Los Gatos resident Manuel Austin sat in his seat at Candlestick Park at approximately 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 19, 2011 as his beloved team, the San Francisco 49ers were set to square off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Monday night football match-up that would be broadcast to viewers around the world.
Unfortunately, Austin would never see the game.
Moments after he got to his seat, the stadium’s power went out causing a blackout that lasted several minutes. A group of intoxicated and unruly fans sitting in the row in front of Austin and his family stood up during the confusion.
As the lights turned back on, Austin, 66, said he asked the gentleman directly in front of him to sit down so he could enjoy the opening program—the man responded with a verbal outburst of swearing and physical threats.
The two exchanged words and before Austin knew it, the fan and two other men sitting in the row in front of Austin attacked him, striking him in the face, eyes and mouth, causing him to lose three teeth and thus putting him into a semi-conscious state as one man jumped on top of him and continued to hit him.
“I’d be dead if it weren’t for my son,” said Austin of his son who shares the same first name, Manuel A. Austin. His son, who was accompanied by his wife and mother, helped break up the scuffle. “I never hit or struck anybody.”
Austin’s wife Linda alerted a stadium usher and security came to the scene and detained Austin and the three intoxicated fans.
One of the men involved, according to police, was Mark Bollock, 57, of Mendocino County, who was cited for assault. However, Bollock told the San Francisco Chronicle that Austin was the attacker. The altercation remains under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department and no other suspects have been charged.
His life has not been the same since that Monday night incident. He still receives therapy on a regular basis, endures headaches, dizzy spells, vomits on a daily basis and has lost 50 percent of his hearing in his left year.
"Life has been hell for me," he said.
Despite the pain he has sustained, Austin is currently using his experience to advocate against fan violence all over the world, bringing awareness to the irresponsible drinking, intimidation and bullying that goes on in the stands of professional sports games.
“It’s like the wild, wild west when you go to a football game,” Austin said. “We can’t put people at risk with that kind of drunken behavior, it’s inexcusable.”
Austin started a nonprofit website, endfanviolence.com, and is working with local elected officials such as Congressman Mike Honda and Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman to craft legislation to fine offenders of fan violence, prosecute offenders with harsher criminal sanctions and create a registry of those who are cited for assault.
“We also want to make the person who purchases the game ticket responsible for actions taken,” Austin said. “There has to be punitive measures against those offenders.”
“Everybody has been really caring and really nurturing,” he said.
The attack at Candlestick Park came just eight months after was brutally beaten by two men in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium following the opening day match-up between the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Stow was in an induced coma for several months and had part of his skull surgically removed to relieve some of the pain.
Austin said if it weren’t for the interference of his son during the violent altercation on Dec. 19, he would be in the same condition as Stow.
“I’d be a Bryan Stow if my son wasn’t there,” he said.