Patti Ihli said she was careful not to set her hopes too high.
Most of the 30 years she’s devoted to the San Francisco 49ers were spent waiting for Sunday. And when it finally arrived, she said she was supportive, but cautious.
“It did take a lot of work to get this far,” she said, sitting surrounded mostly by fellow fans at Downtown Joe’s on Sunday evening. “You’ve got to be supportive, but I don’t want to get let down.”
By the start of the third quarter, many of the San Francisco fans there were visibly down, but said they were holding out hope their team could turn the game around and pull out a victory.
“You want your team to win,” Ashley Cox said as she watched the game with friends at the bar. “It’s personal this year, it’s close to your heart. They’re going to win. I know they will. You can’t give up.”
Within moments, the team scored two touchdowns, closing in on the Baltimore Ravens, who led throughout the game. The bar erupted in screams, followed quickly by a loud and ongoing chant, “It’s not over!”
“We were going to watch it at home, but we wanted to be around a bunch of people,” Cox said. “It’s such a good atmosphere here.”
Throughout the game and during the post-halftime power outage that put the game on hold, bartenders offered up trivia questions and prizes, and kept the crowd entertained.
One group of Ravens fans, visiting Napa from Maryland with the Red Hat Society, broke up the sea of red and gold at the brewpub. The five women, dressed head-to-toe in purple, black and gold, said though they were rooting for a team most in the room hated Sunday, everyone in Napa treated them well and showed them a good time for Super Bowl XLVII.
At one of the countless home parties throughout the valley, other out-of-towners shared why they were invested in the game this year. Modesto resident Krista Vannest teaches at Turlock’s Pitman High School, where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick attended.
“It’s so exciting because I watched him play when he was a student,” said Vannest, who was in Napa for her anniversary. “It’s surreal to see someone from your hometown succeed like this.”
Vannest, a longtime Niners fan, followed the rising star as he graduated from her school and went n to play football at the University of Nevada, where another Napa visitor also watched him play.
“To watch him as a college quarterback, you think, ‘This kid is good,’ but you never expect him to get this big this quick,” said Lynn Brown, a University of Nevada season ticket holder who was in town for the Kiwanis Club of Napa’s crab feed the night prior to the Super Bowl. “It was always exciting to watch him play.”
Lifelong Niners fan Mauricio Vargas had a hard time hiding his nerves as he watched the game from Downtown Joe’s. He stood alone, eyes glued to a television, unfazed by the crowd around him.
“After 18 years of them not being in the big game, it’s a great achievement,” Vargas said. “It’s a good feeling, but not now. I’m still enjoying it, but I wish it was a little closer.”
As minutes on the clock turned to seconds, Niners fans at Downtown Joe’s grew quieter and the crowd thinned. When it ended and the Niners fell to the Ravens 34-31, most paid their tabs and left without a word.