"Once a football fan, always a football fan," said Dan Libarle, owner of Lace House Linen, who can't remember a time he wasn't a 49ers supporter. He's been there in person to watch the 49ers emerge victorious in each of the five Super Bowls they've played, and that's not about to change as they head to their sixth Super Bowl.
Libarle and a handful of friends, all diehard fans, are leaving Petaluma on Friday to root for the 49ers in Louisiana, where they face off against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Libarle's compatriots include Henry and Justin Hansel, Barry Friedman, Jack King, Kip Herzog, and Toby and Bob Giacomini. Many of them were part of the Petaluma contingent that flew to Michigan to cheer on the 49ers in their first Super Bowl and remember the experience fondly.
"We had quite a crew from town," recalled King. "It was a novel experience."
He recounted flying into Lansing, Mich., then making the long drive to Pontiac, staying in a run-down hotel, and spending hours the next day driving to the game, stuck behind the president's motorcade.
Then there was the game itself, which Libarle described as the most exciting of the Super Bowls he's watched to date.
"The game was close, very exciting," King agreed. "But we prevailed, and everyone was thrilled."
The weather, at least, should be nicer in New Orleans, where the Petaluma group will arrive on Friday.
There will be other changes, too: "I think the one thing that's changed is that there's a lot more hype," Libarle said. "There's a lot more stuff going on in newspapers and of course, at each Super Bowl the half-time show gets much more dynamic; there's more done for television."
King expressed excitement that his team appears to be emerging from a long dry spell, similar to the one the team overcame when Joe Montana and Bill Walsh came on board more than 30 years ago and ushered in a golden age for the team.
Libarle, like many Petalumans, is also interested to see 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh face off against his brother and coach of the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh, in what has become known as the "Bro-Bowl."
"It will be exciting to see how they treat each other after the game," he said.
Here in Petaluma, scores of fans are planning Super Bowl watching parties of their own. Others will head to a nearby sports bar to cheer on their team.
Regardless of the location, it's clear that many Petalumans will be watching and hoping for the perfect end to the 49ers season with bated breath.
(Contact Jamie Hansen at Jamie.firstname.lastname@example.org.)