Seattle nice? Seahawks and city want to rock San Francisco

There's a lot of history between us, most of it favoring them. Until more recently.
Marshawn Lynch and Seahawk fans shook the seisometers during the 2011 playoff game against New Orleans.

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawk fans shook the seisometers during the 2011 playoff game against New Orleans. KellBailey (Kelly Bailey)/Flickr

With the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers facing off in the NFC championship this weekend, it's fun to read local columnists turning to Northwest history rather than the history of the sport.

Art Thiel reminds us how sensitive Californians are to the cold and damp. Denizens of foggy San Francisco think 60 degrees is chilly. History shows that weather in the Northwest can drive visitors to depression and despair, as illustrated in the journals of Lewis and Clark, who endured a miserable cold, wet winter at the mouth of the Columbia River.

It was dreadful seasonal weather that drove Ulysses S. Grant, then young Army officer at Fort Vancouver, to drink — though both Grant and President Abe Lincoln turned rainy-day boozing to their advantage. Lincoln, impressed with Grant's Marshawn Lynch-style of doing battle, ordered up a barrel of whatever Grant was drinking for the rest of his generals. "He fights," said Lincoln.

Danny Westneat takes on the bigger picture of the San Francisco vs. Seattle rivalry. Their Victorian mansions were built with our trees, our state's oysters fed their boomtown bellies. We have a lot of current and past links with The City. Their current mayor, Ed Lee, is, as a matter of fact, a Seattle native (from Beacon Hill). And one of the Bay Area's most iconic authors, Jack London, was conceived in Seattle, where his parents were friends of the Yeslers.

Seattle has always aspired to be the "next" San Francisco. We aspired after New York for a while, but our real urge was to be the dominant city on the Pacific Coast. San Francisco was our nearest large urban market for trade, contact with the outside world and raw materials with which to build our own city. We were the underdog, the scrapper.

When the first gold from Alaska reached San Francisco — before Seattle's famed "ton of gold shipment" — that city, which had known gold rushes before, merely yawned. Seattle was the town that leaped at the opportunity to turn itself into a base-camp for gold seekers in the Klondike, and Seattle's first big fortunes were made. It was San Francisco that lost an opportunity, and we who feasted.

But never have we had the "class" of San Francisco. We sought to change that with the world's fair in 1962, by turning Seattle into a tourist destination filled with white-tablecloth restaurants. When the Space Needle's founders were looking for a name for their revolving restaurant, they floated "Top of the Needle" to the citizenry, who strenuously objected that it too closely mirrored San Francisco's "Top of the Mark." The namers backed off and came up with "Eye of the Needle," which was deemed more original. But their goal remained the same: to signal to the world a new level of international dining featuring regional foods — Dungeness crab, salmon, apples, Tillamook cheese — whipped into fancy dishes by French-trained chefs.

Still, even where we succeded in cultivating class, we fell short on romance. The old joke was that San Francisco was the mistress, Seattle the wife. San Francisco's roots were in the good life, the grape, the Mediterranean. Seattle was all about sensible shoes, our power center a Rotary Club.

One thing has struck me in the rivalry as it's being played out now in football. Seattle is the underdog with a fiercely loyal, almost tribal fan base. As a rabid, 49er-hating 12th man myself, I cede nothing to San Francisco. But what I find significant is that San Francisco cares enough about Seattle to hate us back. That is a sure sign that the once-superior city is slipping — a sure sign of civic insecurity.

These games really aren't about cities — San Francisco, where I once lived, is a truly great city. I love it still, 49ers or no. The Bay Area has also been a breeding ground for alternative cultures and lifestyles since the 1850s; it's deeply embedded in big aspirations, and major weirdness. Win or lose, it will be a great city no matter what happens at CenturyLink field on Sunday. So will we.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Great piece Knute.

Although I agree with your assessment of the rabid loyalty of Seahawk fans, I don't believe the football world sees Seattle as the underdog.
Many pundits declared them Super Bowl contenders throughout the season and they are currently 3.5 point favorites for Sunday's game.

As a city and citizenry we may be underdogs, but this is the Hawks game to lose.
I wonder if a win will truly generate a feeling of accomplished equality w/ S.F. and if a loss will perpetuate the little brother attitude.

jeffro

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

jeffro: Thanks! The underdog thing is in the mentality, not the odds. And in that sense of a remote NZFL outpost like Seattle getting due respect (a constant sports radio theme when it comes to the national football press). I can't imagine a win will change the second city dynamic much. It has to do with a lot more than football. But it will feel great, no question.

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Who's this "we" you keep writing about Knute? How many people who reside in Seattle, or read your posts have the slightest interest in or knowledge of what happened here in the past even as recent as 1962.

Here, any objective or regulation still intact when it reaches voting age gets treated to an "update" and either the universal facial expression of contempt, or the hand expression of holding a small dead animal by the tail—generally both. That said, it is rather odd where this perpetual little brother complex comes from. Do people bring it with them? If so, shame on them. E.O. Wilson, as usual, offers the best explanation and stick around for the questions:

http://longnow.org/seminars/02012/apr/20/social-conquest-earth/

afreeman

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 1:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Listening to the radio this week (710 et al) - apparently the two sets of fans HATE each other. HATE, no less. it reminds me of a friend's story about first attending a Milan soccer game (AC Milan against Inter) back in the early 2000s. Passions run high, and a moped is flung from the top tier of one of the stands onto the opposing fans below. Now THAT"S hatred. I tried getting a moped into the C-LINK but they took it off me at the turnstiles. Another friend, a nurse, regularly lamented the increase in stabbings that occurred in Glasgow after every Old Firm game (Celtic - Catholic v Rangers - Protestant.)

So, Seattle, San Francisco. Hatred? Meh. (Thankfully.)

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 7:51 p.m. Inappropriate

I remember Seattle when it didn't have a professional football team, and as children we would play in the city dump which was almost under the shadow of the sacred dirt of what was once Husky Stadium.

However there wasn't a lot to do on a Sunday in those years, and my football loving Dad would gather me up and sit us down at the kitchen table; turn on the radio and we'd listen to the 49'ers play. They were the closet thing we had to a professional football team in Seattle...outside of the semipro league. My Dad would take a clean sheet of paper and mark the lines of a football field on it. We'd then take turns marking on the paper the progress of the 49'ers and their opposition. I loved the 49'ers almost as much as the Huskies. I think there were a lot of us in Seattle that loved the 49'ers. Kezar Stadium became almost as sacred as Husky Stadium.

I some respects, I still can't get the 49'ers out of my blood, and it took me a while to really pay attention to the Seahawks. It certainly wasn't love a first sight. This weekend's game brings back those great old memories and warm feelings of football and family, and I am glad it is the Seahawks and 49er's that are playing.

Bella

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