I have a confession to make, delivered here, away from the prying eyes of my fellow staffers, to be discovered only once they wake up on the West Coast to a hollow holiday: I don’t mind how the Mariners play this year, or most years. At least, not directly.
I would like them to win, for their players to thrive, and their record to soar up the standings. Competent, well-played baseball is a treat, and much of the reason MLB has maintained a near-monopoly on the game’s consciousness. But terrible baseball, mediocre baseball, almost-good-enough-but-not-quite-playoff-worthy baseball is still baseball. The losses can be disappointments, but there’s always promise - a player who showed potential, a memorable moment, or even just the certainty of another try tomorrow. It’s promise that we as fans get to share together, and what I miss most terribly today.
My life has been flush with underwhelming teams, be they in my fandom or my own playing career, and the thing most worth cherishing has always been the camaraderie built from those cubs. The physical and emotional proximity created by the Mariners, and MLB, is the greatest trick any major sports team pulls, but by the time we’re old enough to consider our fandom, most of us choose to fall for it willingly.
It’s that proximity, that community - this community - that I miss today. Happily, there is baseball being played right now, in two of the world’s greatest leagues, NPB of Japan and the KBO of South Korea, as well as the CPBL of Taiwan. I have watched, and will be watching, those games, because baseball brings me joy, in all its forms. But the lifelong ties to this particular team, the friendships it has spawned, the familial bonds it has maintained, and the community it has fostered, make today’s dissemblance of Opening Day all the more heartbreaking.
I don’t ask for much from the Mariners, winning or losing both have their intrigues, but I want to see the relationships and community I love thrive. To that end typically, winning is best, and though I do not expect an Angels In The Outfield pennant-winning deus ex machina, it is heartening to be surrounded by the buzz of excitement a winning team brings. The exhilaration of a playoff race is that this community feels vital, buzzing with energy from every corner of the city and every section of this site and in conversation after conversation with friends and loved ones. In the absence of contention for nearly two decades, in Seattle that atmosphere has often come, sadly, only once a year - on day one, Opening Day.
I miss it today, not because the Mariners had much hope of contention in 2020, but because the ties that bind us feel more untethered than ever in my adult life. Baseball is no panacea, but it has been a constant, and its absence echoes like batting practice in an empty ballpark. I don’t think I ever took Mariners baseball for granted, but if I have, I never will again.