Text by Joe Eskenazi. Gorgeous photos by Jim Herd.
In the many months between when we first reported the inception of the San Francisco-based United Football League up to the moment we wandered into a largely abandoned AT&T Park for the Saturday night home debut of the California Redwoods, we never did figure out the league's "mission statement." The UFL, it reads, "was developed to fulfill the unmet needs of football fans in major markets currently underserved by professional football."
Within a speedy 15-minute drive of AT&T Park sits not one but two professional football stadiums -- and large portions of Saturday's crowd came outfitted in the gear of both professional squads. And yet, you can't shrug off the unforeseen benefits of locating a team in San Francisco. Within moments of the Redwoods' historic opening kickoff, a pair of breathtakingly gorgeous young women loudly and abruptly ended their romantic relationship an arm's length from your humble narrator; one lithely sprinted up the aisle to parts unknown, her mascara running awkwardly down her cheeks. The other gritted her teeth, sunk low into her green plastic chair, and forlornly began to bang out text messages.
Show me another football venue in the nation that can provide that
We're going to go fairly lightly on the game details of Saturday's contest in this article: If you cared to know, you'd have probably been there. God knows there was room for you, and this was not a hard ticket to obtain. Half an hour prior to the game scalpers were offering us the best seats in the house for 15 bucks -- 10 dollars below face value.
Before we go any further, let me make something clear: While the Redwoods' 24-7 win over the visiting New York Sentinels was decidedly not a great exhibition of football, it was also most definitely not bad. On the whole, the fans I chatted with throughout the game felt they were getting a decent return for their $10 or $15 tickets. Folks did seem to be enjoying themselves -- some in ways unintended by AT&T Park's management (and we'll get to that).
That being said, the unavoidable takeaway for anyone who did deign to attend this game was that he or she was in an exclusive club. UFL officials told me with straight faces that they distributed 11,438 tickets for this contest and 6,341 fans entered the stadium. Never mind the fact that team owner Paul Pelosi told me prior to the season that his economic projections were based on 20,000 people showing up for every game
: League officials' claims that one out of every seven seats in the stadium was occupied were akin to Groucho Marx querying "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?"