BY Art Thiel 08:14PM 09/11/2013

Thiel: Seahawks-49ers a rare dose of relevance

Some think it’s the game of the year in the NFL. Seahawks and 49ers are tut-tutting it. But only the12th Man knows why Sunday is such a big deal to so many Seattle fans.

The 12th Man represented in D.C.: Seahawks season ticket holders Ryan Willmaser, left, of Monroe, and Shaun Messerli of Puyallup, show the flag at the National Mall before the Redskins-Seahawks playoff game in January.  / Willmaser photo

How big is Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and 49ers? Media credentials have been requested by representatives from Vulcan, Tatooine and the Klingon home world (no email request from the Death Star, however). Already, the Borg have been here, assimilating San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

“You Earthlings are weak,” Harbaugh said in an emotionless monotone on a conference call Wednesday. “Resistance is futile.”

Actually, he didn’t say that, although the emotionless monotone was correct. But he was so deliberately boring that other worlds need to be imported via media wormholes to enliven the discussion.

The Seahawks and 49ers are offering virtually nothing but oatmeal this week about the clash whose outcome may have been foreshadowed by Joshua 6:21 in the Old Testament about the fall of Jericho: ” . . . destroyed with the sword every living thing in it — men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys.”

OK, we’ve taken some liberties here in going from 5000 B.C. to the 24th century to grasp this highly anticipated collision of the colossi. Consider the hyperbole a counterweight to the efforts of the participants to tamp down hysteria.

“I think it’s two good teams going head to head,” said 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick,

“It’s a championship opportunity for us, just like last week — it’s no different,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

The next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year — that’s how we look at our opponents each week,” said Harbaugh.

“Last year means nothing, last game means nothing, rivalry means nothing,” said Seahawks WR Sidney Rice.

Well, hell. Is it possible to die of terminal poker-face?

After some badgering, Harbaugh finally owned up to the teensiest bit of emotion when he conceded that he likes big rivalry games.

“Yeah, I always have,” he said. “It raises the bar for both teams.”

Way too sensible. The quote was a far cry from his “jive turkey gobblers” riff Oct. 30, when he apparently was paying a complement to his then-quarterback, Alex Smith, but ended up speaking pidgin Borg. I warned you about this.

It’s game week, and athletes and coaches are trained to be rhetorical dorks. I also know that few, if any, get where this game fits into the great sweep of Seattle sports history because they haven’t lived it.

The big deal here? It’s relevant.

For so many years, so many games have meant so little. So many hopes have been extinguished so abruptly.

The subsequent cynicism is the rot that ruins the joy.

The Mariners can’t get past Memorial Day with a game that means something other than two outs and nobody on. The Sounders have been consistently good, but a playoff dud. Huskies football has been in a 20-year crater from which it may have emerged Aug. 31. Huskies basketball has had numerous high points under coach Lorenzo Romar, but none of them are past the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. And fergawdsakes, some goofball Okies outwitted us for the Sonics after 41 years.

The Seahawks had a shining moment in Super Bowl XL, but the outcome is still not spoken of by parents who are concerned about their children’s emotional welfare. And the farewell to the franchise’s best coach, Mike Holmgren, was a 4-12 season.

Two recent hallmarks of Seattle sports: The Seahawks won a division championship with a losing record, an NFL first, and Felix Hernandez won a Cy Young Award with the fewest wins in the history of the honor.

Seattle sports fans come by their scars honorably, frequently and beyond the sporting imagination.

That’s why Sunday is a big deal. The 12th Man cares deeply because the moments are so rare to engage in relevance.

In the space of three weeks, the Sounders will have filled the Clink with nearly 70,000 for the Timbers game and newcomer star Clint Dempsey’s debut, followed by same number of Seahawks fans Sunday, who will be asked to participate in an attempt to beat the Guinness book world record for noisiest stadium.

Most important, the game is against a foe of equal stature in the same division, the closest geographical rival the NFL can provide. So many times the local team might play well an impressive foe, but the victories are usually moral, uncounted by even the most sophisticated digital metrics.

Once the draft was done in April, these teams were assessed by many media members and fans as the two best in the game, operated by two superb young quarterbacks and coached by men filled with such disdain for one another that each would not offer to spit if either happened to be on fire. Then again, maybe they would, giggling.

