Being a 49ers fan, I understand a bit why Seahawks fans hate their rivals from the Bay Area, the place I was born, raised and cut my teeth as a sports fan, watching childhood heroes such as Mays, McCovey and John Brodie.
Later in life, I would get to cover the teams I loved as a sports editor and columnist at various Northern California dailies.
But I always covered them with a somewhat critical eye, especially the San Francisco Giants, who until recent years were mostly disappointing, despite my rabid loyalty.
As of yet, I don’t hate the Seahawks. (The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Dodgers will do for now.) Until their move to the NFC West, the Hawks were my second-favorite NFL team. (I always thought their logo was the coolest in the NFL and I can’t stand the Oakland Raiders, so I used to delight in watching the Seahawks upset them on a somewhat regular basis, especially in the Kingdome)
Now that they are division rivals — the best rivalry in all of football right now — I don’t like them much, either. And last week’s despicable showering of fallen hero and All-Pro linebacker Navarro Bowman with beer and food as he was carted off the field — after making a phenomenal play, by the way — was a classless act by Seahawk fans, a fan base I actually respect, for the most part.
Please, Seahawks fans, don’t become Oakland North.
I won’t get into the whole Richard Sherman thing, because I respect him as a player, but — as I’ve seen so often in the NFL — his antics will result in karmic debts to pay, and those things generally come, with compounded interest, sooner rather than later.
All that being said, I like the Seahawks’ chances against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning . Not a ton, but I’m stunned that the oddsmakers favor Denver. I’ll get into that later.
After the Seahawks dispatched the 49ers in the NFC Championship, some thoughts came to mind.
The Seahawks better win this thing, or people may be jumping off the Space Needle tomorrow night. I’ve never witnessed a fan base quite as confident as Seahawks fans are this year. Should they lose Sunday night, people in these parts will be absolutely despondent.
I blame the Seattle broadcast media for some of that.
Never, in all my years as a football fan and journalist, have I ever seen the local broadcast media jump on a team’s bandwagon like Seattle’s has. I can honestly say that no Bay Area anchor person ever wore more than maybe a red-and-gold tie during a broadcast in the team’s heyday.
I’ve seen broadcasters up here ridiculously donning Seahawks jerseys, waving “12th Man” flags on air, and Aaron Levine and the entire Fox-13 news team have crossed the line from being anything resembling journalists to something akin to PR flacks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard alleged “journalists” refer to the 49ers and their fans as “forty-whiners.” Gee, that’s original. (The again, it’s not like the 12th Man” monicker is an original either.) I’ve only been hearing “forty-whiners” from Raider fans for, like, 45 years. (Jiminy. To this day, The 12th Man is still moaning about how the Hawks were “ripped off ” in their only other Super Bowl appearance. Give me a break.)
My guess is the easiest job in Seattle is working in the Seahawks’ marketing department. The local broadcast media up there is doing the job for them — and then some.
Fox’s head cheerleader, Levine, is the worst by far. During his “exclusive” interviews with Russell Wilson and Sherman, he looked like he was going to wet himself. It makes sense as Fox is also the network of “Homer” Simpson.
But I digress.
For the Seahawks and their fans, there’s one big reason and one small one to be worried about this game. The big one is Manning.
While I believe Colin Kaepernick — and Russell Wilson, for that matter — will both be excellent NFL quarterbacks for years to come, they aren’t Joe Montana or Peyton Manning, yet.
While Manning can’t run like a gazelle like Kaepernick, he’s a deadly quarterback and one of the best ever at reading and adjusting to defenses, especially those that play the same scheme throughout a game. And he has a ton of weapons, unlike the 49ers, who have three guys in Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, who are all similar in their skill sets. You can’t say that about Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Manning and his receivers will do some damage in this game. The Seahawks defense simply must limit the damage and keep the game close.
A smaller advantage for Denver is the neutral field and the weather forecast. The Seahawks are definitely more vulnerable away from their raucous home crowd and are better built for inclement weather, which is no longer in the forecast.
There are four reasons I like the Seahawks in this game — the defensive backfield, which I readily acknowledge is the best in football, Pete Carroll and Marshawn Lynch and the fact that the Seahawks beat the second best team in the NFL — the 49ers — twice this season.
On top of that, there are several parallels and links between this Seattle team and the 1981 49ers — winners of that franchise’s first Super Bowl.
In 1981, the 49ers used a first-, second- and third-round draft picks on defensive backs, bringing in Hall–of-Famer Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright, forming what would be the best defensive backfield in the NFL. In the pre-salary cap era, it was a cornerstone of the team for most of a decade (even though Joe Montana gets most of the credit). Those three were big, fast and physical DBs, much like the Seattle unit of today.
That 49ers team finished the regular season with the 13-3 record, just as the Seahawks did this season.
As for Carroll, many of my friends in the Bay Area can’t stand him. I don’t understand this. He seems like an excellent coach who loves the game and his players.
He’s a Bay Area product, like myself raised in Marin County, across the Golden Gate from The City. His college playing career and early coaching career began at University of the Pacific, in nearby Stockton, Calif., former training camp home of the 49ers in the 1980s. He was also the Niner defensive coordinator for two years. He makes for a fantastic foil for the 49ers own passionate/zany coach, Jim Harbaugh, which adds to the rivalry. And, he’s classy. Here’s what Carroll said of the 49ers following the NFC Championship:
“They’re an outstanding, worthy opponent,” he said. “That’s one thing about a rivalry that is a wonderful thing in football, at any level, it makes both teams aspire to be better, to be great.”
Then there’s Lynch, the pride of Oakland Tech, a Bay Area high school that boasts alumni such as Brodie, Clint Eastwood, Rickey Henderson, Curt Flood (one of the most underrated baseball players ever and the man who sued Major League Baseball in what was a vain attempt to create what later became known as “free agency”), Rod McKuen and Frank Oz.
Lynch was a prep sensation when I was a sports editor in NorCal, ranked as the second best high school running back in the nation, behind a guy named Adrian Peterson.
If you’re a true football fan, you have to respect Lynch and love the way he plays. I also enjoy the way he’s blowing off the East Coast-biased/national media, much like that group has done to Seattle sports for decades.
And if he can run for a buck and a quarter and a TD against the 49ers’ front seven, he can do it against anybody.
Finally, after getting over that brutal loss a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had time to reflect. I’m a greedy sports fan and want the Niners to win more Super Bowls (likely next year, when it’s played in the franchise’s spanking-new stadium and there are a dozen — count ‘em, 12 — draft picks for the team to work with in 2014). But I have a number of friends, loved ones and colleagues who are Seahawk fans. I would sincerely like them to share the joy of a world championship like I have many times over the years, especially when you consider that Seattle’s one championship team, the Sonics (along with Kevin Durant) was stolen from the fans by the NBA.
And it would be great fun to watch Seattle go ballistic Sunday night. Take it from me, should the Seahawks win, that will be one great party, having experienced such celebrations several times in downtown San Francisco.
So, how’s the game going to go?
Lynch runs for 130 yards and a touchdown. Wilson throws for only 140 yards and a TD, but no turnovers. Steven Hauschka kicks four field goals.
Manning throws TDs to three different receivers not named Crabtree and not covered by Richard Sherman.
By the same score the Niners won their first Super Bowl, I’ll take the Seahawks — 26-21.
Now, to borrow from Ron Burgundy: Stay classy, Seattle.
And P.S. — Wait till next year.
Dave Haerle is a former Daliy World entertainment editor and is now a news reporter/paginator for The Vidette.