I grew up a 49er fan, from the San Francisco Bay Area. But on Sunday, Jan. 19, when the Niners squared off against the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC Championship, I wasn’t rooting for my hometown team. I was screaming for the Seahawks. This allegiance change has less to do with football and more to do with me accepting, at long last, that the Pacific Northwest is home.
Over the past 48 hours, I’ve been called a traitor by five different people. Some could see it that way. I grew up during the era of Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice. I remember “The Catch” — the high pass from Montana to Clark that resulted in the Niners besting the hated Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFC Championship Game.
At first, we were Raider fans, being from the East Bay and all. But when Raiders owner Al Davis took the team to Los Angeles in 1982, my dad vowed never to forgive. So we became 49er fans, which was easy back in those days. I stayed loyal through college and my subsequent relocation to Washington D.C. I remember being ribbed for it by the sports guys at Washingtonpost.com, where I worked as an editor: “Is Steve Young a quarterback or a running back?” and “Young better stay in the pocket, or he’s going to end up a vegetable.”
My interest in the team — and football in general — declined as my life grew busier and more complicated. When I moved to San Francisco in 1999, I was more interested in working and eating out and drinking cocktails in the Mission than cheering on the then-hapless Niners. I became a San Francisco Giants fan, and drank Gordon Biersch microbrews at the spanking-new stadium South of Market.
I wasn’t thinking about cheering for new teams when Steve and I moved up to the Seattle area in 2005. I was miserable and homesick and lonely, something you would have found out quickly had you met me back then. I would have told you, within about two minutes of our introduction, that I was a San Franciscan and Seattle was boring and SMALL. I liked to call it Frontierland back then. I had one foot here and one foot in San Francisco for a long, long time.
It’s been almost 8 1/2 years since Steve and I pulled up roots and moved to the soggy but beautiful Pacific Northwest. I have a good hairstylist and a favorite grocery store and friends that I can count on. I’m raising my child here. The Seattle area is … home. Or at least, it feels more like home than it used to. I miss certain things about the Bay Area, but when people ask me if I’d move back, I actually hesitate before answering. I don’t know if I’m a Bay Area girl anymore. The Pacific Northwest has grown on me like moss on a rooftop. So last year, when my son became infatuated with Russell Wilson and all-things Seahawk, I climbed on the bandwagon.
As this season wore on and it became clear that my adopted hometown and my childhood hometown were headed for a slugfest, I had to do some soul searching. Did I really care if the Seahawks lost? And surprisingly, the answer was yes, yes, I did care, and a lot. The Niners are my family’s team, but I have my own family now, and we have our own team. My son idolizes Wilson and Golden Tate and Earl Thomas, who have brown skin, like him.
Green Bay fans like to say that winter starts when the Packers’ season is over, and I get that. What Seattle lacks in wind chill and below-zero temperatures it makes up for with relentless gray. From December to May, it’s gray skies, gray clouds and gray rain that can be showery, or ceaseless. Summer doesn’t really start until July. Having a winning football team brings some cheer into the lives of sun-starved Seattleites. I am now one of them. I am a Pacific Northwesterner. I felt nothing but joy when the Seahawks beat the Niners on Sunday, and I will be watching, nervously, as our guys take on the Broncos on Feb. 2.