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The Seattle Mariners, reclaimers of optimism

The Mariners recently decided to take 3 of 4 games from the Oakland A’s. They wrapped the series with a completely unnecessary doubleheader yesterday brought on by a situation earlier in the year where Oakland’s poverty literally leaked on to the field of play, turning it into a Swamp of Sadness-equivalent and resulting in several of the Mariners’ ponies losing the will to live, languishing in the muck adrift in their own sense of desperate apathy, the faint call to carry on muted through the mufflers of their own helplessness until they were utterly submerged.

 

Yesterday’s doubleheader played itself out in about the oddest way imaginable. The Mariners picked up a win in the first game, going to extras following a weird start by Felix Hernandez in which we didn’t appear to have any of his pitches working. Felix surrendered eleven hits and 3 runs, yet the Mariners, behind a couple well-timed dingers by team strongmen Hart and Zunino managed to make it out alive from a game where Yoervis fucking Medina was credited for the win. Oddness.

 

The second game saw a resurgent Erasmo Ramirez return briefly from AAA in order to turn in possibly his most serviceable effort of the season, going 6 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs in the process. The problem in this second game was offense, which seems to hardly be surprising when the lineup includes the corpse of Brad Miller, Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero. I understand we want righties in the lineup but you need to have quality right handed hitters for this to make sense. If I want beer but don’t have any beer I don’t start fermenting my own urine. The Mariners are fermenting their own urine. It smells like Bloomquist’s grit.

 

A big positive to come out of the 1st of these two games is James Jones’ play in center field. The guy looks infinitely superior to anybody else the Mariners have wheeled out there since Franklin Gutierrez was patrolling center. He made a fantastic diving catch in the seventh inning and made a few excellent plays in the early innings besides. His routes look rather…sober…compared to those we have become accustomed to with Abe Almonte scurrying about. To cap it all off he flashed a plus throwing arm and was able to reach base a few times as well.

 

I still have no fucking clue why McClendon went ahead and slotted him in the 2 hole for his first start in the Major Leagues, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief if the guy continues to play well because frankly, the Mariners need good defensive outfielders to man center and if he can make the tiniest bit of noise at the plate and on the base paths I think he could be a valuable addition moving forward. The tools are there, if the polish can come with it on the job, then welcome to the squad Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners are heading home following a road trip that took them to a game above .500 where they will be taking on the Kansas City Royals who presently mirror the M’s location around the mythical .500 line. Royals fans probably expected more from their squad moving into 2014—they experienced one of their better seasons in recent memory last year and have been posturing as though gripped by a win-now mindset as evidenced by their (probably idiotic) trade of former No.1 prospect in all of baseball, Will Myers, for serviceable former Rays’ starter James Shields.

 

The trade reeked of the same desperation-spunk surrounding the Mariners’ trade for disgruntled Canadian injury-enthusiast Erik Bedard in which we gave up Adam Jones, now a perennial All-Star for the Orioles and emerged no closer to “winning now” than we had been before, with the added caveat of lacking even the “winning then” that perhaps Jones could have helped with.

 

In that sense—I feel for the Royals’ fan base as a similarly afflicted bunch. The Royals also have several home grown positional prospects-turned-regulars who have taken forever to develop and often developed into something that rested well below their perceived ceilings as prospects. Eric Hosmer never became really as cool as he seemed, Alex Gordon didn’t figure it out until he was like 26, etc.

 

I suppose both of those players are better than their Mariners’ counterparts in Smoak and Ackley, but regardless, the results have not been there with a similar organizational approach.

 

So hey Royals, throw us a bone here. We can’t both make it to the playoffs can we? And you had George Brett once! Your franchise has even won/been to the World Series before!

 

At this point, as a Mariners fan, it is cool to even be able to care still. I have seen optimism dwindle so much faster than it has this season and for the team to remain afloat at this point in time is a revelation. I look forward to going home and seeing the Mariners play baseball and I have been able to do this for more than a month. I think this is what it must feel like to be a fan of a team that is good. I like the feeling. It makes it easier to sleep at night and it saves me money on liquor.

