It is so painfully easy, in this world of increasingly virtual communication, to obscure our feelings from others. For all that technology brings us together, it is the ultimate enabler when it comes to repressing emotions of any kind. Joy is less vibrant, sadness less painful, when shared or expressed online and, as with anything we do with enough frequency, these feeble expressions of emotions can easily become habitual.
Baseball, silly and childish game that it is, cracks that habit apart, and exposes our pale, ugly, wriggling feelings to life’s light. For all the talk of baseball’s sluggishness, its moments of triumph or misery are swift, and startle us out of our emotional equilibrium. Unlike football, or basketball, or soccer, where the movement and the moments are constant, baseball lulls you into a false sense of ease so that when a moment comes there’s no time to worry about affect. You just react. It’s because of all this, and the heavy emotional tax we pay to love this game, that the last week or so has been so quiet. As Mariners fans the season’s final crescendo was a game premature and the loss it represented, both literally and metaphorically, has required time to mourn.
That sounds silly, and even a bit irreverent, doesn’t it? This idea of mourning a game that will be played again in just a few months, but baseball uniquely lends itself to nostalgia, and therefore it isn’t simply a game, or even a season that we mourn. We mourn the still, balmy evenings when Seattle somehow felt softer, calmer, soothed into submission by the heat. We mourn the buzz of Safeco Field before a game, and the unique camaraderie between strangers as they empty water bottles and pass through the metal detectors. We mourn that moment of sheer, exhilarating triumph when a ball sails over the wall and any failings of your own are briefly forgotten in the celebration. Baseball’s pace allows, no, encourages, conversations during the game, and so we also mourn the relationships that developed through the season. We mourn them as they were, and we worry they will change, or perhaps not even survive the long offseason. Nothing is ever as good as we remember it to be, but in baseball that doesn’t matter. Let those memories become shiny, and rosy, and entirely overblown, because their reality is of little consequence once the season is done. What happens during one season matters scarcely at all in the next, and that’s both the magic, and the pain, of the game. Yes, baseball ends, but in due time, in the same due time every year, baseball begins again
There’s no real purpose to this piece, no sweeping conclusion or groundbreaking analysis, but it was something I needed to write. We’ve said farewell to two integral members of this community already, but we haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to the 2016 season itself. I grew attached to this 2016 team, in a way I don’t often allow myself to be, and wrote this to create the closure I felt was necessary to move forward. Perhaps you’re all more stalwart than I but, if you’ve suffered from the same emotional hangover I’ve had, take this as your moment to mourn, reflect, and appreciate a tumultuous season. Whether you connected with these players, and their actions on the field, or whether your memories put the actual game in the periphery, I hope this season brought you as much joy as it brought me. Mariners baseball seems far-off now, and will seem that way for months, until one morning we wake up and a new season will be set to begin.