In our hyper-digital, technology-inundated society, it’s easier than ever to keep in contact with people. The traditional face-to-face conversation or telephone call, which requires multiple parties to agree to communicate at the same time, has been largely usurped by the text message, email, DM, Snapchat, whatever. While these newfangled communication methods can seem more convenient, they’re really just channels for one-sided heartbreak. With an in-person interaction or phone call, at least you’re talking. There’s some inherent reciprocation from the other side.
As new ways of communicating wade into the mainstream, so too have ways to cut them off. Who among us doesn’t take immense satisfaction in blocking someone on social media, or stopping all responses to the person altogether, i.e. ghosting them?
I assume most of us have been ghosted before. Whether it be a friend from school, an ex, a person you made out with at a club on New Years’ Eve, exchanged numbers with, sent exactly one text to and never heard back from. It’s all part of the human experience. While providing an explanation for your disappearance is the “right thing to do”, it’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially if a significant amount of emotional labor has gone down. Ending a year-long relationship with a two-sentence text is a gross thought, but sitting down for a three-hour talk sometimes seems worse.
As I am not friends with any of the Seattle Mariners, and have never spoken to any of them, I had no way of telling them that I stopped caring about the team, at least for the rest of this year. My 2018 Mariner consumption has moved from the forefront to the peripherals. Clearing three hours to watch them play the Royals in June feels like a super-distant past. Full-ass gatherings around a TV and trips to Safeco have turned into watching Kristopher Negrón bounce a ball through the infield while waiting for my order at Pagliacci. Later that night while in line for a drink at a Fremont bar, I watched Robinson Canó’s game-winning double. Those two micro-doses were enough for a quick high, but not nearly enough to suck me back down the rabbit hole again.
The last time I devoted an evening to the Mariners, and, in turn, gave them my money, was Labor Day. It was Electric Eddie night at the ballpark, and the M’s were hosting a group of farts in the shape of the Baltimore Orioles. Actual baseball conversations and thoughts were broken up by things like Grant Bronsdon, who I previously loved and respected, eating a hot dog with just ketchup while surrounded by the bountiful harvest of Safeco’s concourse. I couldn’t tell you the starting pitcher for either team, and I only know the Mariners won because Díaz recorded a save on his big night.
For as much effort as season-long fandom requires, I don’t think it’s crazy to treat it like a relationship. If the relationship becomes stale, or joyless, or unfulfilling, you’re perfectly within your rights to leave it. To me that doesn’t make you a bad fan, just like leaving a toxic relationship doesn’t make you a bad partner. Often in sports it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons you started liking them, which is typically because they’re fun. Sure, losing all the time for 17 years is as fun as a kick to the teeth, but the entertainment value that initially drew all of us to baseball probably did not hinge on winning and losing. Especially as Mariner fans, we can expertly convince ourselves that a 90-loss season actually had some positives, or Johnny Prospect is showing signs of panning out, while knowing that people in other relationships don’t jump through the same mental hoops.
With the euphoric start to this season, it was nearly impossible not to dream of postseason games in Safeco. That sliver of an idea, coupled with being hired at this publication, led me to devote more of my energy to the Mariners than any season before. It was a classic first-few-months-of-the-relationship situation. The newness of it was exciting, and the overwhelming rushes of dopamine masked some of the greater flaws, like how actually your hair is terrible. Still, the early stages allowed for experimentation with beards and wild outfit choices that people under normal circumstances wouldn’t get away with. But, again, this was the beginning of a relationship, when rationality goes out the window and doing what feels right takes top priority. From April to the Fourth of July, the Mariners felt right.
Then everything shifted. They took a weekend trip to Colorado and came back all different. Some aspects about them were rewarded with accolades and a summer vacation to Washington D.C. Neat! But then, upon returning from the vacation and realizing that lots of real life minutiae still lie ahead, the effort level decreased. Five nights out of eight they began to disappoint you, while the other three they skated by hoping you wouldn’t notice. The magic started to fade. Everything appeared fine on the surface, but underlying tension arose. Then they let a bunch of Canadians crash at our place for a weekend and things went straight to hell.
From that point on, I had my guard up. Every little thing that could even be slightly construed as problematic became a huge issue. Like, how are you gonna go to Texas without me and not bring back anything to show for it? And who are these new dudes? Adam, Zach, Cameron?!?! WHAT DO THEY HAVE THAT I DON’T?
As with any failing relationship, there was the last-ditch effort to save it. Sweeping four games in Houston was like an ill-fated jewelry purchase before the breakup.
Hey, thanks? This looks really good and you clearly spent a lot of time on it, but it doesn’t change the way I feel. I certainly haven’t forgotten about those thousands of drunk Canadians you let into our home.
For me, the Denard Span pool shot is the faint glimmer of light amid a dark end to the season. I started to check out after Toronto, was stupidly pulled back in at Minute Maid, and then repeatedly knifed in the groin with each trip to Oakland. At that point, I ghosted the Mariners. The time for a formal conversation would have been right around August 19, after the M’s were outscored by the Dodgers 27-7 over three games. But instead of facing them like a good, well-adjusted person, I dipped faster than the deadbeat dad in Angels in the Outfield. Like that character, played by a leather-clad Dermot Mulroney, maybe I’ll return if the team wins the pennant. But from where I’m sitting, that doesn’t seem very likely.
Like all of you, I desperately wanted the Mariners to do it, for us to make this work. Even if it meant getting brass-knuckled by the Yankees in a Wild Card game, I needed to experience the pain just to get a taste of something that powerful. For those who are sticking it out for the rest of the year, making 7:10 p.m. on ROOT Sports appointment viewing, I salute you. But I tried to keep things going, tried to pretend that I was still interested, and couldn’t fake it any longer.
The tail end of the season has drawn me to Lorde’s song “Supercut”, off a fittingly titled (and outstanding) album Melodrama, which is rife with lyrics about heartbreak and dealing with change. When I think of the 2018 Seattle Mariners now, then, and years down the road, I’ll play a supercut of us.
All the magic we gave off
All the love we had and lost
And in my head
The visions never stop
These ribbons wrap me up
But when I reach for you
There’s just a supercut
In my head I did everything right, if they call I’ll forgive and not fight. Ours are the moments I play in the dark. We were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart.
Mariners, if you’re reading this, I’m breaking up with you. It’s not you, it’s me. But it’s also a lot of you.