We are not so different, you and I. The Emerald City and the City by the Bay share similar cultures, although I will take our hip-hop over yours any day. We are both beautiful cosmopolitan utopias perched on the water, we are both inundated with hipsters, we both love our football, and we both are thinking "Super Bowl or bust" in 2014.
Our journeys to this stage have not been that dissimilar either. We both spent a decade or so feeding off the muddy tidal flats; you during the 90s and us over the last ten years. We both suffered through Dennis Erickson eras, we both had 2-14 scorched-earth disaster seasons, and we both had transcendent catches that probably should have never happened (to the 49ers fans out there, I'm referring to Rice's fumble that was called down-by-contact right before Terrell Owens made "The Catch II"). It was ugly on both sides of Oregon, at one point or another, and it took two charismatic coaches to drag us out of the quicksand.
Remember just a few short years ago the NFC West was the laughing stock of the league? I mean, seriously, you guys made the playoffs with a losing record. As much as I have to tip my hat for beating the Saints and restoring some credibility to our division (and thank Marshawn Lynch for making "beast mode" part of my everyday lexicon), it was still a dark moment in time. Now our division has experienced a revival and we are full of teams who are, at the least, respected. Maybe some props are due to our weird step children, the Cardinals and the Rams, but we are the ones at the head of the table.
Our teams are even built in a similar way, led by two young, mobile, and un-touted quarterbacks. Both our offenses are centered on a strong ground game and both of our defenses cause opponents to involuntarily lose bladder control. Both of our coaches are loved at home and generally hated everywhere else. Harbaugh and Carroll both have their quirky conspiracy theories: Harbaugh believes a cabal of referees is out to make him lose every single game while Carroll thinks 9/11 was an inside job.
Perhaps we are too alike to ever get along. Through the similar styles of physical play there is only smash or be smashed. Only bully or be bullied and this attitude is all part of the personalities dictated by the coaches. Carroll was a tyrant in the Pac-10/12 for years until Harbaugh came along and took that torch from him. Even when no football was being played our rivalry soldiered on during the off season as we tried one-upping each other in free agency. The swagger that trickles down from the top truly has a long reach.
I am fine with not getting along. I respect you but I do not have to like you. This rivalry is more Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant than Hatfields and McCoys. It simply does not seem to divide people like Yankees-Red Sox, Alabama-Auburn, or Timbers-Sounders (I do not know anything about MLS but you guys love soccer, right?). An example is one of my co-workers, Fivel; he is a 49ers fan like any good Bay Area born-and-raised son should be. However, this weekend he has made a bet with a kickball teammate, against the 49ers. He committed this crime only because, as he describes it, "Marshawn is my idol" (the loser has to wear this uniform during their next kickball game).
If people like Fivel can exist then we must ask ourselves where this animosity comes from. Is it a product of ESPNs Hype Machine? Is it proximity? It certainly is not historical. We only became division rivals in 2002 and most of your successes in the NFC West came while we were trying to remember how to play football. No, our rivalry is not born out of some geographical boundary and, although, ESPNs bombastic dialogue certainly adds frothiness to our collective spite; they did not create this rivalry. It was born out of something better- something pure: we are both good...really, really good, and that is great.
I love Seattle and every minute of time I have spent there, I even watched both seasons of The Killing. My youth was shaped by your music scene, from Ray Charles to Nirvana, and I could happily spend the rest of my days eating my way through your restaurants and drinking your micro-brews.
We are not so different, you and I. So enjoy the first installment of our rivalry this weekend and when you are done berating us with taunts, as we will return in kind, go home and thank your lucky stars that we have each other.
P.S. Suck it! Go Niners!