Steve DuFour does not consider himself a very lucky man.
Against his better judgment, he decided to not renew his San Francisco 49ers season tickets heading into last fall.
He had been a season ticket holder since 1981.
“And then they have a season like this—you can’t make that up,” DuFour, 86, said. “Sometimes you’re not lucky, or you’re pretty stupid. I’m not sure which of those two.”
DuFour figueres his beloved 49ers won’t need much luck when they play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday in Miami. Draped in a bright red 49ers sweater and looking over his impressive collection of football memorabilia in his Watsonville home on Tuesday, he could not help but feel overwhelming confidence his team would bring home its sixth championship.
“Obviously, the 49ers are going to win—there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Only question is by how much.”
DuFour—the former owner of Central Electric Company in Watsonville—might have called it quits on his season tickets but his love for the Red and Gold and the game of football remains as strong as a 350-pound defensive lineman.
The lifelong 49ers fan will be watching his team play his favorite sport at home surrounded by his friends and family, an experience he’s still getting used to after attending all but one of the previous 53 Super Bowls.
He decided to sit out Super Bowl LIII last year. His deteriorating mobility played the biggest factor in him staying home.
“There are so many people that go to the Super Bowl and you’re all on top of each other,” he said. “It’s a tough job to go to the Super Bowl physically as well as monetarily.”
The comfort of his couch, he said, will have to do from here on out.
“I just want to see [the 49ers] win,” DuFour said, “and I think they will.”
Every Super Bowl holds a special place for DuFour, but none compare to the first in 1967. Then dubbed the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game,” Super Bowl I pitted the Green Bay Packers and the Chiefs in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Packers, led by legendary coach Vince Lombardi, now the namesake of the Super Bowl trophy, beat the Chiefs 35-10.
DuFour and his late older brother Tom, who lived in Chico, and two of his friends made the trek to Southern California. The fans were sparse and the tickets only cost $12—DuFour said late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle was walking the parking lot selling tickets to raise the attendance—but the memories, as fuzzy as they might be, were rich. He still has his ticket from the inaugural Super Bowl. It’s framed in pristine condition with the game’s program.
“That’s probably the only ticket I have that might sell for a couple hundred bucks,” DuFour said.
He can only recall bits and pieces of the other Super Bowls and the hundreds of 49ers games at Candlestick Park and Levi’s Stadium. He remembers the frigid Detroit weather in the days leading up to the 49ers’ first Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals—his favorite of San Francisco’s five titles—and the exact opposite during their second Super Bowl win over the Bengals in Miami.
“That was a fun place to watch a game,” he said.
He said the game grew into a bigger spectacle from year to year.
“Every year they added something new outside of the game,” DuFour said. “More performances, more booths, more games, more things to do with your kids…That’s why people just go by the thousands.”
His memories of the 49ers’ historic moments are a bit clearer. “The Catch,” the famous passing touchdown from Joe Montana to the late Dwight Clark, is etched in his mind. And the more recent highlights—the final game at Candlestick and Vernon Davis’ game-winning touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 playoffs—also send him down memory lane.
“There are things I thought I completely forgot about that seem clear as day when people spark the right memory,” he said. “They’re small memories, but they all mean so much.”
The past might be fuzzy but the present is picture-perfect. DuFour can name nearly every current 49er, their position and what type of impact they’ll have on Sunday’s game. He reads and watches as much media coverage as he can, and has played out the Super Bowl in his head multiple times—the 49ers have won each time.
His favorite current player is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, even though many members of the media are still unconvinced he can win the Super Bowl.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” DuFour said. “He seems like the kind of individual that can handle it. Everyone said, ‘he only threw eight passes, what kind of quarterback is that?’ Well, if you’ve got runners that are running well, why throw at all?”
DuFour was born in Watsonville in 1933. He was 14 when he first watched the 49ers play live. His father, Alfred, brought him to a game at Kezar Stadium, which served as the team’s home field until the Candlestick was built in 1960. He doesn’t remember who played in the game, but he does recall Kezar being a “madhouse.” Fans would throw food and drinks at opposing players, people would get in fights over seats and the parking was horrible.
“And then Candlestick came around, that place was a palace for the time,” he said.
DuFour was a good football player in his own right. He starred at Watsonville High School, and went on to play at San Jose State University. He had dreams of making it to the NFL.
“But then I saw what it takes to be the best player in college, and the best player in the NFL,” he said. “It was a bit of reality.”
So he went on to serve three years in the Navy, but not before achieving what he called the “highlight” of his life: marrying his wife Joan, a fellow 49ers fanatic who died in 2006.
He was hoping he would be stationed in a scenic location such as Hawaii, Japan or Alaska. He ended up in Alameda on a radar ship that cruised the same mundane 120-mile line along the California Coast for 30 days at a time.
“It was just boring,” he said. “I’m not a very lucky man.”
Yet he was lucky enough to have two kids, Patty and Sharon, who gave him three grandkids and a pair of great-grandkids. He shared his love for the 49ers with both daughters and Patty is still an avid fan today.
For a time DuFour had 14 season tickets which he would distribute to friends and family each Sunday. They would all pack into a small bus and make the trek to the Bay Area to watch the team play.
“It was a really fun time—we’d make a full day of it,” he said. “That’s what I really love about football and the 49ers. The memories it gives you.”
He hopes the 49ers will give him another come Sunday.