NFL broadcasters seem to finally realize 49ers no longer play in SF

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Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers saw CBS use several South Bay landmarks on their telecast.

Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers saw CBS use several South Bay landmarks on their telecast.

Loren Elliott/Getty Images

If there’s one thing Bay Area residents have been able to count on since the 49ers moved to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, it’s still seeing San Francisco on the broadcasts.

But so far in 2023, a full decade since the Niners actually last called San Francisco home, it seems as though the television networks are finally attempting to give viewers a more realistic geographic understanding of the entire Bay Area — not just the City by the Bay.

When the 49ers played the Bengals on Sunday afternoon, CBS didn’t use a single shot of actual San Francisco during the first half of their telecast. Instead, CBS showed Santana Row in San Jose and Pulgas Water Temple in Redwood City, which play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz noted used to be the home city of the 49ers’ practice facility before they moved to Santa Clara. In the second half, CBS also showed San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House when coming back from commercial (a fitting pick, given that Halloween is in two days) and the Dumbarton Bridge.


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Both prior primetime 49ers home games this season — against the Giants on Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football and against the Cowboys on NBC’s Sunday Night Football — featured a lot of San Francisco shots. But NBC also showcased Mission Santa Clara, on Santa Clara University’s campus, at one point.

The constant barrage of San Francisco has seemingly led to a mini rebellion from a few of the play-by-play broadcasters. NBC’s Mike Tirico consistently noted the mileage from the downtown shots to Santa Clara whenever his station used downtown SF.

Tirico delivered those without any tone, which can’t be said for Al Michaels. The legendary broadcaster was once a San Francisco Giants radio man and famously was on the air during the 1989 World Series, giving a play-by-play of the destruction from the Loma Prieta earthquake off of ABC’s helicopter’s footage.


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Michaels seemed agitated at another shot of San Francisco during the 49ers-Giants game on Sept. 21. But he also took a shot at the South Bay, too.

“You ever notice, we come here and all of our aerials are from 44 miles away?” Michaels asked, seemingly to his color commentator Kirk Herbstreit but really to the public. “San Francisco, it’s beautiful, we’ve got so many scenic [shots]. Now, we’d like to bring you aerials from nearby here, but what would we show you? The salt evaporator flats? The San Jose airport?”

Michaels ended his statement saying, “I’ll hear for that,” but he was mainly criticized for miscounting the number of 49ers’ Super Bowl wins from that broadcast.


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Herbstreit, a longtime college football analyst only in his second year covering the NFL, asked Michaels how far away Candlestick is from Levi’s.

“From here? Forty miles,” Michaels said. “It’s in San Francisco.”

Herbstreit didn’t respond, perhaps a sign he genuinely didn’t know. If all he’s ever known of the Bay Area is from watching 49ers games on TV, it’d be hard to blame him for the ignorance.


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While the 49ers still use San Francisco in their team name, this is their 10th year completely based in Santa Clara. Future broadcasts will surely still use SF for some of their “glamor shots,” but perhaps 2023’s telecasts are a sign that they will showcase other parts of the region, too.

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