Meet the San Francisco 49ers’ body-painted, banjo-playing superfans

“I got to scoop up a little piece of the end zone, which I saved for many years, but it disintegrated.”

In late 2022, the San Francisco 49ers are playing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As fireworks explode and jets scream overhead, the booming sound of drums fills Levi’s Stadium. Frank Roldan, a Roseville firefighter dressed in a red leather jacket, red shirt, red gloves, and a gold cowboy hat, is cheering from a high vantage point.

Roldan has been a fan of the team since his parents took him to the big San Francisco victory parade in 1982. “It got to the point where you just assumed they’d make the playoffs or the Super Bowl every year,” he recalls. “How could they lose? Because they were so dominant, it was a joy to watch.”

Those formative memories shaped Roldan into the man he is today: a full-grown adult strutting around like a glam-metal Deadpool. “My favorite time was probably watching Joe Montana when he had 34 seconds left against the Bengals in ’89, and they stormed down the field,” he says. “My father was crying, my mother was screaming, and you could hear people honking their horns and yelling out windows all over San Francisco.”

Some people are content to watch the 49ers in a sports bar or buy stadium tickets only once or twice a year. Others regard their fandom as a divine mandate, attending games for unbroken decades in full-on regalia and makeup that takes forever to apply (and even longer to scrub off in the shower). We salute them for this: Whatever the team’s performance on the field, these superfans bring an energy that is as entertaining and contagious as watching them score a touchdown.

On game day, Mark Castanon, a San Jose aerospace systems engineer, transforms into “49erMark,” rooting from the stands in red face paint, a hat shaped like a Super Bowl diamond ring, and a kilt honoring 49ers coach Jim Tomsula’s stint with NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores.

“Everything I wear is 49ers,” he explains. “I’ve got my 49ers tennis shoes and socks.” I’m wearing a red kilt with gold and black stripes. I do wear underwear underneath my kilt because there are those crazy fans who are always curious. So I have a pair of San Francisco 49ers boxers.”

During the 2011 NFL lockout, Castanon applied to do marketing for the team, which launched his journey to superfandom. “I wrote them a letter saying something about my children not being able to say the word ‘Raiders’ in my house,” he explains. He was chosen and met with team representatives in a warehouse. “‘Can we do something with you?’ they asked.” I replied, ‘Yes.’ ‘You don’t want to hear what it is?’ they said. ‘I don’t care,’ I said, ‘I want to be on the ticket.’ So they covered me in body paint.”

Castanon has since attended three Super Bowls as “49erMark” and even pulled the foghorn for the first preseason game of 2019 – the blaring instrument announces kickoff time and is reportedly the same model as the foghorns used on the Golden Gate Bridge. Castanon, when he isn’t instigating eardrum-shaking honks and looking like a grinning tomato, simmers in a warm team environment in his home “fan cave.”

“I have pictures from the last game at Candlestick Park against Atlanta.” “I’ve got my Montana jersey and paraphernalia that I got signed 95 percent of the time — footballs, helmets, and hats,” he says. “Probably my favorite artifact is a picture of me standing with Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, and Joe Montana, all holding Super Bowl trophies in front of us.”

The room is, of course, gold with a red wall. “My wife told me I could only take over one wall, but now I’ve taken over the entire room, including the bed, which has 49ers-themed sheets and pillows.” “I believe she’s given up.”

When you’re walking through the Levi’s Stadium stands, you might hear the twang of bluegrass and look over to see a bearded man wearing a propeller beanie and a Superman-style 49ers cape. Stacy Samuels, aka “Banjo Man,” is a Fairfax resident and musician who has attended every game since 1981 and is known for his energetic rendition of Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

“I keep replaying that. “I’ve played it for 40 years, probably thousands and thousands of times,” he says, including at least ten Super Bowls. “I got to go backstage one year at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass because I’m friends with Steve Earle, and when Earl Scruggs was playing, I went in his tent and talked to him.” “I explained that I hold the world record for the most performances of ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown.'”

Specifically, officially? “Well, unless there’s somebody in an insane asylum who can’t stop playing it, I’m pretty sure it’s me.”

“My favorite moment over the years was 1989 in Miami at the Super Bowl, when they came back and John Taylor caught Montana’s pass to win the game,” he says. “(Legendary Bay Area sportscaster) Gary Radnich interviewed me in the end zone. And I was able to scoop up a small piece of the end zone, which I kept for many years before it disintegrated.”

Samuels, like many other superfans, is not paid by the team. It’s simply a labor of love.

“It allows you to be a bigger part of the game.” “You get to root for your team while also doing good for the community,” he says. “It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for 43 years, but it’s fantastic.” It’s simply been an incredible career.”

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