Saturday’s game between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes was a dog and pony show: the fireworks from Great American Park interrupting the last seven minutes of the game, NBC choosing to broadcast that display instead of the play on the pitch, the Forty Niners setting exorbitant ticket prices, and the absence of the ECS all contributed to a farce. But the biggest joke was the suggestion that the Sounders and Quakes are rivals.
Recently Dave Kaval, club president of the San Jose Earthquakes, declared his desire to grow the rivalry between the Sounders and his team, citing the newly established rivalry between the San Francisco Forty Niners and Seattle Seahawks as inspiration. The Niners-Hawks recent rivalry is intense and enjoyable to the casual NFL fan. But it may well be a flash in the pan. Just three years ago, the NFL expected the St. Louis Rams to be Seattle’s rival. Beer commercials featured Hawks and Rams fans eyeing each other suspiciously and NBC flexed their broadcast to highlight a Week 17 matchup between the two teams. Though encouraged by marketing and television executives, that rivalry was stillborn.
A true rivalry is hard to predict and cannot by cultivated by corporate types. One surprising rivalry was that of the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens of the early 2000s. It was probably the NFL’s best as the two teams played a similarly smashmouth style and perennially met in the playoffs. Eddie George crashing up the gut to met Ray Lewis head-on was the stuff the NFL was made of. But the rivalry fizzled. Players moved on, team’s fortunes fade and the rivalry, though sizzling for a few seasons, proved fleeting. The same could happen to Seattle-SF. Though being in the same division and geographically close may provide the rivalry with staying power, it is far from a sure thing and certainly not a precedent for growing other rivalries.
As much as a natural rivalry could grow between the Sounders and Quakes, San Jose is an original NASL franchise like Seattle, it is geographically the third closest MLS team, and the two cities have much in common, I will remain vociferously apathetic towards the Quakes. Seattle – San Jose is not a rivalry because the Earthquakes are beneath us. They proudly play lousy soccer, employ dirty players and tactics, and have a criminal supporter group, the 1906 Ultras. When you hold a team in contempt, they cannot be your rival.
Kaval just wants to hitch his wagon to the Sounders’ star. And he is just a tool. He shuffles around in his Google Glass and engages in, allegedly, drunken Twitter wars with rival supporters, while making a royal cock-up of soccer in the Bay Area. It’s sad because the Bay has solid sports fans and the original Earthquakes were one of the gold standards of the early MLS. Too bad the current management are such clownshoes. Kaval and San Jose’s leadership has gotten so bad that the 1906 Ultras look sane.