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Even this day-in-age of the corporate-sponsored ballpark and steroid scandal, San Franciscans still have a love affair with their sports teams. With San Francisco's high number of international travelers, we've included a season-by-season description of what sports you can watch and where.
America's national past-time starts in spring and ends in September, but those who play baseball are still called "the boys of summer." From April to September, look for Major League Baseball when visiting the San Francisco Bay Area.
SF Giants: Watching a summer baseball game at AT&T Park , where homeruns knocked by slugger Barry Bonds splash into the bay, is an experience not to be missed. This stadium (formerly SBC Park, formerly Pac Bell Park, all in six years) is the home of the S.F. Giants and is located directly on the waterfront in SoMa (South of Market). This modern structure offers all the amenities of a new stadium, yet still retains the intimate feeling and ambiance of a historic American ballpark. Tickets can be purchased online at the Giants official site, at any Giants Dugout Store (no surcharge only at the AT&T Park store), or at the ticket booths outside the park during game days (no surcharge). Ticket can also be purchased from “scalpers” who station themselves along the pedestrian routes to the park on game day. Additionally, some individuals sell their tickets on eBay, Craigslist, and Stubhub. If you require a premium field club seat with a close-up view of the game, consider purchasing your ticket on the Giants official site a day or two before the game starts. "The Knothole": If you don’t want to commit to an entire game or are unable to buy tickets, there is a free standing room section accessible from the waterfront promenade that runs behind the right field fence (arrive early as this area fills up quickly). For particularly high-demand games, the Giants sometimes stations a staff member to circulate viewers and give everyone a chance to watch the action for a few minutes. For those not interested in the going to the game, but the participating in the party on the water outside, you can rent your own kayak near AT&T park, and paddle over to China Basin Cove (aka "McCovey Cove"), during a San Francisco Giants game. Perhaps you'll catch a "splash hit."
Oakland Athletics: If the Giants aren't in town when you are, or you're really a fan of the American League, the Oakland Athletics are just across the bay and very accessible via public transit. The stadium, a multi-purpose facility that also houses the Oakland Raiders during football season, isn't as intimate feeling as the San Francisco ballpark. But the team, known as the A's, has a proud past and is great to watch. Tickets through the official A's site above, or through the other methods already mentioned for Giants tickets.
Transit to the Oakland Coliseum via BART is simple. Follow directions at any BART station to reach the stop called "Coliseum/ Oakland Airport." From there, follow the crowds as they head over the pedestrian bridge to the ballpark.
Soccer: The San Jose Earthquakes, the Bay Area's only Major League Soccer team, has packed up and gone off to Houston. Houston!
Fall is when football really starts cooking. August is given to exhibition games and pre-season play, but few of us are paying attention until September, after the kids are back at school and fall is but a few weeks away. The National Football League season runs all the way through December, and January is given over to post-season play, culminating with the Super Bowl.
San Francisco is 49ers country, and the East Bay is Oakland Raiders country. Two teams, two great traditions, all football.
San Francisco Forty-Niners tickets used to be difficult to get, but with its woes of the past few years, travelers in town can sometimes find single tickets to purchase at the 49ers official website, and through eBay and Stubhub, as well as craigslist.
The Oakland Raiders returned to Oakland a decade or so ago, after a dalliance with Los Angeles. But maybe "Raider Nation" is a state of mind, not a place, anyway. Tickets can be found at the Raiders official website as well as at the sites mentioned above for baseball tickets. Raider Nation may not be tied to geography, but the "Black Hole," (Sections 103, 105 106) is. This must be experienced in person, albeit, perhaps at a safe distance. And just try not to get seated on "Mt. Davis" the highest seats in the stadium (Sections 335-355) nicknamed after the owner Al Davis.
College Football: For those who cannot stomach the ticket price of professional football, college football is a great alternative -- and full of the passion and excitement of students and the alumni who follow the teams. Who needs pro football when you have the pageantry, mascot hijinks and sheer fun of college ball? Plus, cheerleaders! College bands! White-wine tailgate parties! The best football-watching (and fan-watching) at the college level will require a BART trip across the bay to the University of California, Berkeley, known affectionately as "Cal" (Go Bears!), or a ride on Caltrain down the Peninsula to Stanford University (Go, Cardinal!). The season begins in September and runs through early December.
Cal Bears football tickets can be purchased online at Cal's official website, or at Stubhub.
Stanford Cardinal football tickets can be purchased online at Stanford's official website or at Stubhub.
Professional Basketball: The National Basketball Association team in the Bay Area is the Golden State Warriors, who play in the Oakland Arena, right next to the Oakland Coliseum. Tickets may be purchased from the Warriors official site or Stubhub, eBay or craigslist. The season runs from November to April, with some tickets available for pre-season games in October. Transit is via BART, with the departure station being "Coliseum/Oakland Airport."
College Basketball: Once again, college basketball offers some great, fast-moving action for much less money, both men and women's games. At Stanford, under the direction of Tara VanDerveer the women's team have outshined the men in some years, and command their own loyal following in the area. Both Stanford and Cal are accessible via Caltrain and BART respectively.
All Stanford tickets can be purchased through its central box office site.
Professonal hockey is played in Silicon Valley, home of the San Jose Sharks. Hockey fans are advised to allow 70 minutes to take the Caltrain to San Jose, where the Sharks' home ice is right next to the San Jose's main train terminus, at HP Pavillion. Tickets can be purchased through the Sharks official website, or through Stubhub and other sites. While the site offers full-season and 10-game packages, the pull-down Ticket menu offers a way to buy individual tickets.
AT&T Park, during what looks to be arena football game (not NFL)
Network Associates Park, home of the Oakland Raiders (above, in the silver and black uniforms) and the Oakland Athletics (American League baseball)
Oakland Raiders huddling at Network Associates Park