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A football first

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Sam Matthews at Levi's Stadium

The "gang" in Section 25, Row 110 at Saturday's 49ers-Rams game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. Left to right: son-in-law Dan, grandpa Sam, daughter Laurie and granddaughters Carolina and Jackie.

Last week, I took a backward glance at what is considered by many football historians as the Oakland Raiders’ best game of their 53 years playing in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

It was the end of an era, the last Raiders game in the Coliseum before the move to Las Vegas next season.

This week, what else is new on the football scene?

Well, how about a “first” this time — the first 49ers game I’ve watched in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Despite the differences and nearly a half-century between the two games, there were several similarities:

First off, both games were played on Dec. 21 — 45 years apart — 1974 and 2019.

And secondly, my attendance at last Saturday evening’s game at Levi’s Stadium was again the result of a free ticket — this time a Christmas gift from daughter Laurie and son-in-law Dan.

And, of course, the ending had a familiar ring. The home team (this time, the Niners) won the game in the closing seconds.

As the 49ers “faithful” know full well, the Niners prevailed 34-31, on a last-second field goal by Robbie Gould. Not nearly as exciting as Clarence Davis’s touchdown grab of Ken Stabler’s lobbed pass in the Coliseum’s northern end zone nearly a half-century earlier,

But the pass play that set up Gould’s 33-yarder was close enough; it was the exciting part of the modern-day winning saga.

With the clock running out, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had a lousy game (suffering six sacks) up to that point, tossed a 46-yarder right down the middle to wideout Emmanuel Sanders to move the ball to well within Gould’s range.

And I was fortunate to see the play unfold. Nearly everyone in the stadium was standing, including us in Row 25 in the northeast corner of the first level.

During most of the game, though, the three tall guys seated in front of us were among the first to stand on many plays and the last to sit down. Sitting in their seats was something they didn’t do a lot of, especially in the first half.

Fortunately in the second half, after a couple of additional Bud Lights were consumed, the beer and fatigue must have combined to keep them sitting longer than standing.

I knew that standing fans in front of you was an expected part of attending a professional football game, but it’s still a pain.

Arriving at the stadium area of Santa Clara, we parked in a Blue lot, which turned out to be unpaved gravel. But it was included in the ticket prices. The best part was the shuttle-bus service to the stadium. Otherwise, it would have been a long walk.

Once we arrived at the stadium, we used an elevator to reach the wide concourse where the food and drink booths were mobbed as game time neared. We made it to our seats in the 25th row just in time to see the opening kickoff.

After the game ended, we started retracing our steps en route to the parking area next to the stadium where the shuttle buses were parked. As I walked along using my cane, a guy tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I wanted a ride. He turned out to be an usher in a cart charged with helping those needing assistance. It was an unexpected, but welcome, part of the Levi’s Stadium experience.

Of course, there’s no chance to catch another football game at Oakland-Alameda Stadium, but returning to Levi’s Stadium to see another Niners game is a very real possibility. Now if I can only come up with another gift ticket for next year’s Dec. 21 game….

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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