I really like to argue. It's my least redeeming trait. I believe that all arguments have a winner and a loser, with the loser being the individual whose evidence is the most faulty or rationale the least justifiable. So it makes me feel like quite the hypocrite when I realize that, if someone were to challenge me on it, my daily Mariners obsession would be hard, if not impossible, to explain.
Some jerk: Why do you do this anyway?
Me: Well I've been a fan for a while now.
Some jerk: Not that long, only since like 2000. And you cheered for the Cubs some in the middle there. Plus, that's a sunk cost anyway.
Me: Things aren't going to be this bad forever.
Some jerk: How do you know? They've been around since 1977 and they have just two multi-year stretches of competence. This is what it's like almost the entirety of the time.
Me: Well there are some positive signs, some good young players.
Some jerk: Yeah I've heard this before.
Really, it isn't that there isn't a justifiable explanation for tuning in as much as I do—going to games, watching them, listening or just checking Twitter constantly—it's that I couldn't put it into words, or wrap my head around it. Then I read this comment from riverdog in Adam's Thursday recap, and it's funny when someone else is better at explaining something you do than you are:
I so hate wasting time on these games/seasons but I keep thinking I need to be there when this thing turns around. I need to see when/what it is that makes this team turn the corner. I can’t just quit and stop paying daily attention, for when they do start winning with regularity I won’t know the players on a "personal" level and therefore will be too detached to enjoy it as immmensely as I would if I went through the pain "along side" these guys. I think many of you feel the same way.
It's all we look for, that game or stretch that makes you believe this is it, and then can look back on once it's confirmed. We do this because it's easier to hope that a small sample of a few weeks, a series or even a single game would serve as a springboard to greater things than just pray "I hope we suddenly become good for an indefinite period of time." You may do this in your own life. I know I do. "If I could catch just this one break, get this series of events to go my way, everything from here on would be different."
First, there's the macro level. The Mariners' brutal early schedule made the losses slightly more excusable. Things looked bad in April, and even worse in a May spent almost entirely on the road, but the goal was to just be .500 by the All Star Break and June had a 10-game and 8-game homestand. Maybe that'd be it, maybe that'd be the proverbial turn around the corner towards cheering for a team that was at least not embarrassing.
The Mariners went 11-16 in June.
So it wasn't the macro level. That's more difficult anyway. It's easier to hope a single game, or an at-bat within in a great game is the turning point. And honestly, when I was there at Safeco on Friday, I thought that might've been it.
Friday, fireworks, the Cubs and this gorgeous summer weather meant there was a rare decent crowd at Safeco—even a somewhat boisterous one. The M's calling up a potentional foundational piece gave us the bookmark you could point to, and then the Mariners' battle back ended with another building block walking us off with a 10th-inning single. I've been to roughly 100 games over the past four seasons, and I can't think of a single one being more enjoyable than that one.
The fireworks afterward created one of those "isn't this great?" moments you're constantly chasing in life. The show's soundtrack switched to Macklemore's "My Oh My", the board flashed stills of 'The Double' and I thought "God. I love the Mariners."
The Mariners had reason to feel great too, and they had two games coming up against one of baseball's worst teams. It was an opportunity to create a memorable weekend to build off of, to turn from. I didn't make it to either Saturday or Sunday's games—mostly because it somehow costs $50 just to get two people in the door the day-of—but I caught the end of Saturday's on the radio, driving back from a hike, and Sunday's late tease of a rally on TV at home.
I hate the phrase "because Mariners." It isn't because it's lazy—though it is—but because I hate the definition and the immense deprecation behind it. I became a Mariners fan in the early-oughts so my view of the franchise and what it should be is beyond delusional, but man, each of those outcomes were the epitome of "because Mariners."
Really, the M's battled back late with a tying run in the ninth (one that made me think "Hey, maybe last night's game was that moment), only to have their most dominant and reliable reliever give up a game-deciding bomb? And Joe Saunders was really the game's last batter? Yeah, because Mariners.
The M's made you think they were done, down 7-1, only to storm back and put themselves in position to need just one run in six outs against arguably the game's worst bullpen then still come up short once you finally tune in—providing yet another tease? Oh and seriously, 1-14 with runners in scoring position? Well yeah, because Mariners.
Though it seems this weekend wasn't the moment we can look back on as being the shift towards relevance we desperately seek, it was still another turning point. In every recent season, we cross the line from playing for 2013 to calling up all the kids and hoping we see some life. In many fans' eyes, the Mariners stopped playing for 2013 some weeks ago, but Brad Miller's call-up made the transformation to "If I could just see something that made me think we're almost there" mode official for me.
And that's why I hoped so much that Friday's game would be that moment we could turn to. I wanted to be able to say "I was there when Brad Miller got called up, when Dustin Ackley 2.0 made his debut, Zunino walked it off, and you could sense then that it might've been it."
But it wasn't.
That moment hasn't come yet, but I know it will. Right? So I'll keep watching, I'll keep listening, and I'll keep tuning in however I can—because I still want to be there when this thing turns around.