From the mothership: Welcome to the refreshed Lookout Landing! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here. Come Fan With Us! (Note: you should actually do this: all Fan Posts on this theme will be entered into a sweepstakes—details at the end of this article.)
Today is Fan Day across the network, as all of the sites now have this new...color scheme I guess? I don’t know. Anyway, we’re all taking it as an opportunity to remember why we’re here. The Mariners are bad, currently and historically, and yet we love them anyway, and we come here to talk about them and read about them and rend our garments over them. Yay fandom. Why do we love them, this collection of pajama-clad morons who break our hearts over and over again and yet we return each season, Oliver with bowl outstretched, begging for more? Let us count the ways:
It was around 1990 or 1991 that I really put together what baseball was and that the Mariners were the local Major League team. I grew up in Edgewood, WA, a quiet and fairly rural suburb between Tacoma and Seattle. My mom and dad were transplants from Maryland and settled in the South Puget Sound area after my dad was stationed at Fort Lewis toward the end of the Vietnam War. They discovered a land without the death vapor humidity of the East Coast and they were sold. I came along in 1983, then my sister in 1988. Sometime in between there and Ken Griffey, Jr. getting drafted by the Mariners, my dad began to impart his love and knowledge of baseball to us.
My dad grew up a Washington Senators fan and having lost the team of his childhood twice to moves, he had half-heartedly adopted the terrible Mariners as his new team. Through his work he had access to free tickets to both Mariners and Seahawks games in the Kingdome. The experience of growing up thinking all sports are played in domes I’m sure is not a unique one for Northwest children of the late 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. One of my earliest, most distinct memories of a Mariners game was in 1991. I was in the first grade and my dad came and took me out of school on a sunny spring day and took me to a weekday matinee game. I wore my yellow S Mariners hat and I remember my teacher saying, “Oh, is that for Sanford?” and me responding incredulously, “NO, IT’S THE MARINERS!” Anyways, I vividly remember going from the bright sunshine to the dark and dank Kingdome and then out again into the absolutely blinding light after the game was over.
It’s weird, but another one of my most vivid Mariners memories of my childhood also involved my elementary school (Northwood Knights! Our colors were even blue and yellow). Game 163 rolled around when I was in 6th grade and they let the whole school into the small auditorium to watch a few innings for the last hour or so of the school day. It just so happened that the Luis Sojo “Everybody Scores!” play happened during that time and the feeling of a hundred or so grade school kids going absolutely bonkers during that play is seared into my memory.
I totally understand why baseball is not attracting young fans like it used to. All of the following happened during my youth in order to sell me on baseball and the god damn Mariners forever: my dad taught me the game, there was a team nearby that was cheap and accessible to go see, the Griffey phenomenon, the baseball card boom of the late 80’s/early 90’s, and a losing team’s first historical and impossibly dramatic playoff run. That’s a perfect storm of sentiment, emotional buy-in, huge talent, and cathartic release. Your average kid who lives within close proximity of a MLB team is lucky to have one or two of those kinds of things happen during their adolescence. So, despite the Mariners having a long, sad history of sucking all the fun out of baseball and losing games in new, soul crushing ways, I still consider myself lucky to have developed a love for the most noble mainstream sport and to have lived through a handful of once-in-a-lifetime moments with generational talents.
Maybe it was Lunch Box Night in second grade. The game stretched on and my dad told me a story about a Red Sox game that went so long it had to be finished the next day. My 7-year-old mind thought this meant that if the game lasted long enough we would get to sleep at the Kingdome. You can imagine my disappointment when it got late and my dad made us leave. I walked back to the car, the lunch box thumping against my leg at the indignation of leaving a game before it was over.
Maybe it was the night Chris Bosio threw his no-hitter. My dad woke me up at the end of the 8th inning so I could see “something special.” It was first time I ever saw him root for the Mariners over his Red Sox. When I questioned him on this after the game he told me, “You always root for no-hitters.” That night I was inducted into the baseball fan club, the club that knows not to say “no-hitter” when a pitcher is in the middle of one.
Maybe it was the baseball magazine my dad bought me, its pages containing a profile of Randy Johnson with his crazy hair and wild pitching, and a picture he had taken of a car in a dumpster. Maybe it was the game at the Kingdome when Randy made a relief appearance and the Kingdome was louder than anything I’d heard up to that point. Maybe it was listening to the highlights of the game on the radio as we made our way out of the Kingdome parking lot.
Maybe it was the delicious freedom of childhood summer afternoons and evenings filled with the sound of Dave Niehaus on the radio. Maybe it was the time spent with my dad.
I don’t remember exactly how or why I became a fan, and I have questioned my fandom many times as the losing, demoralizing seasons piled up. But something happened in the early years of my life that tied me to this silly team, and here I remain.
