Afterward, my father tried to console me by telling me I had seen one of the game's greatest players play one of his greatest games -- that what I had won that day was a lifelong memory of having witnessed firsthand an indisputable display of excellence.
Back then, that argument made no sense to me. I just thought I had seen my team beaten by the enemy.
The last time the 49ers played in Kezar (before they moved to Candlestick) was on Jan. 3, 1971, when they faced the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC championship game. By that time, the hippies had long since departed the Haight, and except on game days, the neighborhood had reverted to a relatively quiet place featuring beautiful, old, somewhat run-down Victorian houses.
About that time or not long afterward, McDonald's opened a restaurant at the corner where Haight hit the park. After that, the strongest aroma drifting in the air near Kezar was the smell that rises when frozen burgers are strewn across a griddle.
The 49ers lost that 1971 championship game, and I lost the last chance I had during childhood for my hometown team to win it all.
In the intervening decades, American football fans, the people who populated Kezar in 1967, sometimes seemed to be winning their cultural scrimmage with those who cavorted in the Haight.
That never seemed more the case than in the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan took the White House, and the 49ers took their ultimate revenge on the Dallas Cowboys.
Those who pilgrimaged to the Haight in 1967 had turned away from hard work, individual responsibility, the traditional family and the religious heritage of the West. They had dropped out of the value system that kept America free. Many no doubt eventually turned back to those values, driven by hard experience. Yet some did not -- and many of those became leaders in our public schools and colleges, our entertainment and media elites, and our political class.
In 1989, the old Kezar was dismantled and replaced with a smaller stadium. In 2014, the 49ers will move out of San Francisco completely and resettle in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, an ideological heir to the Haight-Ashbury sits in the White House. But like the Niner fans of the 1960s, I will always believe that no matter how bad things get, so long as we keep the faith, the trophy will someday be ours.
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