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Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

On Baseball

Opening ourselves to the gentle indifference of the sport

So, the Mariners suck right now.

That’s a shame.

It’s a shame because this was supposed to be The Year, right? That’s what all the marketing said, that’s what Dipoto said, that’s what the players said, and so far, it’s just not been the year. Getting swept in four games by the Red Sox is just the latest of a long list of struggles the Mariners have endured in this young season.

For those of us aboard this rendition of the S. S. Mariner, it can feel like we’ve fallen overboard and are now getting keelhauled. It hasn’t been easy for any of us here at Lookout Landing, both as fans and writers. It has only been a little over a month since the season started, but it has felt like decades. As we deal with the turmoil of resetting our emotions and expectations for the rest of this season, we are forced to yet again recognize a simple fact: baseball does not care.

As I am relatively new, both to this site and to this sport, I don’t want to tell any lifelong fan what to think, but here, so far, is what I have discovered. Baseball, as an entity, sport, and idea, simply does not care about anyone: not the players, not the owners, and certainly not the fans.

Baseball is neither cruel or callous, nor is it benevolent and welcoming. It marches inexorably on, whether we want it to or not. Baseball gives us romantic, storybook moments. It also gives us months-long periods of misery and dread. As a sport, it operates on interminable suspense.

The long stretches of time between pitches serves only to give us time to be worried, to stress. The long season only gives us time to break down and to lash out. We hurt each other, and make our spaces feel small and unwelcoming. Baseball moves slow, with only brief, eclectic moments of chaos.

Baseball is less of a sport, and more of a force of nature. It is arbitrary. Good players can become bad, bad players can become great, and all seemingly without reason. And that’s fine. Nothing in the world is under any obligation to make sense. And really, if baseball did make sense, if it was predictable, it would be worse. Isn’t part of the reason we love it for its unpredictability, which allows for magical, transcendent moments? But we also yearn for normalcy, and in the face of this, we grasp for excuses, or to find a narrative.

But, instead, I think that we should embrace this inherent randomness and chaos to baseball. Blaseball, the cultural phenomenon, created something artistic and beautiful by recognizing the nature of baseball, embracing it, and then turning it over to the community. As a result, Blaseball has become one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities I have ever seen on the internet. If you’d like to join the Blaseball community in preparation of the game returning later this year, I highly recommend joining the Blaseball Discord server here, and reading this recap I wrote back during Spring Training as a bit of a primer.

We should do the same thing. So the Mariners suck right now. So what? Has greatness and simple success ever really, truly, been the thing that mattered? I don’t think so. If winning is what gives a team worth, then throughout most of their history, the Mariners have been worthless. Say that to someone in SoDo, however, and they will laugh in your face. Clearly the Mariners mean something, to folks in Seattle and beyond. Why have over 2.3 million people, myself included, been so captivated by a 3 hour and 40 minute documentary about their history? It can’t just be triumph. The Mariners have never achieved a complete victory. The Seattle Mariners challenge us to look beyond that concept. They ask us to consider that baseball isn’t really about winning and losing. Instead, it's actually about community.

My favorite thing about Seattle fans is their passion. Living in Texas, I get Astros and Rangers games on network TV, and while those fans care about their teams, they cannot muster up the passion that Seattle fans can. Our own John Trupin wrote earlier this season about how Mariners fans can turn an empty, cold Wednesday night in April into a collective experience of joy and bonding.

This road trip has been miserable, I know, but we need to move beyond misery. If we attach our mental wellbeing to the success of the Mariners, we are only asking to get burned. Instead, we should embrace each other, and our collective love for a game that does not love us back.

I think nihilism gets a bad rap. People like to portray it as edgy teens saying that “nothing matters” as an excuse to skip their classes. But really, it is about about freedom. In a world where nothing has a natural, intrinsic meaning, we are left to assign our own, personal, more significant meanings to things. Baseball is a silly game where men in dress shirts, pants, and belts try to hit a ball with a stick. But on a very real level, that’s not what it is. Baseball does have a meaning. And the beautiful thing is, that meaning is completely unique to each of us. Baseball means 100 different things to 100 different people, and that should fill you with joy. Baseball fandom has infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Baseball gives us an opportunity. The fact that it does not care about us may seem frightening and disconcerting, but it is actually freeing. Baseball asks very little of us. We can approach it however we want. Analyze it through whatever lens we want. Baseball lets us talk about the real world through it. The fact that there is just one woman playing professional baseball in America, the fact that in 2020 the A’s and Giants played a game illuminated by the fires of climate change, the fact that minor leaguers struggle to be able to afford a life playing the game they love.

Baseball reflects the real world, in all its splendor and misery. Yet it does not discriminate, and does not exclude. My main issue with a “nothing matters” philosophy is that some things do matter: each other. We all matter. We are all unique and vibrant people, who all have come to this sport in our own way. We arrived separately, but we remain together.

So. Be kind to one another. Amplify each other. In world rife with inequity, following a sport that does not care about us, and supporting a team to whom winning seems immaterial, our community and bond with one another is all we have.

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