When the San Francisco Giants faced the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series I remember reading an article by a sportswriter from the Dallas-Ft. Worth region who argued, in gist, that the Rangers deserved to win because Texas is ‘merica! while San Francisco is a degenerate, snobby, west-coast city that has contributed to the demise of our culture. In 2012 similar points were made about Motown, a real American city, whose Detroit Tigers deserved to beat the Giants. There was even some homophobia present in one article (I need to find and save these links for future reference). Of course, the San Francisco 49ers’ place in Super Bowl XLVII (47) against the east coast Baltimore Ravens will inevitably result in the same stupid generalization about San Francisco, e.g., Jon Friedman calling Baltimore “an iconic American city, a proud (by the definition of its residents) shot-and-a-beer, blue-collar place” and San Francisco “…the white wine-swilling crowd out there in the west” in his article “Why the 49ers Will Win the Super Bowl” (at least the title is good).
Generalizations are not bad in-and-of themselves. San Francisco can be generalized as politically left, ethnically diverse, advocates of rights for the LGBTQ community, maintaining a strong anti-war tradition, functioning as a sanctuary for undocumentable immigrants, favoring youth and innovation, costly, crowded, relatively efficient (I know locals gripe about BART and MUNI, but many don’t know about places like San Antonio where public transportation is semi-useless), and so forth. San Francisco is proud of these distinctions. Yet this idea that San Francisco is less ‘merican, because it is a particular version of what it means to be American, or that the city and region don’t deserve to enjoy something like football because Baltimore is rougher, or Detroit is harder, or Dallas-Ft. Worth is more Texan is ridiculous.
I was born in Vallejo, California. I was raised in Napa, California. I lived the most formative years of my life in San Francisco, California. I guarantee that this part of the world cares as much about silly things like baseball and football (silly things that matter to me because of where I was raised). The San Francisco Bay Area is as much a contributor to the national conversation over our country’s identity as New York, New York or Washington, D.C., or Chicago, Illinois, or (gulp!) Los Angeles, California.
For those who perceive the San Francisco Bay Area as a region detached from the rest of the country, aloof, disinterested, I recommend David Talbot’s Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love. It is about San Francisco from the late 60s to the early 80s. One thing that will hit the reader in the face is this: what San Francisco is debating now is what the nation debates in twenty to thirty years. Same-sex marriage? HHS mandate? Environmental sustainability? All these things that are in the national spotlight had precursors in the City by the Bay. In fact, the author, Talbot, suggests that San Francisco is the D.C. of the west coast (an analogy that is favorable if Los Angeles is allowed to be the New York of the west coast).
San Francisco isn’t immune to generalizations. Let true generalizations remain! As a native of the region please let’s ditch goofy ideas that San Francisco is full of Athenian philosopher types sitting around discussing the next iPad, and whether there is more work to do in order to completely erode traditionally morality in this country. San Francisco values much of what the United States values, sometimes from a different angle, but you can’t have a ying without a yang, right? San Francisco is as much a football city as Baltimore and the 49ers are as precious to the city as the Ravens to their city. You’ll see. Go 49ers!
FYI, I know that if the 49ers win the Super Bowl there will be some idiots who will burn trash in the middle of the streets, who will overturn cars, and who will do the sort of things that give people the opportunity to piously go, “Wow, really San Francisco, wow, keep it classy!” Let’s recognize now that it isn’t 49ers fans, or Giants fans, who do these things, it is morons, and morons take advantage of celebratory chaos to wreak further havoc. If and when these things happen Sunday evening, please, criticize the morons, not “San Francisco” or “49ers fans”.