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Being a lifelong 49ers fan and having spent a portion of my life living in the Pacific Northwest, I have seen my share of things when it comes to the Seahawks. I remember when they were in the old AFC West along with Denver, Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland. It's really the Houston Texans that made our paths cross. When the Texans came into the league in 2002, the NFL had to re-align and sent Seattle and Arizona into the NFC West, while kicking Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans out.
I would have to say that my time living in Seattle was...interesting to say the least. I'll preface this with the fact that it's not as bad as Niners fans may believe. I think it's just a matter of understanding the environment.
Interestingly enough, even though the Seahawks have been in the same division as the 49ers for a number of years, the "rivalry" didn't heat up until this game in December of 2012. I was actually at that cold, rainy game with my wife and it was over by the 3rd quarter. While conversing with Seahawks fans, it seemed as if they were almost apologizing for beating the pants off of the Niners that night.
I recall one Seahawks fan next to me leaning over to me and saying "You know that we're really just envious of those 5 trophies that you have, we wish we had that." I don't know if it was the liquor in him talking, but I'll never forget that because I never thought of the 49ers as a team that the Seahawks would be gunning for. As we all know, the 49ers got blown out 42-13 in that game and it seems like ever since then, Seahawks fans started hating the 49ers.
The 49ers were the class of the league that year, after going to the NFC Championship Game a year before and battling for home-field advantage, the Seahawks win proved that Seattle was ready to become a serious contender again...and their fans sensed it.
Since 2012, if one were to walk around Seattle, you would progressively see more Seahawks jerseys as their success continued. It's interesting to note that the overwhelming majority of these jerseys are from the current group of players (Wilson, Sherman, Lynch, Thomas III). This is noteworthy because the Seahawks have historically had great players such as Steve Largent, Kenny Easley, Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, and Cortez Kennedy. I rarely, if ever, saw names of past Seahawk greats on anyone's back so it seemed as if the team's new found success had attracted a ton of new fans. Now, 49ers fans can be accused of "living in the past" by wearing our Montana, Rice, Young and Lott jerseys, but that's because most of us have been fans since that time or before that time and we remember those days vividly.
Around the same time in 2012, Seahawks fans created this movement called "Blue Friday". It called for their fans to wear as much Seahawks gear from head to toe as they could on the Friday before a game. To some, it might seem silly to do this before pre-season games that don't count but hey, give them credit, their passion for their team shows.
On the eve of significant games, you'll see pep rallies downtown in their main shopping district (Westlake Center), while the iconic Space Needle will have a flag atop it every Sunday.
Speaking of flags, you'll also see a lot of "12" flags in and around Seattle, like, a LOT. Nearly every store, every major building and anywhere in between has a "12th Man" flag visible. In fact, Boeing recently commissioned a 747 freighter bearing the moniker.
On game days, the gym is virtually empty, grocery stores have few customers and bars are booming. When it comes to football in Seattle, it's all Seahawks all the time and being a fan of another team is considered blasphemous. Being a Seahawk fan isn't just a hobby, it's a way of life and an attitude for the people of Seattle – something they wear on their collective sleeve.
There was the standard hostility that you might come to expect while living in another team's city; people talking trash, people refusing to talk to me because I'm a 49ers fan, etc. Around the time of the Championship Game in January of 2014, things came to a head after Richard Sherman's idiotic rant on national television.
After the Super Bowl that year, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing people state how much they hate the 49ers, seeing a replay of that final play, or seeing shirts with pictures of that final play. Seahawk fans were actually talking more about the 49ers and less about the Super Bowl win that they just had.
Couple that with things like flying a banner over Candlestick Park, buying a brick to honor their fans at Levis Stadium, planting a Seahawks flag on Mission Peak, making a pit stop at Levis before the Super Bowl for some pictures and the seeds of hatred were planted. For 49ers fans, it wasn't something to be bothered by because it seemed so petty – much like a younger brother trying to poke at his big brother. Around the Bay Area, the tepid reaction over the aforementioned antics said as much. However, over time, this much was clear to me: They hate us a whole lot more than we care about them.
It's that same hatred that fueled their team to own the 49ers for the next couple of years.
With that being said, I feel like 49ers fans shouldn't care enough about this manufactured "rivalry" to get too much into it as there isn't really a history of hard-fought games between the 49ers and Seahawks (outside of the Championship Game in 2014). Historically, most 49er fans consider their chief rivals to be Green Bay, the New York Giants, and Dallas because of their Super Bowl pedigree and playoff contests.
The 49ers used to be the Seahawks' measuring stick. The Seahawks took that challenge and parlayed it into 2 Super Bowl appearances and 1 Super Bowl win at the expense of the Niners. Now that the shoe is on the other foot and the Seahawks are the measuring stick, we'll see how well they can hold up with everyone gunning for them.