After the Seahawks brutalized the 49ers in December, 42-13, Seahawks fans presumed they had the upper hand the rest of the way. But the as Seattle sporting fates would have it, they watched at home as the 49ers made the Super Bowl.

So the day the NFL schedule came out, Sept. 15 had so many red circles on the calendar it looked like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Harbaugh was asked Wednesday whether he had one or two takeaways from the December loss.

“Ummm,” he said, pausing, “no.”

Perhaps this time, the cattle, sheep and donkeys Sunday will linger in his recall.


  • mginnett

    Nailed it

    • art thiel


  • PokeyPuffy

    Yep! we need this game worse than San Fran. Is it too late to trade Percy Harvin for some pass protection?

    • art thiel

      Where is Walter Jones when you need him?

  • Michael Glisson

    Hawks have Carroll’s and Holmgren ‘s info about the Niners over past and present. seasons. Both teams can win this game. BUT if both teams play up to their talent and coaching levels the Niners have the edge. Kaeperneck ads an edge at Quarterback. I would gues 28-17 final with the Niners getting the edge in a great game.. P.S. Art, GREAT SITE !!. Mike and Denise in KY.. I think I’m getting rocks thrown at me now… LOL!

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Mike. Niners have not done well in the Seattle atmosphere. WR Boldin is a big pickup for them, but Seattle held SF top 13 points in both games last year. Don’t see them getting well Sunday.

    • bonniefletcher

      Gee, your prognostication was a little off. The Niners didn’t get an edge, and Kaeperneck didn’t outshine Wilson. It was a great game, but the 12th man did the Niners in. So much so that their fans want to outlaw noise, fat chance of that.

  • Troy

    Love it, Art. Can’t think of a more hyped week 2 game in recent memory — if at all. The only buzz that rivals this in Seattle sports history, in my opinion, was for the mid-90s Sonics come playoff time.

    So many story lines. It’ll be interesting to see how the line in front of Lynch meshes at the Clink against a D-line equal, if not superior, to that in week 1. I’m also holding out hope that, for one play, Chancellor mistakes Harbaugh for Vernon Davis on a high sideline throw. The few still needing reason to tune in need only remember that if business is taken care of, Kaepernick will look a little lopsided in the Monday press conference.

    Should be an exciting game. While the season isn’t at stake, I think you correctly point out that this is a huge day for Seattle sports fans.

    • art thiel

      Yes, the anticipation for Sonics playoffs provoked a similar tingle. But this is just regular season. If they meet in a do-or-die playoff game, I wonder if Harborview has enough beds.

  • jafabian

    If the Seahawks want to set the record for noisiest or loudest stadium they need to promote tailgating more. Fans who are good and tanked get louder. But being a night game that could very well happen anyways. IIRC, Kaepernick wasn’t prepared for the noise at his first visit here last season.

    • art thiel

      You’re right about Kaepernick. Regarding the noise, I think the last thing city and county cops want is more alcohol closer to the epicenter of mayhem. That’s why they’re going undercover in opponent jerseys.

  • Mark T. Ingham

    In other news, undercover cops in Jawa and Stormtrooper costumes will be present at the Clink to help thwart any extraterrestrial drunken hooliganisms.

    • art thiel

      Should they fail, they will answer to Carpenter the Hutt.

  • Becky

    So well written, Art. Witty, erudite, and spot-on! As a long-suffering (emphasis on suffering) Seattle sports fan, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to anticipate a Big Game that will affect the earth’s rotation around the sun. The only thing better than a Seattle win on Sunday night would be if David Stern mistakenly wandered into the end zone, Kam Chancellor thought he was a tackle-eligible receiver, and knocked him into next week.

    • art thiel

      I wished you had told me about the Stern idea. Would have included it.

      Thanks for the good words.

  • Sandy Frost

    U r such cute little sports nerd.

    • art thiel


  • Michaell Glisson

    Well, looks like Seattle has the Forty niners number. 49ers were out coached and out played. Seattle has a huge future with Wilson and supporting cast, He was spot on when settled in. And great pass protection NOW, after my comments made previously , I must admit it does not matter how you cook CROW it still tastes bad !! congratulations Seahawks, you have got one heck of a team there ! Darn it !!