There's something about those darn Seattle Seahawks.
Like a persistent itch that can't be scratched away, they have a nasty habit of getting under the skin of Bay Area pro football fans.
First it was the epidermis of Raiders fans. Now it's the 49ers faithful driven to distraction by the team from Seattle.
Of course you know about the current state of the nastiness. Niners vs. Seahawks, Act II in the 2013 season, takes place next Sunday at Candlestick Park, and between now and then the rivalry's robust rhetoric is sure to reach a fever pitch. Act I, as if players or fans of either team need to be reminded, ended with the Niners deafened, defeated and depressed.
The foundation of the Niners-Seahawks rivalry was built in 2002, when Seattle moved from the AFC West to the NFC West, where they had played for one season ("competed" might be too generous a description for an expansion team that managed to win just two games), in 1976, their first year of existence.
But the rivalry heated up (caught fire, really) in 2011 when Jim Harbaugh became the 49ers' head coach, a year after Pete Carroll took the coaching reins at Seattle. Carroll and Harbaugh added considerable spice, and their Pac-10 history, to the rivalry, Carroll having come from USC and Harbaugh from Stanford. And coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, with the arrival of their current head coaches, both teams instantly went from overlooked to high profile.
But you probably know all that, right? What you might not know, or even if you do it might be interesting to remember, is that long before the Seahawks became the Niners' nemesis they were spoiling, or trying awfully hard to spoil, Raiders' seasons.
Among the Raiders-Seahawks rivalry highlights, or lowlights, depending upon your perspective, are the following.
In 1978, what would be John Madden's final year as coach, the Raiders were just two seasons removed from their first Super Bowl championship and looking to advance to the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. But they finished 9-7 (as did the upstart Seahawks), one game behind division-winning Denver and without a postseason invitation.
Two of those seven blemishes were to the Seahawks, who were in only their third year of existence. One of the losses was a 27-7 embarrassment at the Kingdome, the other a 17-16 heartbreaker at the Oakland Coliseum. In both games, Jim Zorn outplayed fellow lefty quarterback Ken Stabler. It was what's called an eye opener. Also, the birth of a bitter rivalry, accent on bitter.