Thanksgiving for the Fertig family is going to be in Monterey this year since younger son, Alex, and his Cal State Monterey Bay Otters have a game on Friday. Older son, Andy, will be making the not-so-fun drive (especially the day before Thanksgiving) from Orange County to the Central Coast – a five hour jaunt with no traffic. This blog will return on Tuesday, December 2.
Last Saturday my wife, Jane, and I attended Alex’s game against Notre Dame (not that one) – as we do for each one of the Otters’ contests. The site of the game was Belmont, CA, a suburb of San Francisco. Since game time was 3:00pm, we had a chance, not only for some fine dining (as opposed to settling for whatever is open after 10, about the time we make it to a restaurant after a 7:30 start) but an opportunity to do so in San Fran.
Whenever I’m asked to pick a place to eat, 100% of the time my choice is an Italian joint. Luckily, Jane also likes Italian food (maybe not as much as I do as my taste buds rival Tony Sopranos’) but, truth be told, independent of the restaurant, nearly every time we go out, she orders salmon. So, following the Otters’ win, we headed to North Beach, the Little Italy of San Francisco. After asking for suggestions from people in the area, we decided to go to, where else, the North Beach Restaurant. Usually I like going to an Italian restaurant whose name ends in a vowel but, if you ask for advice from the locals, you might as well listen.
Normally, I’m like “time,” i.e. I wait for no man. Or restaurant. But since the valet had taken our car and it was long gone when we heard the news of a 15-20 minute wait, I concluded sitting at the bar would pose no problem. I didn’t see any open tables so when the maitre d’ came and told us to follow him, I was a little surprised – until he took us downstairs, to their “wine cellar,” and another 30 or so tables. Our maitre d’ told us the place seated 344 people. Considering the place was packed – in the middle of “Little Italy” – it looked like we made the right choice after all. When Jane mentioned to him that this was our first time in his restaurant, he coolly said, “We just opened – 44 years ago.” That quip told me this guy was all right.
At the table next to us was a couple of guys wearing Washington Redskins jerseys (the 49ers’ opponent the next day). I asked them if they were locals who rooted for the ‘Skins (doubtful, with the history of the 49ers, nearly every football fan in San Francisco pledges allegiance to them) or if they’d flown in for the game. As I suspected, their plane landed the previous day. “In addition to my season tickets, I go to a few road games every year,” said the “spokesman” of the two. “I was out here for business last year but didn’t have time to see the city.” We chatted about a number of items – former players from their championship years to comparing DC and SF as cities. Then I asked him the hot topic question – what did he think of the logo controversy?
This led to quite an interesting conversation. It was an exchange of information, the kind in which the participants are wiser at the end of it than they were before having spoken. Too many times people engage in a discussion in which one or both of them feels there has to be a winner and a loser, then does whatever they can to “defeat” the other. Issues creep in, many of which add nothing to the dialogue and often, the parties’ comments take on a spiteful, personal nature that destroys the conversation and usually winds up with neither being wiser, but both believing (although skeptically) they won. In fact, this type of verbal abuse yields only losers.
I asked him if the protests in Washington were the work of actual Native Americans or simply groups looking to advance a cause – because I didn’t know and figured he might. I’ve always felt that the decision regarding the team being called “Redskins” should be voiced by those who were offended, i.e. Native Americans, not by those who felt like Native Americans should be offended. He remarked that the nickname was given as a measure of respect, not ridicule. I responded by with the comment that while that might have initially been the case, times change and today’s generation of Native Americans could see the nickname as derogatory toward their people.
He said, and I had the feeling that he was speaking for an entire group of loyal backers, “I’ve never felt as though I was cheering for actual “Redskins,” as in Native Americans. I was only supporting my favorite team, just like Eagles fans don’t think they’re cheering for birds or Cowboys fans believe they’re rooting for guys with six-shooters.”
Naturally, because he was a long, long time fan of the team, he was emotional about the issue. “One thing I know is that Dan Snyder will never change it.” Then he added:
“No matter what is finally decided, they’ll always be the ‘Redskins’ to me.”
Interestingly, since that conversation, I was privy to an article written by my favorite sportswriter (as well as most everyone else’s – certainly if they’re older than 35). It was written on November 22, 1973 for his employer, the LA Times. The topic was what he was thankful for. It began, “I’m thankful the Old South finally got blacks in university backfields and lines – but I’d be more thankful if the rooting sections would put away those Confederate flags. To a black, that must have all the warmth and charm of a swastika.”
Some perspective from a wise man.