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FanPost Friday: The emotional work of playoff baseball

Yes, we wanted this. No, that doesn’t make losing close games any easier.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome back to FanPost Friday. It is head-spinning to consider that since my last post, the Mariners have won a playoff series (YAY!) and are also on the brink of losing one (ARGH). All in the span of a week! What is this insanity?!

(taps sign)

Ah, yes, it’s the playoffs where my shit famously doesn’t work. By “my shit,” I don’t mean exploiting financial and competitive advantages that other teams aren’t seeing yet. In this case I mean enjoying the game and the team on a wider, 162-game-long set of margins. No, no, now your whole season comes down to a best of three and then a best of five series. Let’s see how Toronto fans feel about that:

When the kid says “I never wanna watch baseball again,” I really felt that on a molecular level.

I feel like I’ve been losing my grip on reality over the course of the last week and that is not generally how I like to engage with sports. We often do seek catharsis through watching and playing sports, but sometimes we also just seek a refuge for our minds to wander and explore thoughts about the game itself that distract us from things in our lives that are making us sad or upset. There is no hiding from upset feelings during playoff baseball. As I wrote last week, “the playoffs are random, cruel, extremely stressful, and the baseball playoff gods don’t give a single heck how many games your team won during the regular season.”

(Clearly this is a common feeling among Mariners fans/the LL Hivemind at this moment, as Isabelle Minasian just wrote today about a very similar set of feelings that we’re all fairly unfamiliar with as Mariners fans.)

Additionally, as Nick Vitalis wrote about brilliant, we asked for this! We’ve been waiting so long to feel these BIG FEELINGS as opposed to our more common slide into casual ambivalence and apathy. We fans never truly stopped caring about the Mariners during all the fallow years, not really. We may have said mean things out loud or on Twitter about them, or taken needed breaks here and there to tune out and come back fresh, but the core feeling of caring never really goes away.

I’ve learned about the concept of emotional labor over the years, which has a strict sociologist-created definition of “the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job.” The term has taken on a non-scientific, but still very valid definition of referring to the unpaid emotional labor/burden of managing a household or helping counsel a friend through a rough break-up. While the textbook definition doesn’t really apply to sports fandom because it’s not a job we get paid to do (though I suppose you could make an argument that writing for a fan blog like LL is a big grey area in that regard), being a fan often feels like emotional work. The saying about something “living rent-free in my head” is the one I constantly come back to when it comes to the Mariners and their rivals. For example, trying to work and remain “professional” when you just listened to your team lose a playoff in the most crushing way possible via a mammoth walk-off dinger that will haunt your nightmares for the rest of your life? That feels like emotional work and/or labor to me and I’m writing up my hours to send to Jerry at the end of the pay period (just kidding...unless???)

Yes, I actively choose to be a fan. I choose in engage in Mariners fandom and spend money on going to games and following the team. I make this financial and emotional investment in hopes of receiving both that steady stream of 162 games of wide-margin enjoyment AND that occasional cathartic release of frustration in the form of unbridled joy and happy tears like the one we just received two weeks ago, and then again this past Saturday. Those moments make the bad times feel worthwhile, until they don’t. Until the team is facing elimination after losing back-to-back extremely close games with margins so thin you couldn’t even slip a quarter in between them. Does it all end tomorrow, Sunday, or Monday? Or are we simply at the nadir before we end up reaching the highest peak our fandom has ever seen?

Time will tell.

MLB: OCT 13 ALDS Mariners at Astros Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are a great many sad songs that I’ve turned to during moments when the Mariners have either let me down or just when the season ends, one way or another. This one has been on most of those sad song playlists. The original was done by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, but I always preferred the black-hole-gravitas of the late-era Johnny Cash cover. Just recently I came across this version from 2017 by Spanish musician Rosalía and it absolutely blew me away. I think this version in particular does an incredible job of holding the duality of hope and despair at the very same time, which is how I’ve always come to interpret the lyrics. Enjoy, or save it for when/if the team is eliminated.

Oh no, I see a darkness

Did you know how much I love you?

Is a hope that somehow you

Can save me from this darkness

PROMPT: Hey, I’m not going to leave you hanging on a sad note. Let’s make some bold predictions about the first Mariners home playoff game in 21 years! Hit these polls and then tell us one weird/wild/unexpected prediction for Saturday’s game in the comments! Take care of yourselves and be kind out there because it’s only going to get wilder.


On Saturday, George Kirby pitches how many innings?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    8 to 9
    (11 votes)
  • 12%
    7 to 8
    (33 votes)
  • 43%
    6 to 7
    (112 votes)
  • 29%
    5 to 6
    (76 votes)
  • 10%
    less than 5
    (27 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now


On Saturday, George Kirby gives up how many hits?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    (15 votes)
  • 40%
    5 to 7
    (102 votes)
  • 44%
    3 to 4
    (112 votes)
  • 6%
    1 to 2
    (17 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
250 votes total Vote Now


On Saturday, will Julio Rodríguez hit a home run?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    (104 votes)
  • 14%
    (37 votes)
  • 13%
    No, he’ll hit MULTIPLE home runs
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    He’ll hit for the cycle
    (7 votes)
  • 27%
    (68 votes)
250 votes total Vote Now