David Falk has followed soccer in the Puget Sound region since 1974. This blog covers Sounders FC, local college soccer, Seattle Wolves FC, Tacoma Tide FC and Kitsap Pumas. Send tips or comments to: goalseattle@gmail.com
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Seattle Soccer Examiner

Seattle Soccer Examiner

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sounders and Timbers: Rivals Forever

The Sounders and Timbers play in Seattle for the last scheduled time tomorrow night at Qwest Field. I've been blogging about moments in the history of the derby this week.

Today Bob Kellett, Portland supporter, swaps guest posts with me. His thoughts on the Sounders-Timbers rivalry can be read below.

My final blog entry before the match can be read over at Bob's Timbers Offside Blog.
Here are this week's previous GOALSeattle entries.

(See #4 here) (See #3 here) (See #2 here) (See #1 here).

Tom Potl of Portland (#8) gets into it with Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar of Seattle (#77).
Hugo is the all-time Timbers assist leader, but that's a whole different story...
(Jenni Conner)

Guest Post: Rivals Forever
by Bob Kellett

There are two kinds of rivalries in the sports world. There are rivalries that are formed through memorable games and memorable moments. This type of rivalry links fans and clubs together through shared history. For example, the rivalries that formed in the 1980s featuring the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, and the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Fans of these teams might not have been naturally inclined to dislike one another, but after watching their teams clash year after year in meaningful games a rivalry was formed.

The other kind of rivalry has less to do with what happens on the playing field and more to do with other factors like geographic proximity, cultural differences and longevity. For most of the 20th Century the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were fierce rivals, even though the Yankees filled their trophy case with awards and the Red Sox seemingly always fell short. It didn't matter. The two teams were close enough, old enough, and just different enough to provide stark differences. You are either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fans, but you can't be both.

Of the two types of rivalries, it is the latter that is the most lasting. The Celtics and the Lakers haven't won anything in a long time, and you hardly hear anyone ever talk about their rivalry in the present tense. The Yankees and the Red Sox rivalry is bigger and better than ever, now that the team from Boston has claimed a few titles, at the expense of the team from the Bronx. Even if they both sucked, and both have at various times over the years, the fans still care, the players still care and the rivalry lives on.

Today's TNT: Don Ruiz looks at the future of the Seattle-Portland soccer rivalry

All of this is a long-winded way of putting into context the rivalry that exists between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders. Ours is a rivalry that has lasted for more than 30 years despite the fact that the teams have had varied successes and despite the fact that for many of those years the teams either didn't exist or they existed in other forms. Ours has stood the test of time in spite of the play on the pitch. More times than not games between the two teams have been ugly, physical affairs. It is not an amazing play from 1976 or an unforgettable game from 2005 that stands out in our collective minds, but rather three decades of heated exchanges and emotionally charged games that over time have blended into a movie that has no end.

All of this defies logic. Portland and Seattle are very similar cities. Both are liberal, laid back, largely white and rapidly growing. Drop a Portlander in Seattle and she will feel comfortable. Drop a Seattleite in Portland and she will not feel out of place. Drop either in, say, New York or Atlanta, and both will feel like they are in a different world. Our differences are much, much less than our similarities. Compared to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the country, out cities are exceedingly polite and not overly concerned with sports. Sure we get decent crowds to show up for our professional and college teams, but in general it doesn't mean as much to us as it does in places like Philadelphia and Chicago. Our lives don't revolve around our sports teams. Why sweat a Mariners loss or a Trail Blazers losing streak when we can be outside enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest or down the street sipping on a microbrew?

Other than our geographic proximity, there is little to inspire this rivalry. Our teams have never met in a league final and have only squared off in the playoffs a couple times. But we have a rivalry. And it is a great one at that.

Rational or not, healthy or not, it is fundamental for humans to identify with a larger group. It is no different in the Pacific Northwest even if we think of ourselves as different. In fact, it might be even more important in our region because it is something we work so hard to avoid in our regular lives. We love the Timbers and hate the Sounders, and vice versa, because we have an emotional need to both love and hate. In other countries these emotions are often manifested in violence and conflict. In Cascadia, it is manifested a few times a year when grown men in shorts play against one another. This is a healthy thing, even if watching your team lose to the enemy can feel worse than death.

On Saturday we will see the latest chapter in the NW Derby. With the Sounders heading to MLS and the Timbers staying put in USL, at least for the time being, there is no certainty that we will ever see these clubs play each other again in Seattle. What is certain, however, is that even if the clubs don't meet up in future league games, exhibitions or the US Open Cup, the rivalry will continue. We'll still love our team and hate the other because that is how we feel. It is how we need to feel. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is something very special about it.

Bob Kellett, Portland, Ore., is the former managing editor of World Cup Blog and The Offside. He blogs about his favorite club at the Portland Timbers Offside.


  1. Thanks for insight, Bob.

    Please bring the Timbers of last night north with you, as opposed to the Timbers of April 26th.

  2. Best post on this blog ever for all times.


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