It’s early June, and raining. Not a downpour, but that Seattle rain; steady, insistent, yet somehow benign. It leaves a nourishing scent in the air.
I’m on a trail in northern Seattle, partially sheltered by a canopy of leaves that delay the drops as they fall on my shoulders. Rick Rizzs’ voice echoes in my ears and, as my feet beat out a rhythm on the gravel, I make promises.
If I push up this hill, Félix will make it through eight.
If I maintain this sprint they’ll finally score.
If I just keep running, they’ll win.
Some people say Seattle is a football city, as though the Seahawks have stolen the breath of Seattle sports fandom. Sounders fans scoff at that, gesturing to recent parades and homegrown stars. Storm fans don’t need your approval - their team is dynamic, on a new path to success, and it’s your own darn fault if you miss out. And Mariners fans? They’re like the rain. Steady. Insistent.
To me Seattle is a sports city, wholly, but I feel unqualified to ascribe attributes to this northwestern pocket. My birth made me “native,” but life made me a visitor. We moved a lot when I was young, so physical roots were hard to come by, but in a sea of Bay Area uniformity I used my Seattle origin story to reclaim my sense of self as baseball fever swept through the open air hallways of the elementary school. I checked the box scores regularly, sifting through Giants and A’s coverage to find the Mariners’ small series of numbers, I did my biographical book report on Ken Griffey, Jr., and willingly sojourned to the Oakland Coliseum when the Ms were in town.
Fandom is a conduit of home; not necessarily home as a place you once lived, but a feeling of belonging within a greater whole.
Sixteen years after I became a Mariners fan I’m alone on a trail in northern Seattle as Félix closes out the eighth inning, something he hasn’t done in nearly two years, and I throw my right fist victoriously towards the sky. When Denard Span knocks a single between first and second to tie the game I spring into the air, punching, flailing joyfully with no one around to mock this display, and when Guillermo Heredia comes around to score on a Dee Gordon bloop single my gleeful whoop echoes up through those spaces in the leaves. Edwin Díaz strikes out Johnny Field to secure the win, and the crunch of gravel beneath my feet ceases as I bend over, hands on my knees, laughing, sweating, panting - caught in that overwhelming moment when your joy teeters on the edge of hysteria - alone on a trail in northern Seattle.
Alone but surrounded. Seattle is a baseball town, but Mariners fandom transcends geography. You, reading this now in New York, Australia, and Japan, can attest to that. This team has rekindled something special in Seattle, something that has already imbued Safeco Field with a renewed sense of purpose, that roars with fervor on a Sunday afternoon. And it’s true well beyond the city limits, too. This team has revitalized Mariners fandom, nourishing the sense of home and community that is inherent but can become obscured.
This happiness may all fall apart, and that’s okay. It can also not be okay. When you become a fan - of someone, something, anything - you unwittingly sacrifice a measure of control you might never otherwise cede. Fandom is greedy; it takes callously, reminding you constantly, cruelly, that in this sphere you are entitled to nothing. But the moments of joy, the peaks of triumph, the giddy communion with your compatriots - those are when fandom gives back.
The Mariners’ success will not last forever, or perhaps not at all, but for now we have today. Enjoy it...you earned it.