 

Go Mariners.

Why we watch

It is a common view that spending a large time watching, discussing or thinking about professional sports is a waste of time- a form of escapism in which one chooses to allocate meaning to an external and ultimately frivolous activity.

I get why people would have this understanding.

Professional athletes are paid an exorbitant amount of money to play games. Sports games! People are then paid an exorbitant amount of money to form opinions, comment upon and even announce said games. For the non-sports-fan, this is something people find frustrating.

Yet, if that frustration is rooted in a jealous outcry against the relatively unfair financial value of these frivolous professions does that imply that “value” insofar as we are to say “meaning” equates to monetary value? Should we indict the entire capitalist system that allows mass interest and entertainment to supersede the needs of children (i.e. teacher’s wages)!? Should this be a topic I avoid?! Are rhetorical questions an effective rhetorical device? Divestment?!

But what happens for those of us who have already fallen in love with one of these games (in my case, baseball)? What happens to we who have ascribed value to that game that is so deep-seated and expansive that it has no discernible beginning and has already become part of our narrative understanding of ourselves?

I am not going to boycott Safeco. I love baseball and that is part of what I look forward to as I slog through the frivolity of the day-to-day. You can’t take me alive, Communists! Illuminati! Conspiracy! Nobama!!!

Let’s look a little at one way in which we allocate meaning in our lives. Let’s do it in the context of professional sports! I am of the opinion that the narratives and meanings that human beings allocate to their team’s successes and failures is no less frivolous than say, an appreciation for art or music. Yet someone who has a nuanced understanding and appreciation for the latter two mediums is considered cultured, whereas the avid sports fan is often portrayed as an oafish, According-to-Jim-esque caricature of everything that is wrong with the American male.

I’ll start with a quick discussion on narrative structures. While Heidegger isn’t exactly someone who you want to throw in your lot with for all things philosophical (he was a Nazi, and all), he does have some interesting thoughts about the mechanisms of narrative structures and how they operate within a human life.

To paraphrase for my own benefit here: human beings are thrown into the world against their choosing and our lives are bookended by this “thrownness” into the world (read: birth) and our inevitable deaths. The term bookend is not accidental.

Once we become conscious and anxious regarding our own finite existence, oriented towards death, we almost-automatically project a narrative structure onto that finite existence. This narrative structure becomes the mechanism through which otherwise incidental blips on our day-to-day radar are ascribed meaning.

Our lives are filled with the aforementioned blips. There are shit tons of them. We live in Blip-city. Blip-nation. Blip-blip-boom. Blip-knot. If you were to take all of the blips in your day-to-day routine and imagine each of those blips as a grain of sand, it is likely that you would end up with a shit ton of sand! A small hippie convent’s blips can, if placed sequentially next to one another, form a line of blips long enough to reach a place very far away! Maybe Mars!

When we relate the story of our lives, most of those blips are wholly omitted, glossed over, or subsumed under a category (i.e. work or school) to be filed away. In constructing the narrative of our own lives, we are automatically making choices about what to include and exclude which makes the thrust of our narratives deeply personal.

Heidegger calls this the for-the-sake-of-which, but in a post on a Mariners blog, I will refrain from using that term again. As it turns out, English translations of German compound nouns are actually a pretty big pain in the ass to read and tend to clang and clamor with internal dissonance alongside the more familiar words that echo in our heads while reading.

Baseball lacks any inherent value. There is no objective reason why I should scream obscenities and throw my roommates’ cat in the air when Brad Miller hits a dinger. But- there is a subjective reason. The Mariners successes and failures become important because they have a place in the narrative I have authored and projected on to my life. They are the teal, blue and shiny blips that I pluck from the sea of work-blips, laundry-blips and grocery-blips that are comparably drab. I am a magpie who covets baseball-blips. Caw!

So, when trying to describe why you care about the Mariners to whosoever would force you to yield your remote to them: recite this post. They will likely be so bored by the end of it that you will get your way!

You’re welcome!!!