FOOTBALL: All in the family

Nolan, right, Dean, center, and Frank Filice smile wide for one

About this time every summer, for the past 16 years, Dean Filice
receives an over-sized envelop with 10 sets of three San Francisco
49ers season tickets inside. One ticket is his, one his father
Frank’s and the third goes to his son Nolan.
About this time every summer, for the past 16 years, Dean Filice receives an over-sized envelop with 10 sets of three San Francisco 49ers season tickets inside. One ticket is his, one his father Frank’s and the third goes to his son Nolan.

Having the tickets in hand each season is exciting in and of itself, but with the latest trip to the mailbox two weeks ago, a greater anticipation filled the air as Dean and Nolan investigated the package’s contents.

“The envelop was there and I was like ‘OK, Nolan, let’s see,'” Dean said, sitting comfortably in a recliner chair – Frank to his right, Nolan across the way, both listening intently even though they had heard the story and told the story before – as he rehashed the developments.

“We slowly pulled them out and (Nolan) said ‘there we are,’ and I said, ‘oh my god, there we are.’ We were high-fiving. It’s just really neat.”

What they saw was indeed cause for hand-slapping celebration.

On the Game 5 tickets, which are to be distributed for the 2011 season – home game No. 3 on Oct. 9 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – is a photo of Frank, flanked by Dean and Nolan, all sporting their fiercest game faces.

It is a moment etched into an on-going chapter in the Filice family history book, which is undoubtedly chock-full of memories surrounding the team they support together and a passion passed down through three generations.

Smile or not, there they are

Niners’ players are usually featured on the season tickets, but with the lockout in full effect at the time, that option was unavailable, said Ali Towle the Director of Marketing for the San Francisco 49ers.

Towle said an idea sprang to life and morphed into an all-out advertising campaign focusing on the organization’s dedicated fan base.

“We wanted to reward the loyalty of our season ticket holders by selecting 10 and putting them on the season tickets,” Towle said. “That turned into us featuring all fans.”

A contest called Share Your Stories was launched on Facebook, where more than 300 people submitted applications for consideration. Dean was one of them.

“I thought, ‘what the heck, I’ll try it,'” Dean said. “I wrote a letter and called it generations. I thought it was a neat thing that there are three generations going to the games. I wanted to tell the story of the three of us and how it all started. It is our bonding time.”

The pool of 300-plus contenders, which were separated into three piles – Yes, No, Maybe, “kind of like a reality show” was narrowed down to 30, Towle said. That group was asked to come in for an interview and photo shoot in April, and of those 30, the final 10 were chosen.

“They called a couple weeks later and asked a few more questions and I thought that maybe they were interested,” Dean said. “But we just weren’t sure.”

They know now, and so will a few thousand other Gold Rush gurus.

“I was a little shocked,” Nolan, 20, said. “I didn’t think we had a shot. It was just weird seeing our picture on the tickets.”

The now-infamous photo, at least in the Filice inner circle, creates quite a comedic stir among the trio due to its glaring appeal.

“They took so many pictures I couldn’t smile anymore,” Frank, 73, chuckled. “That’s probably why we look so mad.”

Though they joke about it, they must not be that concerned, because that tiny photo on the ticket is getting blown up and put on football-game-worthy sweatshirts.

The start of something special

Dean’s first game was with his dad as a 9 year old in 1970, a Niners’ victory over the Bears.

“John Brodie was the quarterback. I still remember that game,” he said.

As a kid, Dean said he attended one or two games per season. It didn’t take long to get hooked, and as the years went by, Dean made sure he could get to out to the Bay as often as he could. His diligence paid off plenty, placing him in Candlestick Park for some of the biggest games in 49ers lore. None more thrilling than the 1981 NFC Championship Game, which featured, “The Catch” – perhaps the most significant 49ers play of all time; Joe Montana rolling right and throwing off balance to a leaping Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone.

Dean inherited season tickets from a friend in 1995.

From there, Sundays weren’t just regular days anymore.

Game Day

Nolan was 12 years old when he got his first taste of 49ers football and it hasn’t spoiled yet.

“It’s the whole atmosphere of it, being around the family, playing catch with my dad and stuff like that,” Nolan said.

Sunday’s start early at the Filice residence in Gilroy. A motor home packed with all sorts of ingredients for that day’s tailgate meal, card decks for playing Pedro, beverages of choice and about 10 other regular fans, heads north at 8 a.m., arriving at its destination by 10 a.m.

“We set up, barbecue, watch the morning game,” Dean said.

“We all have our little jobs. He cooks,” Dean added, pointing to his dad.

The food, oh the food. There is plenty of it.The menu changes from week to week but usually lists an atypical mouthwatering entree rarely found in a parking lot.

“Cracked crab, shish kabobs, calamari, scampi, steak and chicken,” Frank gazed at his son and grandson as he listed some of the favorites, making sure he got to them all.

The tailgating is fine and dandy, but it never encroaches on game time that’s for sure. The group takes a shortcut to its seats and plops down by 12:15 p.m., an hour or so before kickoff.

“We get in to see the introductions. All of that gives you the chills,” Dean said.

Frank is the vocal one of the bunch when it comes to expressing his feelings as the action unfolds on the field.

“It’s just a different atmosphere there as opposed to watching on TV,” Frank said. “Your system, your adrenaline all works different. And I do a lot of yelling and screaming.”

Though the Niners have missed the playoffs eight straight seasons, the Filices have seen their fair share of greatness. Included in the collection is the Jeff Garcia-led playoff comeback in 2002 against the New York Giants and Garrison Hearst’s 96-yard touchdown run in overtime versus the New York Jets on Opening Day 1998.

Nolan doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t handle the losing too well, avoiding all Niners highlights afterward. However, its the camaraderie that he, his dad and grandfather share on the way to the games, in the stands and back home again, that keeps them returning week after week and year after year.

“We have been doing it for so long. We have seen the ups and downs,” Dean said. “It is our time together and we look forward to that.”

In this case, a picture is worth 1,000 words, and much, much more.