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The Art of Losing

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Sometimes it's best not to follow the prompt

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

SPOILER: We’re not gonna talk about the game tonight. We’re not going to talk about the absurdity of being invested in a game whose outcome can completely change based on whether one man can or cannot catch a ball that does not count. The box score can be found here; read it at your leisure, though hopefully not around breakable objects. I refuse to tarnish this big, beautiful, and oh-so-quiet blank space with the catastrophe of tonight. If you want to do your doom and gloom routine, and remind everyone how great it is that you don’t care about anything at all, have a blast in the comments. But I’m not doing that up here, because there is so much justifiable negativity swirling around this world and my voice isn’t special. My pain isn’t special. Screaming my anger and frustration into this chasm does nothing at all, the sound just bounces back up, distorted.

Instead, here’s a poem that (it’s going to sound melodramatic but I’ll say it anyway) saved me this past year. And you know what’s wild and wonderful about poems, and really just writing in general? It can be applicable to anything. This poem was a salve during the hardest part of my life, but also applies to Mariners fandom and this game in particular. Perspective, folks, it’s all about perspective.

Elizabeth Bishop, "One Art" from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

"The art of losing isn’t hard to master." We know this so well as Mariners fans, but even more so as baseball fans. There is little certainty in baseball, save for the knowledge that your baseball team will win one or more baseball games, and your baseball team will lose one or more baseball games. When it comes down to it though, there are three different kinds of losses: Expected Losses, Surprising Losses, and Painful Losses. I think the first two speak for themselves; a visiting ace vs your number five starter? Yeah, you can expect a loss; a blown save after a three run lead? That’s a pretty obvious surprise. Painful Losses are a bit more complex, because they can encompass Expected and Surprising Losses, but can also stand on their own. These losses, which are fortunately rare throughout the season, aren’t the same for everyone but are dependent on one key quality at the start: hope. For a game to be a truly Painful Loss you must have thrown logic out the window, and precariously placed all your hope into a creaky whicker basket. It’s the kind of game where you actively ignore that echo of bad decisions past and instead allow yourself to illogically imagine the Best Thing that could happen.

This game might not have been a Painful Loss for you; perhaps you are better adept than the rest of us at locking your optimism up in the rickety clock tower of your mind. However, for many of us, myself included, we gave hope a chance with this game, with this series really, and it has been terrible. Being crushed like this recalls all the other times in life when you may have hoped for something, only to be denied, and I think that could be part of why the rage and fury have burned so brightly. The reminder of past rejections can draw a reaction from even the most even-keeled of people, and goodness knows the Mariners community isn’t exactly…steady.

No tidy wrap-up here, just the tired acknowledgement that the art of losing may not be hard to master, but tonight is not the night we have mastered it.