A West Coast football rivalry is boiling towards a fevered pitch: the Seattle Seahawks are trying to prevent fans of the San Francisco 49ers from attending next Sunday's NFC championship game.
Tickets not already accounted for go on sale at 10 a.m. PT on Monday and the Seahawks on their website have outlined who is welcome to buy the ducats. Fans welcome are those with a billing address in the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii – "and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta." Call it Cascadia, plus Hawaii.
Of course, the Seahawks cannot prevent 49ers fans from pursuing tickets through other means, Stubhub, Craigslist, and the like, but given the crazed fervency and manic volume of Seahawks fans, it appears Seattle will maximize its home-field advantage, which is already considerable since the team has lost only once at CenturyLink Field this season, a stadium where second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is 16-1 stretching back to last year.
"They don't like us and we don't like them," said 49ers safety Donte Whitner to reporter on Sunday of San Fran's and Seattle's disdain for each other, after the 49ers had beaten up the Carolina Panthers 23-10, their second consecutive road playoff victory.
The rivalry is new, even though the two football teams have played for decades on the West Coast. For much of that time, they were in different conferences, until Seattle moved back to the NFC in 2001 (after a single NFC season in 1976). But even then, they weren't good at the same time. Seattle was strong in the mid-2000s, when the 49ers were not. Now they are both powers – and in the same division.
And it helps stoke a fire if someone throws around the word cheater, as San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh did last summer. The Seahawks have had several players test positive for drugs (the attention deficit disorder medication Adderall, and marijuana). "If you cheat to win, then you've already lost," said Harbaugh last summer. Add to this the long-standing playing-field rivalry between the teams' coaches, Harbaugh who previously coached college ball at Stanford, which was in the Pac-10 conference when Harbaugh was there, alongside University of Southern California, the titan of a team that Seattle's Pete Carroll ran.
This is San Fran's third consecutive NFC championship appearance, having lost in 2011 and won in 2012 (when they lost the Super Bowl). This year, the 49ers would have to pull off the extremely difficult trick of a third road playoff victory to reach Super Bowl XLVII. The last team to achieve such a feat was the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the Super Bowl that year, beating Seattle in the Seahawks' one-and-only title game.
The teams have split their two regular-season meetings this year. Seattle won at home 29-3 in the second week of the year, when the 49ers had not quite found their rhythm, and then the 49ers beat the Seahawks 19-17 in San Francisco Dec 8.
To illustrate how unfriendly things can get, Seahawks fans from Vancouver visited San Fran for that game and were physical threatened several times for their wearing Seahawks paraphernalia.
As for NFC championship tickets, sales are going through Ticketmaster and the Seahawks said: "Ticket availability is limited and expected to sell quickly."
San Fran fans are undaunted. Patrick Deinlein, commenting on NFL.com, said he attended the Carolina game, and there was a fair-sized contingent of 49ers backers. His view? "Any 49er fan that can go, GO. The more Niner fans that go the less noise they can make."
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