I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young glory years.
I now live in Seattle and am married to an intensely devoted Seahawks fan.
Do you see the problem?
Around here, when Seahawk running back Marshawn Lynch runs off left tackle, it can register on the Richter scale. No, seriously. More than once in the past few years, Seahawks fans at CenturyLink field have made so much commotion at big games that they were picked up on local seismic detectors.
The teams are divisional rivals and apparently don’t like each other. The coaches haven't been overly fond of each other in the past. And both the Seahawks and 49ers are known for their old school, smash-mouth style of play that’s put them in good stead to win it all.
The spectacle of Lynch, aka “Beast Mode,” crashing up the middle into the likes of the 49ers’ twin hulks NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis is a mouth-watering proposition. Only the grittiest, gravel-gutted team will move on to the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., Feb. 2.
So I’ve got my feet in both camps for this weekend’s game.
Well, OK, that’s not true. But I’ve found that evenhandedly acknowledging the virtues of each team (while quietly rooting for my own) goes over much better at home than trash-talking the opposition like a free safety after he’s just blown up a wide receiver crossing over the middle.
I’ve even told my wife that, though I’ll be rooting for the 49ers this Sunday, it’ll still be a nice consolation prize for me if the Seahawks win, because I know how happy it’ll make her. And it’s true. Seattle’s never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and after coming so close against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006, it makes you almost sorry enough for them to want it to go their way – “almost” being the operative word.
I know the Seahawks have had a long and hard go of it over the decades. I remember as a kid how when I’d open a pack of football cards and find a Seahawks card, it was definitely one to pass over – a losing team with unremarkable blue jerseys. Up until recent years, it’s been the same story a fair amount of the time.
Then again, there was the 49ers’ exasperating defeat in the Super Bowl last year, coming just five brutal yards short. And that kind of makes you feel for the 49ers, too. Right? (Yes, this is the fan of a five-time Super Bowl champion complaining.)
Amid all the ado over how much the teams don’t like each other, it’s tough to know from the stands how much is heartfelt animus and how much is hype. Both teams get in their share of taunting and after-the-play celebrating. But that’s hardly unusual in the modern NFL. (Remember when players followed stellar plays with a simple trot back to the huddle and maybe a high five? I didn’t think so. These days, the 1980s feel like the Middle Ages.)
The fact that the Seahawks refused to sell tickets to people with California ZIP Codes when the few remaining ones went on sale last Monday didn't add any warm fuzzies. In any event, the crush of phone and online traffic left me ticketless, and the current “low” price of $464 per ticket on StubHub will keep me on my sofa this Sunday, too.
But football is football, and there’s no doubt I’ll be watching.
Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to see the last football game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park with my dad and brother, and it was something I’ll always remember. When Bowman snagged the now-famous “Pick at the Stick” to save the 49ers the embarrassment of potentially losing such a historic game, I and thousands of others screamed ourselves hoarse. I was slapping hands with my dad, my brother, the guy in front of us (who we didn’t know). It was great.
That is why I’ll be watching Sunday. Maybe my team will win. Maybe my wife’s team will. Either way, someone’s going to be giving high fives and yelling until they’re hoarse.
I just hope it’s me.