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This sucks and I hate it a lot


Royals v Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I don’t want to make this about me, and by this, I mean the singular this that hangs over everything we’re doing right now, all thoughts about what we could be doing, and fantastical dreams about the lives we were living before this. But the totality of it all is sinking in. Many of us are facing down the questions we’ve spent years trying to avoid. Those questions have now easily made their way inside, our halted lives providing the most generous doormen of all time.

This is not just about the first April since 1972 without Major League Baseball, although that certainly looms over all of us who would give anything to watch our favorite team take the field. For me the fear comes with shrinking into someone I don’t recognize, someone who has no problem entertaining themselves or spending time alone but is mortified by the idea of those being the only two options. Trying to maintain a semblance of social normalcy only exacerbates the issue. You know what’s better than a Zoom happy hour? Almost everything we were doing a month ago. Even right now, as I attempt to write something that both synthesizes my feelings and passes the time, the hum of my computer feels like it’s mocking me, a constant, ambient reminder of my own loneliness.

The Mariners were supposed to be in Chicago right now. They’d be playing their third straight series against an AL Central opponent, then heading home to play the Red Sox and Nationals. It’s easy to forget now, but the White Sox were maybe supposed to be good this year. The Red Sox were afraid to pay the best outfielder they’ve had in 50 years. The Nationals just won the World Series against a team that was cheating. That all feels distant and made up and insignificant now, but I would kill for the opportunity to agonize over sports today instead of agonizing over whatever the worst possible outcome of this may be.

My day job is in global health, which means all I do is read the news about how many people are dying, how many people could die, how there’s not enough hospital supplies, and think about how helpless this feels on an individual level. What can we do? For workers, there’s escaping into your work like some sort of leashed capitalist, or straight up losing your job. It feels like we’re already down six runs and the virus hasn’t even gotten to our bullpen yet. When your year is divided between baseball season and everything else, losing baseball just means that all of life is comprised of “everything else” now. I hate it.

People keep saying Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was quarantined as if I have any idea what King Lear is. The tiger show seems very much for y’all. All I want is to turn on a Mariner game, get introduced to a reliever I was only tangentially aware of, and watch him try to figure it out in real time. But no, because of Ms. Corona, we are all that faceless middle reliever, hoping that if we try our best maybe all of this will just go away.

In this new reality where sports are hypothetical and fun is graded on a scale, I’m still turning to sports for the soothing balm they’ve always applied. There’s no shortage of old games on YouTube to re-live favorite moments or even experience the banality of a regular season snoozer all over again. But it lacks a certain, how do you say this?...everything.

Thus far, my biggest takeaway from a life where public places don’t exist is that most of my favorite things are my favorite because they’re a reward for going in public at all. When the real world demands your attention and presence for multiple days at a time, sometimes there’s nothing better than throwing the phone on Do Not Disturb and unwinding. For so many of us, that can be as simple as watching two pitchers gut it out through six uneventful innings before giving way to uncertainty. Life can’t always be those unforgettable, sepia-toned, walk-off home runs. You need balance. It’s impossible to have something special without also having the nothingness; there’s no context for good or bad if everything is the same, every day bleeds into the next, each action framed by particularly unusual circumstances.

The rest of the world is now getting a soft introduction to what an 18-year playoff drought feels like. Whether it’s the desire to taste excitement again, feel unbridled joy, or simply the motion of anything at all that keeps us motivated to see the other side, knowing that there were once feelings other than this makes a life without them so maddening. The entire globe is nostalgic for their own version of the ‘90s Mariners, when things were not only vibrant and enthralling but also representative of a future that will be even better.

The Mariners’ first postseason run was during my literal infancy. The 116-win season was my kindergarten and first grade. I remember the feeling of its greatness far more vividly than any specific players or games, just like the pining for my life prior to COVID-19 is centered on the conceptual rather than the specific. I do not know which restaurant I will visit first or where I’ll make my next ill-advised 2 AM decision. I do know that just writing about the idea of doing either of those things put a big dumb smile across my unkempt, isolated face.

There’s a common through line between fans of sports teams that never win anything. It’s an illusion of cool, as if devotion to an objectively unpleasant thing makes you hardened or interesting. Or worse, there’s the instinct to separate from that same thing once it gets really bad, acting detached to keep up the chill and unbothered façade. I hope that once this is all over we can remember how it feels to care so deeply about trivial things that even suggesting they’re trivial feels like a personal attack.

Chicago White Sox Fans Watch Game 4 at the United Center - October 26, 2005 Photo by Chuck Rydlewski/Getty Images

I haven’t cried in almost four years, which makes me feel like a sociopath. This has nothing to do with trying to protect or uphold some image of masculinity. It has everything to do with a brain that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Trust me, all I want to do is have a good cry right now and wonder why any of this had to happen. I don’t want to think of the idea that all the work I’ve done (and that so many of you have done) to get better will be wiped away by things out of our control. I don’t want to listen to that Regina Spektor song 45 times a day. I don’t want to sit back and wait for the greatest changeup the universe has ever thrown to eventually land in the dirt. I don’t even really want to try stringing words together, which right now feels as futile as trying to single-handedly stop a pandemic.

I want to watch live sports. Specifically, I want to watch baseball. I want the Seattle Mariners to give me that same sedative hug they have for my whole life, showing me that everything is all right rather than just telling me. I want my favorite players to let me down and my least favorite players to surprise me with flashes of excellence. I want to argue with people I’ve never met about things neither of us really understand.

If I were more musically inclined, I would have dropped the worst mixtape you’ve ever heard by now. But instead, you get this, an attempt to make things feel right again when a single glance in any direction does the opposite. I want to be able to look back on this and say that my loved ones and I made it, and we did it together. I want to be able to scream “Go Mariners!” and know that they’ll come back. Above all else, I want you to be able to do the same.