It is 1 AM on the morning of September 19th, 2012. I am watching my television inside a stuffy studio apartment, six feet away from a bed that holds my fiancee, asleep and cradling a pillow around her head as if there is a jackhammer singing in the corner of the room. I do not know why I am doing this. Perhaps it is because I want to see what it looks like when Angie Mentink finally falls asleep mid broadcast. Perhaps I just enjoy the sensation of detached disappointment on my skin, like touching a tepid burner left on 3 after the tea has whistled itself away. Perhaps it is both and yet neither at the same time. I do not know. I am watching nonetheless.
Two hours earlier, Erasmo Ramirez was inches away from the first complete game of his career and now I am looking at Miguel Olivo striking out on five pitches against Orioles closer Jim Johnson, and the Mariners have lost. It is the eighteenth inning. The Orioles haven't made the playoffs in 15 years. I think to myself I can't wait to see what Jeff has to say about all this before I turn my television off and crack another beer.
In a few weeks I will watch Joe Saunders beat the Texas Rangers in the American League Wild Card game, and as Josh Hamilton misplays a ball in Left Field he is booed, booed mercilessly and I laugh at it and think what an idiot and then the announcers start talking about his future in Texas, and I think about the Rangers, and I order another drink. I am wearing a Mariners hat and the bartender rolls his eyes at me, and although he doesn't think I notice I do. I finish it, though.
It is August 8th, 1997. I am ten years old and I am listening to a concrete bubble shake as the word Ed-Gar bounces off the grey facade to break apart into multiple syllables, up to the top row and down from the bottom in a cacophony of noise that eventually starts to blend together into unintelligiblity. I am wearing a hat that says NY, and while I am old enough to know that is the team from all the movies and TV commercials, I am yet transfixed as I watch someone wearing the number 24 in blue hit a ball deep into centerfield off the hand of Nelson Cruz, pitching for the Chicago White Sox. It leaves the fence.
I have not seen 1995. I have not even heard of this Kid. I live in Portland, Oregon, and my parents have driven me up to Seattle Washington and purchased three pieces of thin paper from a scalper outside the walls of the Kingdome. One month later I will watch as the Seattle Mariners lose to the Baltimore Orioles in game four of the ALDS. I do not think that it is amazing, just absolutely magnificent that they are playing baseball in October. No, I cry, because I'm a stupid, privileged, ten year old kid who has never experienced true loss or pain in his entire life. I am stupid.
It is September 28th, 2014. I have recently moved to the East Coast, and am all alone with my wife in an empty house, surrounded by boxes and plates wrapped in newspaper as I watch Felix Hernandez step off the mound on my desktop computer, the only thing up and running inside the home we will occupy for the next six years. I am wearing a northwest green Mariners jersey over a blue hoodie despite the fact that it is ninety-something degrees outside, and I am standing just outside my office as I see the King tip his hat to 38,000 applauding fans and I do not cry, I do not bite my bottom lip and feel my eyes well up because I'm 27 years old goddammit, and not ten anymore for fuck's sake.
I do walk out of the room and wipe my face off when my wife comes around the corner.
I am stupid.
I am watching Jack Zduriencik hear that Prince Fielder has agreed to a nine-year, $214-million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers.
I am watching a press conference where Josh Hamilton puts on a red jersey in Los Angeles.
I see Cliff Lee fly away and I go to baseball games and watch Robert Andino, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Blake Beavan, José Vidro, and Richie Sexson play wearing the letter S on top of their heads.
I am standing outside my boss' door, and I read on my phone that the Seattle Mariners have traded John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics in a three-team trade that nets Michael Morse, and I nearly break the glass in frustration.
I'm on the bus and I see a tweet from @lookoutlanding that says "wait what," and then I find out that the Seattle Mariners have traded Ichiro Suzuki to the third base dugout, and I immediately drive three hours north to watch him bow to the crowd wearing a grey uniform emblazoned with the words New York.
I watch and watch and don't stop watching for some stupid reason. I watch as Felix gives up six runs in the first inning and departs after a single out. I watch as the Mariners lose seven straight and watch as they right the ship with a walk-off home run from a soon-to-be-All-Star third baseman. I watch as a closer walks in a run to a stadium filled with fans wearing matching black shirts.
