Baseball

Symbolism seems to me to be something of a writer obsession. So many people so frequently use it as a crutch. People are all about symbols and representations and capturing shit in a nutshell. I don't know why, but I can tell you that it comes almost instinctively. I guess because it's easy to make things sound profound, even when they aren't. It's an easy way to write deeply, or at least to give off the appearance of writing deeply.

So I try not to lean on symbolism as often as my brain tells me I can. I usually try to come up with something else, something more original. But tonight I can't help it. Tonight, I watched one pitch of the Mariners game. It was the final pitch. Mike Carp attempted to check his swing, went around, and struck out. Immediately I thought it so perfect. The swing began with an idea, it began with such promise. Then, in the middle, it sputtered, and it failed. That swing was the season. The season died just beyond the halfway point, and the swing died just beyond the plane.

You see how easy it is to relate shit to other shit? That moment really did strike me as being representative of the greater season, but I don't know if that was my brain acting out of desperation, trying to squeeze something of value out of the ten seconds I watched of an entire nine-inning baseball game. You gotta have something to say, right? Failing that, maybe I'd be looking for symbolism elsewhere. Maybe I'd be looking for symbolism in the fact that the SB Nation network is currently experiencing technical difficulties. "It's fitting that the entire network is having trouble as I try to write about the last Mariners game of the season," I'd begin.

Why did I only watch one pitch of the last Mariners game that I'll get to watch for months? Because, as you've probably heard, this might've been the most amazing night of action in the history of baseball. I don't even think that's hyperbole. Maybe I'll feel differently in a day or a week or a month, but I honestly don't know how this could've been topped. The Rays and the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Orioles, and the Phillies and the Braves played three concurrent and unforgettable baseball games that kind of took the viewing precedence.

It wasn't just me, either. Pretty much everybody had their eyes glued to the Wild Card races. And at one point later in the evening it was interesting to glance at my Twitter timeline. The bulk of it was made up of Red Sox or Rays or Braves tweets, but interspersed here and there were notes that the Mariners would officially draw fewer than two million fans for the first time since the strike-shortened 1995 season. For the fourth consecutive year, the Mariners saw their Safeco attendance drop.

It's hardly a surprise. Interest in the Mariners has waned since they've fallen on hard times and put more and more distance between themselves and their most recent playoff appearance. I think we all know more people who have become less dedicated Mariners fans than more dedicated Mariners fans over the past few years. There hasn't been much of a payoff, and so people have found other ways to stay occupied. My sense is that, with the Sounders and Seahawks available, a lot of people are on the verge of pulling away from baseball almost entirely, if they haven't already.

And to those of you who can feel yourselves approaching the edge, all I can say is: you're free to do as you please, but remember this night.

I don't mean this night, the Mariners game. Do not remember this Mariners game. It was a horrible Mariners game. Remember this night, for all the drama elsewhere. All of the improbable drama that seemed so impossible as late as earlier this very evening. Remember of how much baseball is capable when baseball's at its best.

Baseball doesn't have to feel as monotonous as it's so often felt. Baseball can make you hang on every pitch. Baseball can bring you out of your seat. Baseball can vault you through the ceiling or drop you through the floor. It isn't always like that, but if it were always like that, that wouldn't be special. Sometimes, you have to wade through an awful lot of baseball to get to the Baseball! that makes everything worth it.

A lot of people have grown beyond weary of the Mariners always trotting out heroes from the 1995 season. I get it, because it seems like a crutch, and it's silly to live in the past when the future's so much more important, but then, consider what the 1995 season represents. I don't look at those ceremonies as celebrating what the Mariners once accomplished anymore. Now I look at them as reminders of how baseball once made us feel. It's important to remember that baseball can do that. Given the state of things, it's important to be reminded.

So it might be hard to remain enthusiastic with a team like these Mariners. It might be difficult to imagine how a team like this could ever advance from playing baseball to Baseball!. But then, consider this evening. Not even just the context of this evening, which was only made possible thanks to a pair of poorly-timed historic collapses. Consider this evening itself. And now we're right back to the whole symbolism thing. Shortly before 9pm, the Red Sox were beating the Orioles in the ninth, and the Yankees had the go-ahead run on third base with nobody out. At 9:02, the Orioles won. At 9:05, the Rays won.

Shit changes fast. It doesn't always, but it can. A year ago, the Diamondbacks lost 97 games. This year, they won 94. Who knows? You can't ever know. And that's just the thing.

A sincere thank you to each and every one of you who came by during the season. It is because of you guys that I have the job I have and live the life I live, and it's all I can do to try to pay you back every day. With words. Not money. They don't pay me enough money.

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