A few weeks ago, I happened across a fan of another team criticizing me on his own team's blog. I don't seek this kind of thing out, but like most people, I imagine, I am most definitely interested in what other people have to say about me and what I do, so I stuck around to read what he said. "It's all in the name of personal growth," I said to myself. "Should some of his criticisms be valid, you can take them to heart, and come out all the better for it."
That was the mindset going in, at least. But I wound up tuning it all out and decided to move on with my day when I realized the main thrust of his criticism. You see, this individual's biggest complaint was that I, a baseball writer, had the audacity to say that sometimes I don't like watching baseball.
I get it. Baseball is a beautiful game. It's a game many of us have loved since we were little children, and it's a game that forms the soundtrack to our summers. Few experiences compare to following the day-to-day drama of a contending team throughout the season, but as fans of bad teams so often remind themselves, baseball doesn't always need to be good for baseball to be worth watching. Meaningless baseball in August, after all, is better than no baseball at all. There's a reason people count down the days until pitchers and catchers.
So, yeah, I understand how it could be a little startling or off-putting to discover that a supposed hardcore baseball fan has times when he just doesn't want to watch his team play. A fan who struggles to find consistent enjoyment in the game, it follows, is hardly a fan at all.
In my defense, though, this game.
There was nothing compelling about this. This was one of the worst teams in baseball taking on another one of the worst teams in baseball, behind a pair of fairly uninteresting starters. The game was completely meaningless, and it was being played in front of a sparse crowd made miserable by humid, sweltering heat that also rather visibly caused some of the players to drag. From the beginning, this game didn't have a whole lot going its way.
And then the gameplay itself was shy of spectacular. The pitching was iffy. The defense was inconsistent. And the offense - despite fleeting glimpses of life - struggled to deliver the big hit, as the two teams combined to go 4-23 with runners in scoring position. Sure, thehit back-to-back homers, but those came in the third inning. Between the top of the third and the top of the tenth, there was nothing. Just a lot of blown chances, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of deep counts.
I barely noticed when the middle innings passed by, like cars on a freight train that's blocking your way. All I noticed was that no one had scored, and that we were therefore doomed to extra innings. And while Adam Moore's home run was obviously neat, as soon as David Aardsma started to struggle I just wanted to reach a resolution. I didn't care if the Mariners won or if the Mariners lost. I just wanted the game to end in the tenth. So I was mad when we went to eleven. Not at David Aardsma for walking in the tying run. At Brian Roberts for swinging at ball four when it could've been the winner.
Now, I don't and never have actually taken pleasure in watching the Mariners lose, so it should tell you something that I wanted them to blow it in the tenth, and that I was relieved when they lost it in eleven. It should tell you something that I know I wasn't the only one who felt that way. This game, and many of its 227 minutes, were nearly impossible to watch. Or, as Geoff Baker said:
This game is officially terrible.
When Adam Jones laid down a perfect bunt to win the game, I cheered in my living room. I didn't cheer because the Mariners lost. I cheered because the game was over, and I didn't have to watch it anymore. I cheered because, for the first time in four hours, we could turn the TV to something else, like Martin, or Cash Cab.
So, yeah. I will readily admit that, for much of those four hours, I didn't enjoy watching the Mariners. I'll readily admit that, for much of those four hours, I would've rather been weeding or doing dishes than watching another baseball game on FSN. But then, who among those that watched the game could blame me? Was anyone enjoying this?
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this does reflect negatively on me as a fan. Maybe I don't like baseball as much as I think I do. Maybe I don't like baseball as much as other fans. As better fans.
I think the greater likelihood, though, is that fans of other teams - fans of better teams - just don't get it. They don't understand what it's like to deal with sloppy, meaningless baseball, because they're so infrequently put in that position. Yeah, okay, you could tell me to look at the positives, like how Adam Moore homered and singled three times and threw two runners out. Adam Moore had a legitimately magnificent game. I'm not going to remember this as the game where Adam Moore dominated the, though. I'm going to remember this as the godawful game that wouldn't end, until it did.
I don't think the problem lies with me. I think the problem lies with baseball, and with fans of other teams who romanticize everything and fail to understand that, sometimes, baseball just sucks.