No professional sports teams have to travel farther than the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks to get to their nearest rivals. The shortest trips they can take for an away game is about 800 miles south along Interstate 5 to the Bay Area, to play the Oakland Athletics or the San Francisco 49ers.
That means Seattle teams don’t really have natural rivalries. Those closest rivals are, to be frank, more storied franchises. On rivalry weekends during Major League Baseball season, the A’s are matched against the San Francisco Giants. The Mariners are artificially paired with the San Diego Padres or some other orphan team. The so-called rivalry between the Seahawks and the 49ers, which the booth announcers will advertise endlessly when the two teams meet in the NFC championship this weekend, is a much more recent development. The 49ers are more traditionally rivals of the Dallas Cowboys and other, older NFL teams.
The Seattle Supersonics could claim a rivalry with the Portland Trailblazers, but then they left for Oklahoma City (Editorializing alert: The author, a Seattle native, remains unhappy with Oklahoma City and plans to hold that grudge for quite a while). The feud between fans of the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders, in the MLS, is real enough, but the rivalry cupboard is bare in baseball and football.
That distance between cities has always meant a certain remove from the national sports consciousness. Of course, the Mariners haven’t been good for a decade, and the Seahawks don’t have a great track record either, save a trip to the Super Bowl in 2006 (More editorializing: We was robbed!).
So perhaps it’s no surprise that the vast majority of the country is rooting for the 49ers this weekend over the Seahawks. Here’s a look at who is rooting for which team, based on Facebook fans, by county around the country, courtesy of the data wizards at Deadspin:
And here’s a look at who’s rooting for the AFC championship contenders in the 3:30 p.m Eastern time game. There’s a similar geographic breakdown between the Denver Broncos, who own the Mountain West, and the New England Patriots, who own the Eastern seaboard and most of the South. The biggest battleground is the Midwest:
It’s clear Peyton Manning still has fans in Indianapolis. Most of Manning’s former constituents are pulling for their old quarterback on Sunday.