I watch when I dream that maybe someday I would be able to write words on the internet about my favorite baseball team, and I watch after that reality comes to fruition and I want nothing more than to unplug my television from the wall and throw it out the window where it will perfectly land in my garbage receptacle waiting on the sidewalk to be picked up during the morning waste service.
But ultimately, I watch as the Seattle Mariners visit what was once the worst team in all of baseball, and I watch as they promptly give up three runs in the first, two in the third, five in the fourth, one in the fifth, one in the sixth, and one more in the eighth.
I watch as the Seattle Mariners are no-hit into the sixth inning and I watch as a lineup walks up to the batters box and unhooks their veins from their wrists and lets the blood just spool out, out into the dirt and back into the away dugout where it infects everyone waiting to hit like there was some virus infecting those blue uniforms like the red-shirted-guys in those old Star Trek episodes.
I watch as the Seattle Mariners play--unequivocally--the worst game I can ever remember them playing, and for some reason I keep watching as Kyle Seager fouls off four pitches in the ninth inning, down thirteen, because I've spent eighteen years of my life watching this godforsaken team, and you have too, and why the fuck would it end before it needs to?
It is June 2015 and the Houston Astros have called up prospect after prospect, and I watch as Dustin Ackley dances on a tightrope between the waiver pit and desperation, followed closely by any number of bottles of moldy sand you can imagine. I watch as the Mariners just may end their 2015 season, knowing full well there are 98 games left to decide what happens next, but knowing just as well that I've watched thousands upon thousands that give us the same damn result every time.
It is June 2015 and I am so tired of writing these, and I have no idea what is going to happen after I go to bed in a few minutes.
It is April, 1946, and Joe Jackson is sweeping the floors of his liquor store in Greenvile, South Carolina. It is still morning, and as the door creaks open just fast enough to jostle the little copper bell hanging on the mid-bar, he looks to see a hunched figure walk in and block out the sun like an eclipse on the Last Day.
But he knows. Realizing he would be seen if he stayed where he was, he quickly tussles his broom into the back corner and digs out a rag so as to pretend to buff out a spot on the glass counter, which will hide him from view while he scuffs an already spotless transparent barricade that only further serves to separate him from what once was to what now is.
The eclipse leaves the rays of the sun through the door, and hovers over his makeshift barrier, blocking out the light he had been using to busy himself through shame.
Don't you remember me? the eclipse says. Don't you remember me?
He drops his rag, the facade exposed. One hand up to the forehead, bristling with sweat. Back over, and across the top of the head, slowly balding. He never learned how to read.
Sure I do. He says. I just didn't think you would want to remember me, he says, returning to his wet rag.
The two men will die ten years apart, in 1951 and 1961 respectively. One will adorn the walls of Cooperstown with the blood of human beings etched into his feet, the other still ostracized nearly a century later through hearsay and self-policing insanity for the good of the game. Only one will win a ring.
And even that is a matter of opinion.
It is September 2015 and I am watching the Seattle Mariners. I am either radiant or hollow, pleased or complacent. I realize this game is a stupid game, an extremely, fucking, goddamned asinine bullshit game, and yet I keep watching. I do not know why.
I will cry again, not when I am ten, not when I am twenty-seven. I will cry because the Mariners have finally won the World Series. I do not know when this will happen.
But it will not happen on Sunday, June 14th as the Seattle Mariners roll over like mice in a snakecage to the Houston Astros. Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb are dead, they have been for fifty-some odd years, but nothing can ever take away the fact that they lived and bled and gave everything they had for this stupid game that we each fell in love with at one point or another in our lives. And yet we watch, we keep watching as if something will change, as if something will ever happen to pull us onto a different road and give us anything tangible to hold onto. As if they will have the chance again to do it right this time, not haunted by the memories of reckless youth or surrendered future.
It is June 2015, and the internet tells us there is a 28-35 record on a 2015 Seattle Mariners season that was supposed to be the best year in franchise history. Someday, that will be true, with this cast of characters or another. But the wonderful thing is that we are smack dab in the middle right now--right there between adolescent wonder and greying twilight nostalgia, between twenty-something exuberance and the cruel pull of aged skin on the wrists of a laborer trying to close out his final days with honor and dignity.
It is June 2015 and we have a long way to go before we are hiding from old friends at the liquor store. It may not feel like it, but it's true.
And still, we keep watching.
We may be stupid. But we do.