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A few words on faith, and the loss and finding of it

Faith and the Seattle Mariners and the unique torment of sleepless nights

Tyler Thompson

It’s 2 AM the night before the Mariners go back to the playoffs for the first time in two decades, and I can’t sleep. Not because I’m excited—although I am, probably, somewhere beneath the roiling fear and nervous anticipation. I’ve read all the predictions, and they are not good. Mike Petriello broke down who had the edge in the Mariners-Jays series and gave the Blue Jays the edge essentially everywhere except in pitching and center field; he did give the Mariners a pity edge at third base, but we all know he didn’t really mean it. The Vegas line has the Mariners as solid underdogs, at -135. Every one of those playoff bracket images that I saw online from non-Mariners fans had that annoying little blue bird advancing. Blue Jays fans—and columnists—are confident, buoyed by the fact that the Jays are playing more now like the team 14 of our staffers chose to win the AL East in our pre-season predictions article. (You can all thank Zach Mason for this bit of monkey paw-ism: “But if the Mariners finally make the playoffs and Canadians take over T-Mobile Park, I’m going to lose it.”) Spoiler alert: I’m losing it anyway.

The middle of the night is no one’s friend—the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying, Ray Bradbury called 3 AM—as the small hours are the playground for the mind’s worst horrors. Whatever it is you don’t want to think about will undoubtedly rise up in lurid Technicolor detail as you’re trying, futilely, to sleep. A previously unremarkable creative mind will suddenly reveal itself to be rich with possibilities for worst-case scenarios, all too happy to loop through them like a carousel of ascending disasters. The middle of the night is punishment time for the faithless, for the doubters, of which I am one. It makes me miss our staffer and friend Tim very badly.

Tim was a person of faith, both in the literal sense, in that he was a Catholic, but also in the broader sense, which of course was informed by the previous: Tim had faith in the world and in the people who lived in it. He saw the greatest potential in people and the internal machinery required to get them to that point, and he believed, always, they would get there, even when they stumbled, even when they fell short of the divine.

He loved the Seattle Mariners, an objectively bad baseball team for most of the time during his too-short life, and every year returned with renewed faith that this year’s team would be the one to figure it out. He admired Jerry Dipoto and his vision, even when Dipoto did things like refer to international players as “penny stocks” or trade for Nick Rumbelow, and he admired Andy McKay for the way he took the farm in hand and focused on developing the player and the person, much in the way he focused on raising his own children to be good people who do good in the world. And he loved Julio Rodríguez from the time he was just a promise, a well-regarded prospect we were all lucky enough to know from his days in A ball. I think that in Julio, Tim recognized something of himself: a magnanimous, expansive spirit; someone who strives to be a standard-bearer themselves but also expends significant energy to lift everyone else up alongside them.

During his battle with cancer, Tim had limitless faith, even as the odds mounted against him—first, faith that he would make a full recovery; and later, a different kind of faith. A faith that we and the world would go on in goodness, that everyone in his life would continue to be loved deeply, that things would be all right. (I’m still working on that last part, Tim.)

For a while now, the LL Twitter bio has had a quote in it from Virgil’s Aeneid—I had Tim help me with the Latin: forsan miseros meliora sequentir. “Perhaps, for those in misery, a better fate awaits.” This is often mistranslated blithely as things get better or brighter days ahead, but there’s much more ambiguity in the original—it’s not a sure thing, and it’s not clear how much better they will get. “Perhaps” (forsan) is doing a lot of heavy lifting. I put it in the bio jokingly after the 2019 season, when we were at the nadir on the misery index as Mariners fans in the Dipoto era, along with “Juliooooooooo”—the combination of the pain and the promise felt to me like it encapsulated Mariners fandom. I told myself I’d take it out after the Mariners broke the playoff drought, but it feels like there’s still a lot of forsan in this coming matchup, a reminder that nothing in this life is guaranteed.

The background photo on the LL Twitter bio is from a picture posted on Twitter from Tyler Thompson, who works for the Mariners. It is a picture of a rainbow arcing over T-Mobile Park from November 9th of last year, which is the day Tim passed away. I am not a person of faith, but there is no one who can convince me that wasn’t Tim making one last earthly visit to one of his favorite places, a beautiful object lesson in the importance of faith.

I do not feel like I am always carrying Tim’s legacy as proudly as I want to—I am too quick to give up on people (see: my disgust with the team in May/early June), and not always patient enough or possessed of the same sight to see that same godly machinery Tim could sense in everyone and everything. My faith falters, withers, browns at the edges like an underwatered houseplant. But regardless of what happens, I am trying to be more like Tim this weekend: to expect the best from people, to have a magnanimous spirit, and to have faith that we, and the Mariners, will go on in goodness, come what may.