I loved baseball before I remember loving anything else. Box scores taught me to read, to count, and to create. I loved the Mariners first because they were my home team, but they were not the home team of my family. My father was a New York import, born and raised in the Bronx to hate their Bombers, frequenting the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field instead, then later Shea and its Miserable denizens before they were anything Miraculous. My mother was raised on the Cubs in a Chicago suburb, but both embraced the Mariners for me and helped make them my team. The games I played were those of imitation and memorization. My father would recline as I listed the entire starting lineup for the night’s game for each team from age three through my tenth year at least. I would mimic each stance and then swing, sending a ball flying in the farce from my father’s hand down the hallway or around the room.
Glorified fetch was the game in truth, but it built within me a love of the players and their personalities alongside their stats. Griffey’s shoulder shimmy and raised back elbow. Edgar’s relaxed high hands. Buhner’s habitual clenching and unclenching of the bat. Boone’s two-strike adjustment. Opposing villains and oddities made their way into the game as well. Mo Vaughn’s plate crowding. Garret Anderson’s simple hunker. Chuck Knoblauch’s samurai-like slice and Ray Durham’s back-scratching tilt.
The personalities raised me into baseball, and when I stretched for more, my hand was not what caught on first, but my ear. My memories of games are fleeting but my memories of feelings define who I am, and listening to Dave Niehaus is not a memory but a sensation. To this day it brings me goosebumps to hear him speak. The stories baseball tells are my favorite of any sport. It is in part because it is the game I’m most familiar with and relate with best, but also because the game lends itself so well to storytelling and storytellers. It is why I am so thankful for Dave for making games that lacked the dignity to wipe his feet into sensations of summer that are warm and pleasant to recall. Turning something ugly into something beautiful was his gift and I am a Mariners fan for life because of him. Lookout Landing became part of that process and helped ease his loss for me, as this community has always tried to find joy in the disappointment the Mariners attempt to foist upon us. I hope to continue Dave’s tradition here, even in the slightest of slivers, because this is my team, from the city I love, and that will never change.
Fall 2002: The Anaheim Angels triumph over the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. I am new to the Bay Area, new to my elementary school, and new to the fervor of professional sports. Everyone loved baseball that year, but I felt no kinship towards the local teams, so I turned to my birthplace and a team that was just a year removed from the best record in baseball history.
July 2010: It’s my first full Mariners season as a Seattle resident. On a meaningless Sunday day game Mom and I, along with the small crowd at Safeco, give a standing ovation to the first Mariner to reach first base in seven innings.
June 2012: Through some inexplicable twist of fate the Dodgers are in town the day after my high school graduation. My uncle, a lifelong LA fan and partially responsible for my own baseball fandom, gets us tickets directly behind the dugout as a graduation gift. Each bit of baseball I get to watch with him is a gift in and of itself, but this is one of the best game experiences I’ll ever have. The Mariners lose to the Dodgers.
September 28, 2014: It’s 3 AM in Norwich, England and tears are running down my face as I watch Félix walk off the field in the sixth inning, and then re-emerge from the clubhouse to wave at the crowd. Mom sends me selfies of her, Dad, and my uncle with rally towels on their heads.
March 2015: Mom flies out to Italy to visit me. She brings American snacks, candy, and a copy of Sports Illustrated with Félix and Canó on the cover. I read it on a balcony in Rome, and dream of the possibilities. Two months later I gently tear the cover off and tuck it into the bottom of my 50-pound suitcase.
September 2015: My two best friends and I move into our apartment in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for our senior year of college. I pin the cover beneath the light switch in my room, right by the door, to remind myself to be careful with hope.
May 24, 2016: My first day home in Seattle, and I’m rendered speechless by Leonys Martín’s walk-off against the A’s, and all the possibilities of this next step in my life. I am not careful with my hope.
July 2016: I’m hired to write for Lookout Landing. At this point I have no idea that this simple website will have a profound impact on my life; I’m just thrilled to gain access to the Slack, and overwhelmed by the influx of Twitter follows.
I’m a Mariners fan because I took my first breaths in a hospital four miles from the Kingdome. It was pure geographic happenstance, but it grew to become something that defined me. This team has tested my patience and my loyalty time and again, but I am a Mariners fan because, for better or for worse, they have shaped the last fifteen years of my life and will undoubtedly influence the next eighty.
I wish I had a nostalgic story like everyone else here, but the reality is that I turned like, I don’t know, nine, and thought that baseball was the new thing that I was going to be totally into. Then I looked at all the teams and realized that the Mariners were the closest to my native Portland, so I declared right there and then in August of 1996 that I would hitch my wagon to this falling asteroid.
