I know. I get it. Believing in the Mariners is irrational. Like getting back together with the girl who cheated on you…every year…for the past decade. Those are our Mariners. We all know this. We’ve been on the daytime talk show. Maury Povich and his ENTIRE audience have begged us to leave this relationship for good. And yet we can’t. We always return. We want to have faith. We want to believe. And so, well, we do.
As it turns out, we may be suckers. We keep returning to the springs, bucket in hand, knowing full well that water hasn’t flowed here for years. Part of being a Seattle sports fan is finding yourself in one of two factions: that of the blind optimists, or on the flip side, the perennially cynical. I guess I’d just rather don my teal-colored glasses than view the world in a constant shroud of gray.
It’s not easy being an optimist. And I’ll be the first to admit that much of my shtick involves playing to the pessimists, in fact. Ask any media member in this town and they’ll tell you that it’s far easier making wisecracks about our local teams than it is defending them. The pessimists are vocal. The pessimists are easily amused. The pessimists call the radio programs, leave comments on our articles, and generally do all they can to get noticed. The optimists, on the other hand, tend to sit quietly in the wings and wait. And the vocal optimists? The vocal optimists might as well be lepers. We view them as borderline insane. How can you not question the ineffectiveness of your favorite sports team when all they do is let you down? We don’t necessarily have answers for the vocal optimists. Excuses, perhaps, but not answers. They keep on keeping on, though. You have to respect that.
So it is that we find ourselves in a precarious position these days. The M’s have won eight straight contests, own the best second-half record in the American League, and find themselves knocking on the door of playoff (yes, playoff) contention. They sit three games under .500, seven games back of a Wildcard spot, and 12 out of first place in the AL West. The numbers aren’t great — no one would mistake this team for being squarely in the postseason hunt — but within the context of the club’s recent surge, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Seattle could play host to meaningful baseball games as the leaves begin to change.
Maybe that’s why we find ourselves so desperately craving this desire to buy into the Mariners’ recent winning ways. Meaningful late-summer games in the Emerald City are typically found on the gridiron. Safeco Field? It’s a desolate wasteland come September. Seagulls circle the stadium like vultures, and at times you have to wonder if anyone would even notice if you stripped all your clothes off and sat naked in the 300-level for an inning or two.
Post-All-Star-Break baseball is little more than a distraction for most sports fans around here. You go to games to socialize, mack on singles, drink beer (albeit pricey beer) outside, or simply get out of the house. A winning product is nothing more than an afterthought. Fans almost expect to lose. All while paying witness to a team that can’t score runs, comprised of players the average onlooker can’t name.
But (there’s a but) that was then. And then wasn’t nearly as intriguing as now. Because now the Mariners are winning. And now the Mariners are scoring runs. And you may have heard, but now they’re even throwing perfect games, making history, and gaining national attention.
Now the Mariners are fun again.
Now they have players that, let’s face it, you still might not be able to name, but I promise you are more captivating than those players then. There are so many quality personalities on this roster. Get to know these guys. Get to know Eric Thames, John Jaso, and Jesus Montero. Go meet Munenori Kawasaki, Stephen Pryor, and Tom Wilhelmsen. And for the love of all things holy, reacquaint yourself with Felix Hernandez. He hasn’t heard from you in a while. He’s that Facebook friend that you haven’t talked to in years, but whose statuses you always “Like.” He’s worth seeing again. They all are. You watch these guys play, you hear them speak to the media, you see them interact with fans, and you can’t help but root for them. They’re likable. Simple as that.
Look. Here’s the thing. I’m like you. I’ve been down on this team for a decade. I’ve made so many jokes. Jokes about Scott Spiezio’s soul patch, Jeff Cirillo’s batting average, Eddie Guardado’s athletic *ahem* frame, Ichiro’s seemingly selfish attitude, Chone Figgins’ mere existence, and everything in between. They were an easy target, those Mariners. But that was then. And this is now.
I love this team more than anything. I hate their front office. I hate their politics. But I love the team. This is the first team I ever supported as a kid. I’ve been going to games my whole life. I sat there in an empty, cavernous Kingdome and screamed at the top of my lungs because no one else was around and, frankly, I was convinced that the speakers hanging from the ceiling were giant microphones. I was a card-carrying member of the Junior Mariners Club. I shook Ken Griffey, Jr.’s hand. My dad bought us playoff tickets in 1995 and, what’s more, my mom let him. We went to the entire Division Series against the Yankees. It was the greatest sports experience of my entire life and it happened when I was 10. I will never forget it. Ever. Even if we win a World Series. That season won’t ever be overlooked. Because that season defined my childhood. And it affirmed my absolute, undying love for this team. And damn it, I just want this team to do so freakin’ well all the freakin’ time and they’re starting to. Right before our eyes, they’re starting to accomplish things. It’s beautiful. So much negativity has surrounded this organization over the years. So much futility has enveloped the past decade. But things are changing now. We can’t help but appreciate that.
It’s irrational. I know it is. But love is irrational. And I love the Seattle Mariners. Sometimes I hate that I love them, but I still love them. Call me a fool for being in love. I can live with it. It’s the reality of the situation.
So to the players that put on the uniform each day, I humbly request that you keep winning. Not because this city needs it — and it does — but because I need it.
And to all the fans, provided the players live up to their end of the bargain, I urge you to go out and blindly support this team like all those overly-optimistic social pariahs who have tested our patience over the past 10 years. It’s just a few weeks of craziness. I promise you won’t have any lasting side effects from this endeavor.
It’s time. Out of superstition, I almost hesitate to say it, but it’s time. Because we need it. Because we want to believe in it. Because against all odds, it doesn’t make much sense, but it still gives you a goofy warmth all over knowing that this could happen.
Three words, Mariner fans:
Refuse. To. Lose.