This Is Why It Still Hurts

In a somewhat surreal sort of way, I remember the moment I became a Mariners fan. It was a Thursday, I was ten years old and I'd lived in Washington for a very short time. I loved baseball, but my concept of fandom was rather warped. My great aunt wanted me to be a Braves fan, but she was a racist and a terrible human being in most every way. She hated the Cardinals and so I gravitated towards them, to the extent that a small child is capable of doing so. She caught on and she whipped me. I decided to abandon the pursuit outwardly, as she was fairly strong and more than a bit sadistic.

For some reason I became enamored with the Houston Astros. I think it was how amazingly terrible their uniforms were. I asked my dad if they were a good team when I spotted their jersey in the sporting goods store. He laughed and said no. I asked him to buy it for me. I developed a love for Mike Scott. I inherited a Don Newcombe rookie card from my Grandfather and I traded it for a Mike Scott All-Star card with that was bent in the middle. I remember spending my entire allowance on USA Today in an effort to vote Craig Biggio into the All-Star game as a rookie catcher.

I still secretly loved the Cardinals, and thanks to seeing Bo Jackson play for the Memphis Chicks and a random business trip my mother took that resulted in the gift of a shiny new cap, I cheered the Royals as well. But I was officially an Astros fan, for the most bizarre reasons. I had no concept of the fact that my love of the Astros and Cardinals was counter-intuitive; I was a kid. I knew that I liked Ozzie and I liked orange stripes and that was enough for me.

We left Memphis fairly soon after I developed my attachments, and with it regular Cardinals games became a thing of the past. I still like the Astros and the Royals, but for whatever reason the attachment felt weakened by distance. I wasn't ready to love (or even like) the Mariners, or any other Seattle area team for that matter. I didn't like it here. I didn't like the people that made fun of my accent. I didn't like not being able to have grits for breakfast. I didn't like the rain. People seemed mean. 

I missed Tennessee, and I actively hated the Mariners, Seahawks, Sonics, Tacoma Stars, Huskies, Cougars, and whoever it was that competed in this thing called the Bacon Bowl. They were a symbol of the Northwest, of the kids that made fun of my accent, of everything that wasn't what I was familiar with. I watched the teams,  but I rooted for them to fail, as though somehow their lack of success would cause my parents to rethink their decision, pack up and head back south.

Which brings us to that Thursday night in April, 14 years ago. I settled in to watch, wanting nothing more than to see the Red Sox humiliate the Mariners, if only because it would make my classmates sad the next day. And then Chris Bosio went and pitched a no-hitter. I'd never seen one before, and it was the most remarkable thing I'd ever witnessed. I know now, of course, that it was largely a function of luck and defense, but at the time I was ten years old; to me, at that moment, it was magic.

I forced my mom to get up early the next day and buy me a Mariners hat at the gas station down the street. It was a cheap piece of shit, and the kids at school all thought it was an attempt to fit in, but I didn't care. I was hooked. I loved this team, and by extension I loved the northwest. It was the first time I felt any connection to the region and while it'd not what made me love it here it certainly opened the door. A few years later Chevron has a promotion where they gave away five balls with photos of Mariners on them. There was Griffey, Edgar, Buhner, Alex and Bosio. I had the whole collection, and they're all still in my possession, but the only one that I can pinpoint the location of is the Bosio ball. Not because any real affection for Bosio remained, but because his unsightly visage reminded me of the moment I became a northwesterner.

1995 happened, and it was awesome. So was 1997. So was 2000. 2001 was the best year of my life as a sports fan. And then there was everything that has happened since. The Bavasi years were, it should go without saying, a very dark period in my fandom. But I never had much faith that things would improve. I recognized that period in time for what it was;, a period in which the Mariners were likely to be a bad team with little hope for the future, at best lucking into semi-contention.

And then came Zduriencik. I was skeptical that the correct decision would be made, and when it was I was skeptical (some might say cynical) that things would improve. And then we pulled Blengino away from Milwaukee, and we hired Tom Tango, and we traded for Gutierrez. And I felt like we finally got it.

And really, I feel like we still do. I still think that Jack Zduriencik is a very good General Manager, I still feel like the processes he uses are intelligent, and I still feel like the franchise is in good hands. But the team, as of right now, is in bad shape. And while I believe that the future is bright, I do not think that it would would be controversial to say that the team, as of now, is being mismanaged. Whatever the reasons may ultimately be.

I've been through some terrible periods with this team. Many of them I do not have the information to judge, but some of them I do and those periods were the darkest in my memory. I am aware that things were far worse pre-1995, but I also know that minor success can be a monumental curse.

To summarize, I do not wish to go back to the Bavasi era. The excitement surrounding the organization this off-season was palpable, and  to be fair the team has shit the bed. The reasons for their failings have been hashed and re-hashed, but I do not believe that it would be controversial to suggest the at least one aadjustment would lead to a noticeable improvement.

My point, then, is this; I want Zduriencik to succeed because I believe that he is well suited to move the organization forward. I fear that if he does not that we will be cursed with leadership that sets the team back several years.

Please, do something, Jack. Not because I have lost faith in your vision, but because I am losing faith that you will have the opportunity to see your vision through. I trust Jack Zduriencik and I trust his plan, but I do not trust that he has a great deal of time to make it work, and I dont think the alternative is going ot be too greatly improved,

Just win, fellows. Just win, and preserve my hope for the future.

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