Houston and Seattle have struck up a nice little rivalry in the Sounders first season in MLS. It’s not surprising given the Sounders fans propensity to create a rivalry with just about every opposing side when they were in USL. Now the Sounders have created rivalry tinged with a certain degree of envy among other club supporters since joining MLS. Seattle rightfully has made the rest of the league jealous.
Seattle vs Houston is a natural rivalry. Both are great American cities, but they represent different faces of America. Seattle is new wave, grunge music, Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing.
Houston is big business, the energy industry, and a city with a remarkable amount of ethnic diversity. Both cities are windows into the future of America, but they represent different visions, socially and culturally.
These differences create unmistakable pressure points. From an economic standpoint, Seattle is not a major hub, while Houston is one of the most important cities in North America. Seattle does however provide inspiration to a generation of Americans whose world is outward looking and whose daily lives are shaped by airplanes, computers and coffee.
Given Houston’s global position, It is little wonder why George Bush Intercontinental Airport has direct flights to places as far flung as Doha, and Guayaquil. It is perhaps the fifth most significant international airport in the nation behind New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago (O’Hare). (The four listed airports are the acknowledged “big four” international airports in the US, although, recently I have heard of a big three with O’Hare being dropped.)
Houston is a worldly city, though many of the types of people that indentify with Seattle spiritually would claim otherwise. Conversely, Seattle’s entrenched affection for anything built by Boeing, makes the city perhaps the greatest engine on the war machine many American progressives decry.
But Boeing is more than fighter jets. So many of the commercial airplanes that service all the international airports listed and so many airports across the globe were manufactured near Seattle in Everett, Washington.
It’s often been said that Texas could exist without the United States, but the US would not be the same without Texas. Houston is living proof of this adage. Without Houston and the leadership the city has provided, the US could very well be a less prosperous and less diverse place.
From a football perspective, Seattle is European, both in inspiration and in fan behavior. That’s why the Sounders have captured the imagination of so many neutrals whose previous exposure to football was British or European. It’s no coincidence in the NASL days that the Sounders attracted more English players than any other US based side, and while in USL, the Seattle-Portland matchup resembled an English derby.
Houston, on the other hand is one of the few MLS or USL cities where every ethnic group imaginable has been attracted to the ground, without segregating themselves. The Dynamo’s model of attracting support from the broad based ethnic makeup of the region should be the model for US Soccer.
You are much more likely to see the colors of the rainbow wearing Dynamo Orange at Robertson Stadium, than you are likely to see the same cornucopia of people represented wearing US kits when the USMNT plays. Houston has shown supporters the way to build a supporters base throughout the community.
The diversity of Houston’s fan base gives us hope for the future in the United States. This future would see people of all ethnic and immigrant roots embracing local clubs and community. In fact, the Dynamo has demonstrated that football can be a vehicle for integration of disparate immigrant groups.
At the same time, Seattle provides American supporters with a blueprint of how to create a real supporter’s culture that appeals to masses of fans who aren’t necessarily wedded to this sport. Both Houston and Seattle are very different, but can learn from one another, and both can teach the rest of us a lesson or two.