I watched a lot of Ken Burns' "Baseball" as a kid. My family had the box set of VCR tapes, which when arranged properly recreated the cover image of the documentary. I spent hours upon hours watching and re-watching those nine tapes. I was baseball crazy from a very young age but the slowly panning black-and-white images narrated by a panoply of stodgy New Englanders inspired a deep love of the game's history.
Unfortunately the documentary does not hold up well. Its obsession with the Northeast is stark and embarrassing, the presence of disgraced historian Doris Kearns-Goodwin is wince inducing and the pre-HD era badly dates the entire presentation.
Burns' greatest err is an almost comical and childlike reverence for the "baseball as life" pseudo-mythology. "Baseball is a game that follows the seasons." "You can't kill baseball." etc. etc. This is, to be blunt, horseshit. Baseball has literally and figuratively built monuments in praise of itself, furthering the romantic ideal of its place in our culture. (Amusingly, facing their least interesting team in decades, the Yankees are planning their entire season around the idea.)
The danger of the cliche is that it robs the present of its uniqueness. In our effort to find comfort we do not experience the things around us for what they are but perpetually seek to compare and contrast them to the past, or at least our ideal of the past. Each moment, each of us, each place in space and time is different and something we do not need to reference to our misty-eyed sense of nostalgia to appreciate.
"Spring training offers the promise of a clean slate."
And let's rejoice in the fact that it is so! We are Mariner fans. For decades we have been sold this bill of goods by a desperate marketing team hoping that our sheer love of baseball, any baseball, would allow us to glance over a brutally flawed and noncompetitive team. We knew it then and we allowed it to work because humans are suckers and because baseball is a wonderful game. But always we had to jump through hoops. There were always mental gymnastics to perform to get past knowing that come June there was a good chance we would be ready for football.
There is no clean slate. There is only moving forward and building off what came before. Let's be glad! The Mariners, through a combination of skill and luck are building off of something. Remember:
That is where we left this. Not just a tribute to an individual accomplishment. Not a period at the end of a surprisingly enjoyable story. That was an ellipses. That was "End of Act I". The Mariners are not on equal footing with the rest of the league. The majority of baseball begins today knowing they can't compete with the roster the Mariners have assembled. Hope in cliches is gone. Hope in reality is here. Act II starts today. I'll be loving every moment.