Fooch's Note: I thought this was a fun, well put together look at the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry.
It's tough to determine just how pivotal an early season matchup between Super Bowl contenders really is. We all know football is week to week and a victory in the second week of a seventeen week season isn't likely to prove a team's worth. But every game is important, particularly when it's within the division. And how important are regular season games against division foes? Any Seahawks fan would jump at the chance to tell you all about the last time their team went head to head with the 49ers. The result was a 42-13 Week 16 shellacking of San Francisco at the hands of Slippery Pete Carrol and co. As far as I was concerned, it was just the first time Carroll found a way to beat Jim Harbaugh in the big leagues. But for Seattle fans? It was a statement. A changing of the guard. A middle finger to annoying 49er fans everywhere! A Kam Chancellor to the face.
Ask a Seahawks fan about the 49ers and they'd be happy to explain the rivalry. Ask a 49ers fan about rivalries and they might only consider longtime NFC heavyweights like the Cowboys, Giants, or more recently, Packers. Until now, NFC West rivalries haven't been able to reach their full potential. In regards to fan involvement, the Hawks/9ers rivalry has been mostly one sided since the two teams landed in the NFC West in 2002. The play itself has been much more even with the edge going to the Seahawks at 12-10. Once a media afterthought, the arrival of the former Pac-10 head coaches has taken this matchup off the back burner and put football fans everywhere on notice. While tension between the franchises may have been manufactured by hungry Seattle fans over the last decade, you can bet this matchup should provide both sides with quality entertainment for years to come.
If the Seahawks still belonged to the AFC, I wouldn't have a problem pulling for them. After all, it's a very likable town. The people are awesome, the city is noticeably clean, and a clear day in the coffee capital is hard to beat. But the sports gods have never been kind to Seattle. There are few fan bases more desperate for outside validation. This is derived from years of underachievement and a lack of hardware. But wait, say you proud North Westerners, the Sonics brought it home in 1979! Yes they did, but the departure of their beloved hoops team only added to the rich history of letdowns in the Emerald City (FTR: that was criminal and I'm all for the Sonics revival tour). Somewhere along the way, frustration from loyal Seattle fans manifested itself in a heated rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers. But only recently was the rivalry reciprocated by fans of the FTSBC; that's Five Time Super Bowl Champions in laymen's. The reason for this? Simple, both teams are stacked for the first time since realignment and their pumping up the division along the way.
To me, the Seahawks have always been a case of 'whatever.' Matt Hasselback and Shaun A took them to a Super Bowl? Whatever. They have some of the loudest fans in football? Whatever. They've quietly been the class of the NFC West for a majority of the time since realignment? Cool, WHATEVER! If I had a nickle for every time a Seattlite reminded me that the 49ers haven't won a Super Bowl since I was child, I could exchange my earnings for a flight and tickets to Sunday's upcoming slugfest. What some of the Seahawk faithful don't seem to understand is that there are lasting benefits to be enjoyed by an organization and its fans when they've had remarkable success in the past. It's not my fault I was only five years old when the 9ers kicked around the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. It probably goes without saying that Seahawks fans are just a little jealous of the success our franchise has enjoyed. I don't want to spend too much time on the attack, but I have to take my jabs. It should be noted that the rowdy fan base who calls themselves the "12th man" is not the original. Fun fact; they're only allowed to use the phrase after they paid off Texas A & M, who coined it in 1922 and still hold ownership over it. Even after a decade of dormancy, the 49ers brand is associated with success worldwide. The Seahawks brand, as far as I can tell, is associated only with an emblem depicting a bird that spends its time creeping people out in coastal cities. "More neon! That will do the trick," said the Seahawks marketing team on their drive back to WA from Eugene.
Of course, we have to remember that sports are reactionary and we live in the now. And in the now, the 49ers are building what many consider to be the blueprint for a modern NFL franchise. Don't get me wrong, the Seahawks are good. They're very good. On a neutral field, most people would agree this matchup is a coin flip. But results don't lie. Since the unofficial restart on this rivalry two seasons ago, the 49ers have owned the NFC West crown while hauling in two Conference Championship appearances and a Super Bowl berth. The Seahawks breakout season has rightfully given their fans some serious confidence. However, until the 9ers are dethroned, advantage goes to Lord Harbaugh, and regular season match-ups are only a small step in changing that. Who knows, maybe one day Russ Wilson and "All Pro Stanford Grad"/All -American mouthpiece Richard Sherman will lead their team to the promise land, forcing me to eat crow (Yes, I'd be mad, bro). But that day won't be this coming Sunday, and in the meantime, 49ers fans should enjoy the evolution of this rivalry. As for Seahawk fans, their reactions to victories like last year's Week 16 debacle are just a reminder that the 49ers are still the best measuring stick for their team's success, and not the other way around.