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Who do you love to hate? New England Patriots or Arizona Cardinals

Rivalry is a state of mind. In this series, we look at the most-reviled Seahawks opponents.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

This summer I’ve heard many questions asking who should be the Seattle Seahawks’ chief rival, now that the gold rush in San Francisco has all panned out. I say, why must there be only one?

The kind of rivalry I’m talking about doesn’t follow logic or geography or league alignment. It is more personal, more instinctive. We’re also in the spirit of storytelling. The number of rivals can be as unlimited as the depths of your memory and the reasons as local and varied as the surfaces of your heart.

For the past month I’ve occasionally considered pairs of Seahawks rivals, using both competitive stakes and this personal, emotional territory to determine which of the two …for the moment… is a greater rivalry.

New England Patriots

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are in Seattle’s way. Like the Broncos, they’ve got something the Seahawks want: the division title. And, because in 2016 we expect Arizona will be the team most competitive in the race for the NFC West again, that makes the games against the Cardinals probably the most anticipated and strategically-important tilts on the regular season calendar.

That’s one way to define a rival, for sure. Like in those animal struggles for dominance I mentioned in the preamble to the first post. The one who’s keeping you from your goal, the one you want and need to defeat. But it’s also totally situational and in football’s case limited to mechanics far from the emotional identity we’re trying to reach here. That same attitude would mean your biggest rival is always your next tournament opponent.

Another test might be to look at how you feel when the rival plays a third party. And lo, many Seattle fans may be cheering hard for Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer to fall on their faces when Arizona plays the Patriots with Jimmy Garoppolo this Sunday in prime time. But again, I’m guessing that’s mainly a situational hope (and beware what you wish, for what that signals about New England might be even scarier). So to remove any effect on the Seahawks from the hypothetical, put it another way: What if those teams played in the Super Bowl?

I suppose you could argue a Patriots win would do less damage from a historical perspective, by preserving Arizona’s championship “shutout”. And I imagine were such a match indeed the final outcome of this year’s playoffs, we would live in a different climate of even higher anger and jealousy toward the Cardinals, but, for example, I can say when Arizona played Pittsburgh at the end of ’08, the division had nothing to do with it. I definitely supported the Cardinals.

For the moment: The thing is the rivalry with New England right now is not just about heads-up dominance. It’s about NFL history. I hope Seattle beats the Patriots in November and I hope the Seahawks can win a rematch in the Super Bowl. But even if it never gets to avenge XLIX directly, Seattle chases New England’s string of championships.

And yes, obviously the default desire of sports is hoping your team wins as many titles as possible. But specifically I want the Seahawks to be a better dynasty than the Patriots. How can I measure that? A “better” dynasty? I mean I don’t want to be the Duke basketball of the NFL—fill a barrel of trophies by staying constantly in contention but only picking off a title here and there. I don’t want the only continuity between championships be coach and quarterback and the colors on the sleeves. I want this whole team to keep winning together. I want Pete Carroll to get the best of his successor in New England.

Look, Arians is annoying; everyone says you get to like him if you watch All or Nothing but my suspicion is I would like him less. Still I don’t care enough to bother. The Patriots are annoying in a more institutional way. And damn I’m so annoyed they have Martellus Bennett now so I can’t hate them all. I realize it sounds audacious to found my rivalry on a comparison of dynasties one of which is barely beginning to be built. But after winning a Super Bowl, history—not division titles—is the only thing to chase really. This Seattle team chases it because they have a real opportunity.

I recognize the odds are tightly bunched against it. But in that pursuit it is definitely eye of Sea-hawk, eye on Tom’s barrel.

In case you missed earlier entries:

Who do you love to hate? Denver Broncos or Green Bay Packers

Who do you love to hate? Carolina Panthers or Los Angeles Rams

Who do you love to hate? Pittsburgh Steelers or Dallas Cowboys

Who do you love to hate? San Francisco 49ers or Oakland Raiders

As always, please go nuts in the comments.