Every championship is special in its own way, but last night’s Game Seven of the World Series, a thriller won by Chicago in extra innings, was the kind of game that will be talked about for years. There’s something about The Big Game in film or television that I always find lacking. I was never invested in “Friday Night Lights” or on tenterhooks to see if Jimmy Chitwood’s shot would fall and I’ve never made it through The Natural without falling asleep, which is maybe why that ending sequence doesn’t turn the dial on my emotions box. Sports movies are fine, really, but they’re a knockoff handbag against the real thing, all cheap lining and sticky leather. Baseball, especially, is often so much better and weirder and more nuanced than anything Hollywood has the time or talent for.
Both franchises have their big-screen equivalents—Major League for Cleveland, and Rookie of the Year for the Cubs—but what happened last night eclipsed even the most fevered dreams of Hollywood scriptwriters. The grizzled veteran one day from retirement hitting a home run. The second baseman with a magnetic smile making two errors, then redeeming himself on a home run. An impassioned speech during the rain delay from the expensive but underperforming free agent, proving his worth off the field. An improbable, game-tying home run against a dominant closer. A 48th-round draft pick getting the first two outs in the ninth. The rain delay. The extras. Catchers getting important hits. Both teams played so well and so thrillingly that it’s hard to look at one team having lost, although of course it is the Cubs who get to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy and have a parade and feel their fingers sticky with champagne. The curse is broken, light floods Wrigleyville, the ivy retreats to its rightful place on the wall.
But at the core of every Mariners fan, noses pressed against the glass of another postseason, there is a small and wistful feeling, seeing former Mariner Mike Montgomery get the final out. We want it to be our someday, too. We are happy for the Cubs fans and the end of their suffering, but at the same time that reminds us of our own, seemingly endless, suffering.
To win out in professional sports, you have to be a little bit lucky and a lot good. The Mariners have been lucky before. They have been good at times, although much less frequently, and maybe not everyone has been good enough? Into every life a little Miguel Olivo must fall. This is not entirely the fault of the players. In the 80s, the team was owned by a penny-pinching Dickensian villain/real estate developer from California; in the 90s, managed by a man with the name of a cartoon bird; and for the past fifteen years, was run by a tandem of men with the combined managerial acumen of a dog wearing a tie. Not great, Bob! Yet knowing the root of our sadness doesn’t do anything with the sadness itself. At the end of the day, we’re still waiting for our movie to be made.
The good news: after years of ineptitude, we have a director in town who seems to at least understand that not all roles can be filled by the same character wearing various wigs, and the craft services spread has actual cream cheese for the bagels, not just those little packets. The Mariners haven’t been cursed (the Cubs weren’t, either, but that’s a different conversation). They’ve been poorly run, poorly staffed, and have consistently lagged behind other teams who can either buy the talent or figure out better ways to develop and optimize it. This isn’t the case any more. For the first time in over a decade, Seattle has had a legitimate heart of the order. They are run by someone who at least pays lip service to the notion of lineup optimization, who is focused on making the team younger and more athletic and building a strong farm, as evidenced by the successes of the minor-league teams this year. It might not be here yet, but our someday is in sight.