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Mysterious Bitter Rivalries

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I basically grew up in Seattle. However, I was born in the Bay Area, and didn’t move to Washington State until half way through the third grade. My original NFL allegiance was to the Oakland Raiders, which I clung to, in the face of every other family member being a 49ers fan when we lived in the Bay Area, and my father’s retaining the Niners as his NFC team (although he grew to be a fan of the Seahawks as his AFC, and local, team). But for me, it was the Raiders of Kenny Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Casper, Cliff Branch, Mark van Eeghen, et al. I remember the 1976 and 1977 seasons, especially the post-season, to this day, Super Bowl XI and all. Perhaps ironically, the first NFL game I attended was a pre-season game between the Raiders and expansion Seahawks at the Coliseum in 1976. It was in the stands at that game where I first heard that there was going to be such a thing as the Seattle Mariners, and I should probably rue the day.

My first passionate sporting hatred was the Denver Broncos, because of this. Specifically, a blown fumble call that would have prevented a Denver TD in the 4th quarter (EDIT: of the 1977 AFC Championship game). I clung to the Raiders even after my relocating to the PNW, and rooted for them against the local upstarts. I was unhappy when the Seahawks beat the Raiders twice in one of those early seasons. What caused me to divorce the Raiders was their move to Los Angeles in 1982. Even from my then vantage point in the PNW, moving from the Bay Area to LA was simply wrong. I adopted the Seahawks. When the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1994, there was no forgiveness. I delighted in the 1983 Seahawks playoff victory over Denver, and mourned losing the AFC Championship game that year to the Los Angeles Raiders. Through all of this, the 49ers were just there. Sure, they became successful, and I couldn’t help but root for them during this era due to my father’s influence, but as a Seahawks fan, the 49ers were annual pre-season competition, with no history, no rivalry, and no animosity. And they won. A lot.

I moved to Europe before the realignment of the Seahawks to the NFC, and to be frank, I no longer follow the NFL as closely as I once did, only really paying attention to the Seahawks, (though I still follow Pac 10/12 football). Thus, the bitter hatred and animosity that now exists between Seattle and San Francisco is a mystery to me. It almost seems manufactured. As I understand it, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh aren’t universally loved, especially by one another. This dates back to their Pac-10 days (USC and Stanford). The teams have adopted their mutual enmity, simultaneous to both teams becoming good again. The fans have followed suit.

Isn’t this the exact opposite causal direction that these things usually assume? That, and yesterday was the first time these two hated, storied rivals ever met in a playoff game.

Strangely, last night (GMT) I inexplicably woke up in the middle of the night, checked the score on line, and made it just in time to watch the final San Francisco drive (it was pushing 3am here) on game cast. Being a Seattle sports fan, my assumption was that the Niners would score and it would all be over. The result certainly did not make me unhappy, but unlike the Mariners losing a post season series to the Yankees, I also wouldn’t have been bitterly upset had Kaepernick’s pass been complete. Indeed, I expected it to be.

Of course, while I don’t understand that rivalry, I do understand my life long commitment to seeing the Broncos lose. If it can come at the hands of the Seahawks in a Super Bowl, that’s nothing but icing.

I’ll allow a certain Stanford graduate to have the last word.

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