A Seattle-area Mariners supporter experienced hope for the first time since before the year 2001 on Monday evening, ending a multiple year losing battle against a rare mood disorder that directly ties his disposition to the state of the local baseball franchise.
It was in the fall of 2004 that the local man was initially diagnosed with the malady. Doctors discovered changes in the man's brain chemistry that had begun to remap emotional connections to create seemingly abstract dependent relationships between different pleasure centers in the organ. For no reason other than pure randomness, the man found his feelings of happiness, hope, and joy all tied to the success of the Seattle Mariners.
"We've just never seen anything like this," said the man's doctor. "It's a fascinating and unprecedented case, one that I may very well study for the rest of my career."
At first, the man was advised to simply ignore baseball and the team altogether, the theory being that no knowledge of the Seattle Mariners would allow the man's brain to repair and restructure its abnormal new wiring. However, it soon became clear that an intense assumed pessimism had entrenched itself into the man's psyche, a pattern that could only be broken by explicit and objective evidence that the team was once again worthy of hope. "I just knew they were bad, and were going to keep being bad," said the man. "No matter how much I tried to focus on other things, or wipe them from my thoughts altogether, the failure just continued to grow and build on top of itself in my head, brick by brick, until there was a monument in my mind that I couldn't unsee or ignore."
"I guess I'm just more naturally prone to doubt and cynicism than other people. It takes a lot for me to change my mind. I'm stubborn or strong-willed or something. It's really a pretty terrible and unlucky thing, given the circumstances of my disorder."
After the discovery and failed treatment, the man had seen his condition worsen year after year, his affliction causing great distress and harm to his personal relationships, drastically lowering his quality of life. "I just felt really down, really depressed," said the man. "The team kept losing and I kept getting worse and worse. My wife would tell me that she loved me and I would feel nothing. I had a son graduate from high school last year and I couldn't even bring myself to get out of bed. The last few years have been pretty dark for me."
The Mariners baseball team continued to falter as doctors studied for information and a cure. Players underperformed, with unwise trades and free agent signings keeping the team from playoff contention. Some of the team's more highly touted prospects struggled last season, causing the man to near a breaking point while experiencing profound despair.
"I thought about things, you know? Things I'm not proud to mention. I said it was a dark time, let's just leave it at that."
Still, through it all, the man continued to follow the team on a daily basis. The man explained: "Whether I paid attention or not, it didn't make a difference either way, and at least by reading the papers and watching the games I could be a witness to my own fate. It hasn't been a lot of fun, but I suppose it's slightly better than the alternative, and it gets me out of my bedroom. It's been like watching a never-ending video of a Vegas blackjack table. No matter how many times someone hits it big, or goes on a run, they never come out on top in the end. The house always wins."
And then, on Monday evening, following a Mariners home win over the storied Boston Red Sox, the local man begun to experience feelings that he hadn't recognized in himself for more than a decade. "I turned off the game, and for the first time in forever, I didn't feel a weight on my heart. I looked at my wife, and I smiled. She started crying. She didn't think she'd ever see me smile again," said the man, visibly emotional.
Doctors are scrambling to examine the sudden change, and to perhaps understand how it took place and how it might be made permanent. So far, the only explanation hinges on the Mariner's recent success and crop of young, exciting players. "He just believes, for the first time in many years," said the man's doctor. "Something finally broke through that wall of sadness and misery, and the connection between baseball and happiness was activated. It's remarkable."
The local man doesn't know how long his recent bout of positivity will last, and he doesn't plan to take these moments for granted. "I've seen the other side of this, I dealt with it for a long time, so right now, I'm just trying to enjoy everything. Enjoy my family, enjoy my life. There's no telling what the team is going to do or how things will be a year, two years from now, but right now, in this moment, I'm feeling great and that's all I'm concerned with."
"I hope things stay this way for a while."