m. Mass, and got home in time to watch Lindsey Nelson's taped highlights of that week's Notre Dame game. Later, we all climbed into two cars -- my father's T-Bird and my mother's station wagon -- and caravanned to St. Mary's Hospital, where my father was the chief pathologist, and where we could park on game days.
Kezar was only five blocks from St. Mary's. But, in 1967, those were among the most bizarre blocks in America. This was where Haight Street terminated at the eastern edge of the park.
As we walked those blocks, carrying our picnic lunch to the stadium, we caught occasional and unfortunate views into nearby meadows, where the then-current denizens of the Haight, fully outfitted or less-than-fully-outfitted in their most colorful attire, took their daytime recreation.
My mother would avert and roll her eyes, hoping her children did the same. My father would puff on his Dunhill Maduro, breath out tobacco smoke, and occasionally emit sardonic observations about the more exotic aromas and human beings drifting out of the parklands.
But when we got to Kezar on those Sundays in 1967, the people gathering there were no different than they had been in 1963, or '64, or '65, or '66. They were football fans -- Americans who had worked hard all week, paid their own money for tickets, gone to church that morning and were ready to see the 49ers beat somebody.
In those days, that was an iffy proposition.
The Niners went 7-7 in 1967. One of their last home games that season was against the Chicago Bears, who beat them 28-14. The record books show that Gale Sayers scored three touchdowns that day, including one on a 97-yard kickoff return and another on a 58-yard punt return.
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