By Ande Jacobson
The holiday season is upon us, and there are myriad music and theatrical events to celebrate the season. It is also the heart of the football season where a different kind of theater plays out all over the country. For some, the drama is in the game itself.
For college teams, there is the battle for the bowl games, one of which often ends up being the college championship game. For the pro teams, each franchise tries diligently to win a coveted spot in the playoffs, and if they survive the elimination ladder, they make it to the biggest bowl game of them all, the Super Bowl.
There are various halftime spectacles such as college marching bands putting on riveting displays of precision marching and music, although in recent years, the bands are generally only seen by those attending the games in person. The television coverage of the halftime breaks tends towards talking heads endlessly analyzing the game. In the professional ranks, the Super Bowl halftime show is a lofty presentation going far beyond the main sporting event, and that one is shown everywhere. Big names are brought in to entertain the crowds in the expanded Super Bowl halftime display. For those watching at home or at their favorite Super Bowl party location, the commercials are yet another entertaining feature.
Finally, there is another kind of spectacle playing out in stadiums across the country, but this one engages fans from all walks of life. Some fans don team jerseys and scream their lungs out trying to motivate their teams. Others use a bit more costuming and makeup. Finally, there are the extreme fans. These are the ones who take fandom and raise it to a performance art form bringing a type of theater to light beyond the traditional halftime shows.
My friend Mark is one such fan. Through an odd sequence of events, he accidentally became a theatrical sensation because of his fandom. Today, many 49er aficionados know him as 49erMark, a man who puts on a bit of a show at every home game and even some away games. He attends with his face painted 49er red and dressed in a 49er jersey, a kilt, a giant ring hat signifying all the Super Bowls the team has won, and tops off his ensemble with a model helmet on a beaded chain along with more beads and badges allowing him special access to a variety of places. He is always available for every photo opportunity that arises. When in action, he cheers, he dances, and he creates quite a colorful spectacle, some might even say a theatrical presentation before, during, and after the games. The team doesn’t pay him, and in fact, he is a long time season ticket holder.
Mark Castanon is 49erMark, the epitome of an extreme football fan. He is also a devoted husband and father and a dedicated engineer with a large aerospace company. Football fandom has been an important part of his entire adult life, an obsession that started during his college days when he watched games and cheered with friends. He collected various memorabilia over the years, kept up on all the team stats, and attended every game he possibly could. Even when his work took him away, even overseas, he stayed in touch with his football friends, and actively watched every game possible.
As described in the interview, Mark’s fandom took a giant leap forward in 2011. Since then, he’s won several different fan contests, but the biggest and most life-changing of them all was the national Vicks Most Dedicated Fan (MDF) contest.
After winning the first stage to become the 49er representative, he competed against the winners sponsored by each team in the NFL and submitted this video of his TD dance for consideration. Ultimately, Mark won a week-long trip for himself and his wife to attend the 2012 Super Bowl. After that, he stepped up his presence at every 49er event he could attend, from home games, to training camp sessions, to draft pick parties, and more.
Mark juggles his 49er related activities with a very active home life and a busy work schedule. Even so, he rarely misses a home game, and then only does so when it is absolutely unavoidable. While nobody else in his family has quite his level of dedication to his beloved 49ers, they all love the team and participate in various aspects of his fandom including painting his face for games to helping him with contests as they arise.
Mark considers 49erMark as a character he plays to help his team and relate to fans throughout the league. He’s part ambassador and part entertainer. One of the requirements for the MDF contest all those years ago included setting up a social media presence. Mark’s 49erMark Facebook page has grown over the years welcoming the 49er fan community to share not only 49erMark related photos, posts, and videos, but anything and everything related to the team and beyond. Mark networks with fans throughout the league, and around the world. His 49erMark character helps to build community throughout pro football fandom. The rivalries are still there, but they are all in good fun, and the friendships that are forged through football fandom last year around.