The Mariners lost last night. And in true Mariners fashion, it was heartbreaking. After Felix Hernandez exited the game with a 7-1 lead over the Red Sox, most of us were thinking, “Okay, no way that even we can lose this one, right?”
Yeah, well, we were wrong.
After Charlie Furbush gave up a run to make it 7-2, things seemed relatively secure even then. But then the Bartender might have had a few too many of his own drinks, I don’t know, but Tom Wilhelmsen promptly surrendered four runs when he came in during the ninth. I turned off the TV because I didn’t want to witness the rest. The Mariners lost 8-7.
Forbes recently named Seattle the most miserable sports town in the United States. This was determined by a combination of factors — coming up short in the playoffs in one sport (a la the controversial 2005 Super Bowl), over a decade of missing the postseason in another (Mariners!) and not even having teams in the two major big sports.
Last night was just a single letter in the novel of being a Seattle sports fan.
I lived in the Seattle area from birth until I moved to Boston for college. Essentially, I went from living in the worst sports town to arguably the best sports town. I went from a city where our NBA team was taken away to a city where they were crying about being a 7-seed in the playoffs.
In Boston, a lot of Red Sox fans I’ve met try to use the whole 86-year drought — and the 2012 disaster — to justify their misery. No, seriously — someone actually told me that he understood how I felt as a Mariners fan because he was a Red Sox fan. He was 20. I wanted to laugh in his face but I didn’t because I didn’t know him very well at the time.
I love living in Boston, don’t get me wrong. And I’ve met plenty of fans that are pleasant and rational. But their sports teams, and meeting sports fans from other cities, made me a whole lot more aware of my own misery.
My newspaper does occasional blog posts where the editors answer fun questions. One time, the topic was our favorite sports moment. The other editors picked championship-related moments. For lack of a championship, I picked Felix’s perfect game from last August. I wrote:
Seattle baseball has long been the laughing stock of sports media, and understandably so — the Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001. For 11 seasons and counting we have conceded, “Well, maybe next year,” sometime around June. But in the midst of yet another sub-.500 season, Felix Hernandez threw the first perfect game in franchise history. For one day at least, we got a chance to celebrate. Moreover, it proved what Seattle fans knew all along — that Felix is truly King.
That’s sweet and all, but, not to diminish the importance of Felix’s perfecto, of course, it’s also pretty pathetic. Everyone else had trophies and rings and ridiculous winning streaks (a Miami Heat fan) to celebrate. I had an afternoon game in August against the Tampa Bay Rays.
My greatest moment as a sports fan came at a moment where we saw into the future. Imagine Felix pitching like that in a playoff game. Imagine that sort of celebration in October!
We have to think like that. When your baseball team is en route to another sub-.500 season, and your chances at getting an NBA or NHL franchise go out the window, you have to embrace the slightest bits of hope, the most ridiculous possibilities, to remain sane.
We saw that last night, in fact. While the Mariners bullpen imploded, we were glued to Twitter, tracking flights that rumored Sounder-to-be Clint Dempsey could be on — not to mention several (drunk) superfans running around SeaTac Airport, waiting to catch a glimpse of Dempsey. He never showed up.
The Mariners went on an eight-game winning streak not too long ago. The rookies were clicking, the veterans were performing, the pitching was stellar — and we were winning. Murmurs of the 1995 season came about — if that team could make the playoffs, why not us? But Mike Zunino broke his wrist, others stopped getting clutch hits, and the team fell apart. They’ve lost six of eight since the streak ended.
The Seahawks are supposed to be pretty good this year. They’ve got Russell Wilson, the Legion of Boom, and Percy Harv — well, yeah. They’re still pretty good. Nothing’s happened yet, but we Seattle fans are still abuzz at the possibilities. The Seahawks could just as easily disappoint us all, but don’t tell anyone that right now. We’re celebrating.
Seattle fans live in a state of misery where the slightest ounce of hope carries us. We celebrate the possibility of what could be because we don’t have anything concrete to celebrate yet. That’s about all we can do.