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FanPost Friday: Baseball & Grief

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“You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you’re standing in the eye”

St Louis Cardinals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Hello friends, and welcome back to FanPost Friday. It’s been a tough couple weeks for the staff, myself included, as we’ve been processing the loss of our dear friend Tim Cantu. On Wednesday, a whole pew’s worth of LL staff attended Tim’s funeral services and we got to witness first-hand just how deeply loved Tim was by his family and friends. It was as beautiful and powerful as it was heart-wrenching.

There have been many thoughts and moments involving Tim that have been on repeat in my head the last two weeks, but there are two in particular that I’m stuck on and that I wanted to talk about in this week’s post.

It’s healthy to not take sports as a life and death matter, right? Following a team should be a hobby, not necessarily something that dictates your mood and life at all times, right? Of course we get upset when the Mariners lose games they should have won or saves get blown or runs get walked in. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a game, right?

It is just a game, but it’s more than that, too. It’s a connection across our social fabric. A common bond. A “Oh, you’re a Mariners fan, too?” (grim nod) kind of moment between strangers meeting for the first time.

The two things my brain is stuck on are as follows: Tim’s obituary in the Seattle Times mentioned Lookout Landing by name (you pay by the word for those things!) and then the priest on Wednesday mentioned how we “endure seasons of Mariners baseball” during his homily for Tim. I’m stuck on this because a) I’m honored be involved in any part whatsoever of the narrative of Tim’s life and b) when I die, do I want the fact that I was a long-suffering Mariners fan mentioned a lot? and c) I don’t think I really have a choice in the matter at this point.

This is what I mean when I say it’s more than just a game. It is a part of our identities. It’s part of the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories others will tell about us. It doesn’t matter what the team does on the field. It matters that we care about the team. That’s what people remember.

T-Mobile Park Photo by Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners

The other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot these last two weeks is just the role of grief in baseball. It plays a role in all major sports, but I feel like it’s a bit more pronounced with baseball because of how strongly nostalgia and cross-generational fandom ties into baseball. Maybe it’s because of how relatively little baseball has changed as a game in the last 100 years. Maybe it’s just slick marketing. Either way, nothing hits us in our “baseball feels” harder than seeing/talking about/reliving the glory of someone related to the team who has died or has simply stopped playing.

The list is pretty long for Mariners fans. For players of glory days past, there’s Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Alvin Davis, Ichiro...hell, just insert the name of every significant player from 1995-2001 here. There’s Félix Hernández for all of us who have 10 to 15 bright yellow giant t-shirts laying around our closets still. For those who have passed, there’s Dave Niehaus at the top of the list for most. There’s Greg Halman for those who remember. For older Seattle sports fans in general, there’s the Tuba Man and Rick the Peanut Guy. For most of us at LL, now there’s Tim Cantu.

Whenever significant events happen during Mariners seasons, sometimes one of our first thoughts after the initial elation is, “Man, I wish they’d been there to see that.” The fact that Dave Niehaus passed before Félix’s Perfect Game is one I always think about. I’d think about my mom whenever Ichiro had a significant moment in the final years of his career. The next time the Mariners make the playoffs, I honestly think you’ll be hard pressed to find a single Mariners fan anywhere who can’t think of someone—a mom, a dad, a grandparent, a brother, a sister, a friend, someone they used to ride the bus with—that they sure wish could have seen it.

And that’s where I wanted to leave it for a prompt this week. I’d like this to be an open space for LLers to talk about their grief in general (Tim-related or otherwise) and to talk about that particular person (or people) that they know will be on their mind when the Mariners make it back to the postseason.

Take care of yourselves and be kind.