Have you ever given up on a twelve-step dinner prep halfway through? Or do you continue to the end even though you’ve spilled the basil and accidentally poured a double-serving’s worth of salt into the soup? That’s where I’m at now, here in the myopic hellscape that is the open-door, rotating DL in May of 2017.
Christ, I’m hungry. I just want to eat some goddamned dinner.
I was born and raised in Southern California. The Mariners were never on television and I was lucky if I found one blue and teal t-shirt in the local sports shop. I will be completely and totally honest here:
To be a Mariners fan is to be in pain. 40 years without a World Series appearance will have that effect. Plus, the longest playoff drought in baseball is nothing to scoff at. Or maybe it is. I don’t really know anymore––my facial muscles are too exhausted from crying to scoff. The closest the Mariners get to the postseason these days is a borderline senile Harold Reynolds mumbling something about grit and Randy Johnson from the Fox broadcast booth.
Meanwhile, our neighbors up the street at the Clink are in the midst of a historic run. If the Seahawks are the kings of Seattle sports these days, and the Sounders are their hip younger brothers, the Mariners are a pile of turnips with faces drawn on in Sharpie. Yet my love for this team, though at times unrequited, runs deep. I moved to the Bay Area for college at a time when it was a heck of a time to be a Giants fan, but you won’t see me wearing orange and black. At this point it isn’t rational.
So why do I do this to myself?
In 2001, my mom surprised me with tickets to the All-Star Game at Safeco Field. At Golden Gardens Park one June afternoon, she told me knowingly: “I hear that if you spin in a circle three times with your eyes closed, your greatest wish will come true.” Incredulous, but open to anything that might even marginally improve my chances at attending that game, I abided. The magic in Seattle was palpable that summer, and sure enough, my mom was right. I celebrated my 9th birthday at that All-Star Game. It’s hard to pick a more special day in my entire life.
Now in the 16th season since 116 wins, the magic’s still there––it’s just maybe a little dormant. It bubbles up occasionally, effortless as a Cano glove flip, fleeting as a Felix changeup. But one day I know it’ll return in full force, emphatic as one of Boomstick’s mighty boomsticks. And when it finally does, it’ll only be that much sweeter.
Some of you may know this by now (most of you probably didn’t even know a guy named Ben was a contributor to Lookout Landing), but I have an identical twin. I feel pretty strongly, almost certain in fact, that were it not for having a twin, I would not be a Mariners fan and probably not even a baseball fan today. Neither of my parents, nor my other two brothers are or ever have been all that interested in baseball. One way or another, we still, like most grade school-aged kids, wound up playing little league. My first team was “The Vikings” and our pathetic t-shirt jerseys were purple. Over the next few years, my interest in the sport swelled, and I’ve neatly listed the reasons why in bullet form below:
- The Field - The house I grew up in was across the street from a large grass field with a chicken wire backstop that somewhere along the lines was creatively named “The Field.” Through its years, many a games took place on The Field, including football, capture the flag, and even a wedding at some point, but through the years, The Field was of course used primarily as our private little baseball “stadium”.
- Sam - If you didn’t guess, Sam is the name of my twin brother. If you’ve never had a twin, you should try it sometime. It’s really very convenient to have someone with basically identical interests as you. Whether it was throwing a ball around, playing a baseball video game, or collecting cards, we always shared interest in some baseball-centric activity, furthering our fandom.
- My neighbors - As long as I lived in the house I grew up in, I had the same two next door neighbors. On one side lived an old lady that lived to be 100 and who paid my brother and I to round up these little fake-mouse cat toys. On the other side was the greatest baseball player in the world. His name was Jeff. One year for our birthdays, Jeff’s day got my twin brother and I each a neat little organized box to store our future baseball cards, and an Ozzie Smith card (they were St. Louis fans). We went on to fill those boxes, and many more. Collecting baseball cards also helped pave the way to my sometimes unwilling devotion to the Mariners.
- The no brainer - So all of these thrilling life events culminated in a rather anti-climactic finale. I ended up a Mariners fan pretty much by default. I grew up and still live in Spokane, and as such, the Mariners were the only team routinely on television, in the papers, and seen on shirts, hats, billboards, and bumper stickers all over town. It seems kind of cruel when you think about it actually. A poor, innocent kid, simply a victim of the geographic region his parents birthed him into this world, rooting his heart out for the local team. Little does he know the emotional toll they’d take on him over the course of the next 15 years. Never lose hope, naive little kid.
I liked baseball; I loved Edgar. I explained it, here.
Write a Fan Post (800 words or fewer) about how you became a Mariner fan and you’ll be entered into a contest to win a $500 gift card to Fanatics.com. Go to the FanPosts section and write a post with the headline 'Why I'm a fan of the Mariners'. All these posts will be collated into a section and they will be automatically entered into a random drawing. Official rules here.
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