Welcome back to another segment of OTH NFL Fans.
This week we meet up with Chris Thompson, a 54 years old lifetime Niners fan from the Bay Area. Growing up in California, his fandom started back in the ’70s when John Brodie was at the helm of the team. He attended Stanford University and upon graduation joined Electronic Arts before they became EA Sports. Chris is currently living in Bali, Indonesia, and met up with me at The Bridge in Green School to share his story.
The Impact of Sports and the NFL in His Life
His involvement with EA and sports has allowed him to live all over the world for 25 years. He left the States in the 1990s and didn’t go back for about 20 years.
“You know, back then, the minute you stepped out of the States, it became almost impossible to watch the NFL. You had to wait for the paper to arrive once a week to know the scores, and this was before Satellite broadcasting!”
Because of his work schedule, he had to travel through different time zones:
“I don’t get how people complain about games being late, I’ve had to watch games at 1, 2, 5, 8 am, and on a Monday!”
Chris has attended and watched games in England and Japan, among other countries.
“It is easier if your team loses when it’s a Sunday, you can have a beer and a burger to work your moodiness, but on Mondays, your whole day is shut! It is a different experience of being overseas!”
One of his stories was about being in Singapore and meeting with the NFL, he was complaining and asking them to start a live stream.
The NFL: “You can’t tell anybody Chris, but this year we are going to start a thing called NFL Game Pass!”
“I was jumping around the room, and I swear, I was probably the first-ever customer online for NFL Game Pass.”
“I love everything about the NFL, been part of my childhood since I was little.”
The Niners have brought a lot of joy to Chris throughout his life, mainly in the Montana years.
“Montana, Clark, Lott, Rice it was magic!
In his list of favorite players he includes:
- Joe Montana: An artist, the Goat, right next to Brady
- Garrison Hearts: That OT run against the Jets, 98 yards, I was listening to that game while in Japan
- Frank Gore: This guy just came in and played
- Ronnie Lott: The man was an animal
- Joe Staley: Consistent and a great player
- Kyle Juszczyk: He is awesome, old school, runs hard like a young Rathman
“I like them as people, I like their ethics as people, they are all great players!”
On Ronnie Lott:
“I remember there was a bar in Stanford called Zod’s, I was running in the corner and ran into a brick wall, it was Ronnie Lott!”
He also remembers that game when Lott had to cut his pinky or sit out the game:
“He said, cut it off, cut my pinky off! and went straight back in!”
However, not all has been good in the life of a Niners fan.
“For the past twenty years, we’ve been all over the place, even with Harbaugh!”
The team has been under .500 for the past five years, winning two, three, or four games.
“It was a nightmare, you don’t watch a game at 3 am when your team is losing like that!”
To him, there was no hope, but after signing Lynch and Shanahan things started looking up:
“I feel like we are building a solid organization, with good people, great system, similar to the Spurs in the NBA.”
“It’s a good time to be a Niners fan, we have young players, Solid defense and the offense is starting to click.”
He has watched every single game this year, and re-watched it on replay:
“I’ve never done that in my life, but watching the Niners is now beautiful, dominating, and gritty.
He has seen his team live, at both Candlestick and Levi’s. His first-ever game was a Bengals vs Niners game.
Another one of his favorite memories was the transition from Montana to Young:
“Montana left, and we had this guy coming in from Tampa, no one knew what to expect.”
The rest is history, as Steve Young led that team to the Superbowl against the Chargers.
“You know, I was in Germany that year, 1995, before NFL streaming or anything like that existed. I had the EA sports IT guy run a satellite feed, and he sets it up at my friend’s house, a Russian girl, the game showing at 4 am, and I am drinking german wheat beer and eating rice crackers by myself in the attic at her house. She came up once, looks at the T.V. and said, I am not watching this thing! It was probably the weirdest viewing ever.”
EA Sports Stories
Chris started working at Electronic Arts before it became EA:
“It was a great time and a lot of fun, we were a bunch of sports fans, not from classic video games!”
We had TV’s everywhere, watching football and hockey, it was amazing.
“It was a great team of people, great friends, it was a nice time.”
He then shares with us a great Madden story:
“We had our first John Madden football game, and we created this playbooks and guides, but, we didn’t have a lot of great sports minds, so, I was sitting there with Dave Dempsey, the Head of PR, with the camera, and John Madden was sitting at the table. We were presenting the first Madden Playbook. This is a huge PR moment. We hand John the playbook and he is like, what is this $#!%? He then throws the playbook across the room.”
Dave was like: This didn’t turn out the way we thought!
Chris had the honor of testing the first-ever Madden for EA, on seven disks in one of those old apples!
“I was 23, just a punky kid, and I had Rich Hilleman and Trip Hawkins over my shoulders, pushing me to find a problem.”
The rest as we all know is history:
“That was the beginning of a great thing for sports, what those games did, was amazing!”
Eventually, Chris got tired of the industry, was burnout and moved to Bali.
On the Madden Curse: “It gets too much attention, but it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Kaepernick: The Greatest NFL QB of All Time?
Chris opens up telling us that Kaepernick will go down as the greatest QB in NFL history! Not because of his play, but on what he did on social change and bringing attention to the field:
“In 50 years, people won’t remember most of the players but will remember those who took a stand on issues. In a society filled with racism, sexism, and “modern-day slavery” (College Athletes). He did something that he really stood up for, he wasn’t running naked, he just took a knee.”
I get it, people didn’t want their Sunday’s ruined, no politics into the NFL! Well, what happens at every single game? We stand and sing the national anthem, and we have airplanes fly over the field, those are political statements. I am not against the Army or anything, just saying we are selective when it’s ok or not ok. Some people just are against all of it!
I’m sad that it turned into a big political problem!
When I am at a football game, I don’t believe in standing up!
Let people have a choice, I support the Niners, and you the packers, that doesn’t make you a dummy, you have a choice.
In the end we are friends.
But with politics, we need to step back, and if you don’t want any of that, don’t put it.
If you allow it, then you allow people like Kaepernick to kneel, it’s the hypocrisy.
Just look at people not going to the white house? Should they be forced to go? No, they have a choice.”
On Social Media Language
“Just shut up and play, really? Would you ever say that to a real estate agent? Shut up and sell your houses? Would you tell that to your kids? Why do we treat athletes so badly? A line needs to be drawn! What happened with Kaepernick, if he was a Google or Microsoft employee? He would be allowed to kneel, but in the NFL he is not?”
“Be honest on how we approach the game, if we are consistent, then there might be an argument to not allow them to kneel. I personally support him, he didn’t disturb anybody!”
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