These 49er fans go to the head of the class
Ryan Adair and Paul Maldonado won't deny it for a second.
They're football nuts. Or, to be more specific, they're super fans who go to all costs and coats of paint as 49ers faithful who gleefully let their passion go to their heads. The 6-foot-4-inch friends go by "Helmet Heads" for the detailed 49er helmet replicas painted on their shaved heads.
Both sport jersey number 49. They said their 49ers game pants were purchased from the team. The "Helmet Heads" have their own Facebook page and pose for dozens of pictures at games, including with Packers fans Saturday.
"Done this for every home game for two years, no end in sight," said Maldonado, who attended his first 49ers game in 1977 and works for Verizon in Rancho Cordova. "We wanted to make a splash, have fun, show our loyalty. At first it was going to be just me with the paint, but Ryan said, 'Dude, I've gotta do this, too.' "
It takes four hours to apply the art airbrushed for rain games at $300 a head. Judi Peterson does the work at Sacramento-based All Party Art.
"Well worth the cost, I'm telling you," said Adair, a Sacramento contractor.
The Candlestick Park parking lot was a sea of tailgaters, heavy on 49ers red with flecks of Green Bay green, amid plumes of grayish barbecue smoke hovering above the throng.
In one group setting, fans from Chico chatted it up with those from Turlock. Both camps were pulling for their quarterback Chico for favorite son Aaron Rodgers and Turlock for Colin Kaepernick, a local high school legend.
"In the spirit of good sportsmanship, we're all on our best behavior," cracked Chico's Nancy Pickett, handing out eats to her new 49ers friends.
Said Ryan Crosby of Turlock, "It's cool now, but if we lose, I'm taking their Packers flag down."
Pickin' and grinnin'
Shortly after Huey Lewis and the News performed the national anthem (with fan Jim Harbaugh soaking it in nearby), another familiar tune played in the stands. Gray-bearded Stacy Samuels has trucked through Candlestick for 30 seasons, plucking "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on his banjo, his hat's propeller spinning and 49ers cape dancing in the breeze.
Saturday marked his 24th home playoff game. Samuels has worked 239 consecutive regular-season home games. He used to play in the parking lot in hopes of a ticket or a sandwich. The 49ers in recent years have granted him a pass. Samuels, 62, said he's been a 49ers fan "since the days of Y.A. Tittle."
Dollars and sense
The 49ers team store was buzzing with business.
Fans snatched up the sartorial counterpunch to the Packers' famed cheesehead hat, a foam gold nugget at $35 a pop. Joe Montana retro jerseys went for $200. They were stocked next to the Alex Smith retros that went for $140. There were no Kaepernick retros to be found.
"I'm getting a Montana jersey, though I know my wife will punch me when she sees this on the Visa charge," said Mike Finley of San Jose.
"Can you keep a secret?"
Al Lewis, a self-described behind-the-scenes grunt for NFL Films, fielded David Akers' pregame field-goal attempts that sailed through the uprights. Lewis is not a 49ers fan, just a man who appreciates working a game this time of year where you don't see your breath an hour before kickoff and need to dress in seven layers.
"For an outdoor game, you can't beat this," he said. "What was it? About 17 degrees at kickoff for the Denver game. You don't field practice kicks in that weather."