I talked to my grandma today. She told me she woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning to watch the Mariners’ 2012 season opener in Japan. She paid witness to all eleven innings of action, though I’d wager that somewhere in the middle there she probably dozed off for a bit. She’s 88 years old. At that point in your life, you’re entitled to naps when you pull near all-nighters.
My grandma, Marilyn, might be the biggest Mariners fan I know. Aside from my other grandma, Helen, of course. The two of them combine on 169 years of baseball fandom and make it a point to watch every single contest. I kid you not, they could write articles on the team. Assuming they had computers. Or knew about the internet. But that’s beside the point. (Handwritten articles, perhaps. In cursive, naturally.)
The thing is, I’ve never been around two people who care more for any one team the way my grandmothers care about the Seattle Mariners. They don’t even mind watching when the ballclub is complete garbage — and as we all know, the M’s have been toxic waste for the past decade. Which is why every year at this time, for my own sake and the sake of my family, I get irrationally optimistic about one of three franchises in Major League Baseball history that has not yet been to a World Series.
It’s a spring tradition. Every March, baseball returns to the public consciousness, and with it comes a certain cheerfulness that can’t be claimed by any other sport. Maybe it’s the fact that baseball signifies warmer weather, lazy afternoons, and the time of year that brings back nostalgic memories of summer vacation from days gone by. In the Northwest, especially, baseball triggers an awakening from the dreary gray skies of our seemingly endless winter. Yes, it rains here quite a bit. But when the sun peeks behind the tops of the Cascades and slowly rises above our placid lakes to spill rays of golden brightness unto nature’s welcoming canvas, well, it’s pretty hard not to be cheery.
I believe for the sake of believing. There is no logic to back my faith in a team that really doesn’t deserve it. On paper, we’re mediocre. Nobody ever gives us much of a chance to be more than that. The few times in recent history that our team has been granted any degree of confidence from the pundits and so-called experts, they’ve promptly squandered it on a 100-loss season, or something near to that effect.
There’s something unique about being a diehard fan of a traditionally horrible team. Some say it builds character, and I guess it probably does. But more than that it forces you to look for the good in everything, no matter how bad everything might seem. Even when you reach a breaking point — say, June or thereabouts, when it comes to the M’s — your faith is inexplicably restored over the months of idleness that immediately postdate the culmination of summertime. And when it’s all said and done, when the first pitch is tossed in spring anew, when sprinklers pepper lawns with hydration and sculpted ash cracks against stitched rawhide, we find ourselves back here in a place we’d be content to call home if we were afforded such a luxury. We find ourselves enveloped in the comfort of our own pipe dreams on days like today, when our baseball team has played its first game of the new season — and even has a victory to show for it, of all things.
This probably won’t be the year. What are the odds, right? Mathematically, the M’s have a one-in-thirty chance of finishing 2012 as the best team in baseball. Realistically, the odds are much, much greater than that.
But what if this was the year? What if instead of having our hopes and dreams tickled and teased and toyed with over the course of the next twenty-four months, these Mariners of ours just so happened to shock the world and become a winning baseball team again? It’s not impossible. Implausible, maybe. But impossible? Certainly not.
You can’t help but want it. You want it so freaking bad. A winning ballclub. The joy of success. The thrill of epic triumph. The glory of a championship. What does that feel like? Why can’t it be us? Why can’t we be the ones to experience that emotion this time around?
After being awake for fifteen straight hours, twelve hours after the Mariners had knocked off the rival Oakland Athletics, I asked my grandma how she felt. “Well,” she imparted with a laugh, “I’m kind of tired.”
We’ve endured thirty-five exhausting years of frustration. We’re all a little tired. Can this year finally be the year? Please?
For now at least, with our team undefeated and irrefutably the best in baseball, we can still believe.