Flash back to 1847. The Donner party set out along the Oregon Trail to reach California, but was trapped in the Wasatch range of Utah. Its members resorted to cannibalism in order to survive the harsh winter.
Just four years later, and perhaps wary of meating [sic] the Donner party’s fate, the Denny party arrived at the future site of Seattle — sensibly, by boat. They named their landing site “New York alki” — alki being the native word for “by the by” or “someday.” And so, precisely coincident with the founding of the City of Seattle, a good-natured (and perhaps one-sided) rivalry was born.
After a century and a half, Seattle has yet to live up to its aspirational name, and in no place is the discrepancy more apparent than on the field of play. New York is home to eleven* major league sports franchises, while the Emerald City boasts only three.
*I’m counting soccer only because it gives New York a bigger lead. Go Sounders!
Seattle would be home to four, but the Sonics absconded to Oklahoma City, taking with them “the city’s first and only major men’s sports championship.”
Or so the narrative goes — a narrative that is totally wrong.
In fact, Seattle once hosted a major league hockey team, which just so happened to become the first American team to ever win the Stanley Cup in 1917. Despite its early success, that team ceased to exist after 1924, but no worries: its name lives on courtesy of — read: it was adopted by — the New York Mets.*
*OK, technically there were also New York Metropolitans in the 1800s, well before there were Seattle Metropolitans, but I’m not going to let facts get in the way of my history.
Today, Seattle still dreams of landing a team in the NHL — but if the city is successful, we’d be happy to call it the Thunderbirds. You can have “Mets.” Let’s keep this a civil, good-natured rivalry: We pretend to steal your city’s name. You steal our hockey team’s name in retribution. We’ll all bury the hatchet and drink some coffee.
And so, despite occasional outbreaks of violence in the MLB playoffs, on former industrial sites, and on Seinfeld — in case you don’t recall: Seattle, George says, is “the pesto of cities” — the peace has largely held for years.
But it’s all starting to come apart. Witness what Jimmy Fallon coaxed Mets RHP Matt Harvey into doing before he started the All-Star Game:
Continue reading The New York-Seattle rivalry: the tale of a truce violated