By John Boyle Herald Columnist
When Seahawks fans Christopher Hart and Aaron Managhan first heard the news, they were annoyed like any proud fan would be.
A group of 49ers fans, in response to Seahawks fans paying to have a 12th Man Flag flown over Candlestick Park when the teams played there earlier this month, decided to procure some billboard space in Seattle with the intention of taunting Seahawks fans about their team’s lack of NFL titles. But before they could begin plotting revenge, Hart and Managhan noticed something about the 49ers fans’ plans. The group organizing the billboard plan figured it would take roughly $7,000 to pull it off, and announced any funds they raised beyond that would go to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
The nerve of those guys.
Deciding that this act of aggression could not stand, Hart and Managhan hatched a plan. If those evil 49ers fans could give money to Seattle Children’s Hospital, then Seahawks fans would do their darnedest to raise more money for the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Take that, Niners fans!
Maybe it makes me a jaded media grouch, but I have to admit I didn’t care much about a flag flying over Candlestick. And I’m sorry, I just can’t get that worked up about a billboard. But this? This is some fan one-upmanship that is impossible to ignore.
For once, the “our fans are better than your fans” debate will have a clear winner: sick kids and two amazing hospitals that help cure them.
“Either way, the only real winners are going to be the kids and the hospitals,” Managhan, who lives in Olympia, said in a phone interview.
Managhan and Hart set up a page Wednesday afternoon on the website gofundme.com (http://www.gofundme.com/5tirqw), and as of Friday night, more than $4,300 had been raised. The goal is $20,000. Seahawks fans and 49ers fans are taking to the comments section on the website not to rip each other, but to praise one another for their generosity. Aasheesh Shravah, the 49ers fan who is leading the billboard campaign, wrote “Just wanted to say what you guys are doing is great, and glad that our fan bases can use the rivalry for a good cause!”
And the donation total will only continue to grow. Early on, Clearwater Casino Resort agreed to match donations up to $5,000 to Seattle Children’s. Then on Friday morning, Hart got a call from UCSF notifying him that an anonymous San Francisco donor had called the hospital pledging to match anything up to $100,000 to Seattle Children’s. So basically, because two rival fan bases love competing with each other, tens of thousands of dollars (at least) will be going to two hospitals dedicated to treating sick children.
“Of course we’ve had huge support from the 12th man, but another cool aspect of it is we’ve had several donors who identify themselves as 49ers fans, or people commenting that this is how a rivalry between fans should be,” Managhan said, telling a story of one Seahawks fan in San Francisco who reached out to tell them about his 4-year-old daughter, who is at UCSF Benioff Children’s being treated for leukemia.
“He just went on about how great the doctors and nurses are there, and just how thrilled he was to see something like this happened,” Managhan said. “For us that’s really what it’s all about more than anything else. It’s just great to be able to do something positive with this rivalry and help out a bunch of kids in both or cities.”
At some point — perhaps in a playoff meeting between these teams — the negativity will inevitably creep back into this rivalry. For now, however, let’s all appreciate that so much good can come out of even the most intense NFL rivalry.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.