It can be seen in many different ways.
Some people see it as just a friendly competition between Mr Rogers-style neighbors, like a Scrabble game in which players help each other out with their letters.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have Romans and Carthaginians, Greeks and Persians, Daleks and Time Lords.
Somewhere close to the latter end of the spectrum is roughly where you'll find the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders. We, the Timbers, are the grand Army of freedom and unicorns and soccer and stuff. Seattle, on the other hand, is the Evil Empire, the Rave Green Menace.
At least, that's how I interpret it.
In the past year, though, I've discovered that there are some alternate interpretations -- especially as Stumptown Footy has a small, friendly group of readers who claim to be Sounders fans first, and Timbers fans second (and, presumably, Whitecaps fans third, or maybe tied for second). As Stumptown Footy user lysander commented recently, "Cascadia above all else, you know..."
It boggles my mind that these people exist. For most Timbers fans I know, a Portland-first-Seattle-second attitude would be unfathomable. Yes, there was a time when I had friends who, lacking an MLS Timbers team to play in FIFA 2010, would perhaps choose to play as the Sounders every once in a while, just for the novelty of the geographic proximity. But today those friends wouldn't dare admit to having committed such a crime.
But there they are, Sounders fans who visit our site because they root for our team when they aren't playing Seattle. And I imagine there are a few Timbers fans out there -- perhaps recent transplants from that city to the north -- who have a similar "Cascadia First" attitude.
As much as I don't really embrace it, I suppose there is something about "Cascadia First" that speaks to me.
Yes, most Timbers fans would certainly gain the utmost joy from seeing Portland with the Supporters Shield and Seattle with the Wooden Spoon. But I have a feeling that there's a part of us that would like to see the three Cascadia teams jostling amongst themselves for the top three spots in the league, leaving the rest of the league nipping at each other for fourth place.
After all, the Cascadian teams consistently draw the largest crowds and have the most dedicated and vocal (if not always the most creative) supporters. We deserve the most successful teams.
Meanwhile, the fact that US Men's National Team games are so rarely played in the Pacific Northwest have many of us clamoring for a Cascadian National Team. If it means we get to root for our national heroes in person, I guess I can tolerate sharing a country with the Space Needle.
But toleration is probably as far as I'll go. Because even for those of us who take "Build a Bonfire" fully to heart, nearly all of us secretly delight in the fact that we have such a deep vessel for our loathing. Soccer is already a game of deep frustration interspersed with moments of pure joy; the rivalry unites us and adds fuel to the catharsis we crave.
How do you interpret the Timbers' rivalry with the Sounders?