Wednesday, July 13, 2011

of regional rivalry and...utility-kilts

something about being at the country fair, and thinking about soccer, has me thinking that possibly one could map out the PNW based on sales of utilikilts.

i mean, really. are there any other states where they are so prevalent?

there have been a great series of posts lately, from all corners, about the fantastic portland vs. seattle and, by extension, timbers vs. sounders rivalry.

what i find so intriguing about this series is the attempted regionalism that people are calling on. as it says in a recent WSJ article, part of the difficulty of the sounders - timbers rivalry is "how to work up a healthy hatred for fans who, in so many ways, look and think exactly alike."

portland and seattle - clearly the anchors of the pacific northwest. similar climate, similar history, similar economy. so, how do residents of these two lynchpin cities of the US PNW differentiate themselves?

from the wall street journal:

Until recently, Seattleites had plenty of reasons to feel superior: A diet that includes mushrooms and berries foraged from pristine local forests, a commitment to fixed-gear bicycles, fair-trade coffee, facial hair and the best attendance of any city with a Major League Soccer team in the country by a landslide.

[But] In Portland, stadium vendors hawk barbecued-tofu sandwiches, spinach salads and chocolate-covered bacon, putting Seattle's relatively mundane offerings, like veggie dogs, gourmet donuts and cappuccinos, to shame.

While Seattle's scarf-wielding supporters may look edgy compared to the baseball fans across the street at Safeco Field, Portland fans boast at least as many piercings, tattoos and mohawks. In the merchandise line at a Timbers game, Bryan Dean, a 40-year-old industrial designer with a tall blond mohawk was sporting a kilt. He said kilts are "considered quite masculine" in Scotland and Ireland and evoke Portland's identity: "underdogs and kinda blue collar, but also fringe, artistic."

Seattle fans like to poke fun at small differences, like Portland's higher unemployment rate and its relative lack of big companies. "Portland fans are icky, they're the trailer trash of the Pacific Northwest," said Kevin Scudder, a 48-year-old company owner relaxing in the stands. "We have a lot more money up here…though they do have a beautiful coastline."

Portland fans insult Seattle supporters by calling them "customers" instead of fans, and pick on everything from their love of boating to their diversity of political views. "In Seattle they have Republicans," said Heather Mathews, a graduate student at Lewis and Clark, who imagines Seattle fans spend most of their free time "sailing around in their sailboats."

from a sports illustrated vault article: 

Last week's showdown, which ended in a 1--1 tie, was just the latest evidence that the Cascadia region has become the hotbed of Major League Soccer. Two years after the Sounders joined the league, their average attendance at week's end (36,350) was far and away the highest in MLS—which has a leaguewide average of 17,150—and would have ranked ninth in the English Premier League, sixth in Spain's La Liga, second in France's Ligue 1 and fourth in Italy's Serie A. In Portland the expansion Timbers are the new darlings of MLS, winning their first four home games while boasting regular sellouts at Jeld-Wen Field (capacity: 18,627), as well as a chain saw--wielding human mascot who saws a slab off a giant log for every Portland goal and clean sheet.

"And a lot of the malice goes beyond soccer," added Garrett Dittfurth, 32, an analyst at a public relations firm. "Seattle was like the pinnacle of American coolness in the '90s, right? Now things have changed a little bit if you want to talk about creativity, arts and music."

"Then there's that big-city mentality they have in Seattle, and down here we're like, You've gotta be kidding me," added Dittfurth. "They have a lot more of an East Coast mentality than we do, and that kind of pervades on the field. You feel that air of superiority."

and finally, from grantland:

I was on my way to the game, standing on line in a convenience store, waiting to be rung up. The man on line in front of me was delivering a monologue, somewhat directed at the cashier but really to anyone within earshot, about reproductive rights and health education in various Third World countries. In New York, this guy would have been told to go reproduce with himself and get out of line. What happened here? As the man finished his speech the cashier nodded thoughtfully and said, "Man, I've got a documentary you have got to see."

Yeah, I was in Portland.

And that is going to be the last joke I make about the city's politics, fashions, food, or proclivity for fixed gear bikes. Let he who does not live within walking distance from several restaurants serving bacon-wrapped trout toss the first stone at PDX's hipster/hippie atmosphere.

I don't know what's funnier, that two people mention fixed-gear bixes as motifs of a unique identity - yet one is in reference to seattle, one in reference to portland - or that someone mentions a utilikilt-clad portland soccer fan stating that they are emblematic of portland, when in fact they are made in...



  1. i cannot comment on this post with a clear head, but the rivalry exists in the same exact realm as all rivalries start. proximity breeds competitiveness, which leads to dislike. this is no different than lincoln city/newport or new york city/boston. it simply happens. what is the saying: 'familiarity breeds contempt'? it's harder for me to feel anything about people or a city i've never visited, while i already know that visiting seattle is a nightmare!



  2. so true. i didn't even think of the whole LC/newport thing.
    and i realized after the fact that it might seem like i see no difference between the two cities...when in fact i'd love to live in portland but never seattle.