Questioning Your Fandom

It’s times like these where I ask myself, for the umpteenth time, “what qualifies being a true fan?”  My beloved Seattle Mariners, the love of my life (minus every pretty girl I happen to pass by on the street), are dying a slow and painful death.  The 2010 season began with hopes high and expectations higher, and 40 games in, both have crashed down to earth like Icarus, the team a broken shell of what it was meant to be.  Jack Zduriencik, our brilliant leader, is stuck between a rock and a hard place; he must improve the team in any way possible, but he must also deal with the emotional attachment issues held by the fans and the team ownership to their former star-turned-albatross.

I never loved Ken Griffey, Jr. like others did.  I was three years old when the Kid raced home on Edgar’s famous Double, sending the M’s to the AL Championship.  I went to my first Mariners game in 2001, by which point Griffey had taken off for Cincinnati.  By all accounts, I’m a rookie of a Mariners fan.  When the surefire Hall-of-Famer returned to Seattle for one final season, I took on the city’s excitement, despite the glaring fact that I hadn’t been around for the Griffey years.  Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to.  Throughout my short tenure as a Mariners fan, I never had a hero.  I mean no offense to the incomparable Ichiro, but I wanted someone like Albert Pujols —- an all-around phenom —- on the team I loved, even though I knew full well that the Kid’s glory days were over.  Ken Griffey, Jr. embodies the oddly romantic notion of the falling (and now fallen) star, and I was all too happy to embrace him, like the grandfather I never knew I had.

And now Griffey has overstayed his welcome, has posted a .449 OPS, and constitutes a huge part of the Mariners’ 2010 implosion.  But, through it all, I still like the guy and root for him to succeed.  And I don’t understand it.  The Mariners are 14-26, hopelessly mired in the AL West cellar yet again, score less than four runs on a regular basis, and I still turn on the radio every night to listen to the game.  And I don’t understand it.

So why do I love Ken Griffey, Jr?  And why do I love the Seattle Mariners?  Can the geographic proximity of myself to Safeco Field really conjure up such a massive affinity for a professional sports franchise?  Is it simply the presence of the word “Seattle” in the team’s name that gives me a sense of pure elation elation when they win and a sense of deep-rooted anger when they lose?  And why is it that when I convince myself that there is no rational way that I should continue paying attention to this flailing mess of a baseball team, I still find myself spending three hours that night watching the team lose yet another by way of walk-off to their division rivals?

Jeff Sullivan recently wrote a Game Recap on Lookout Landing where he admitted that he had crossed the line from anger into indifference (or as he calls it, observation) with respect to the Seattle Mariners, at least for right now.  I’m not sure where I am on that scale, but I’m not ready to give up on the team just yet (not to say that Jeff is). However many times I speak the words, “I give up,” or “this team is hopeless,” I realize that I just want the team to succeed that much more.  I will never truly give up on the 2010 Seattle Mariners —- because I am emotionally incapable of doing so.  Rationally, I want Sean White to lock himself in his closet and swallow the key, for Chone Figgins to take a class on how to hit a God damn baseball, and for Don Wakamatsu to learn how to fill out a lineup card like a human being with a IQ above 7; honestly, the myriad of issues with and under-performances by this team makes me want to hang up my sabermetric cleats and find some other team or sport to obsess over.  But I can’t.  I have to watch the Mariners and care about the Mariners and think about the Mariners because I don’t know what I would do otherwise.

I don’t know why I still watch the Mariners, and I probably will never understand the underlying psychological reasons why.  But I do know that I love this team, and if they fail miserably, I will be right there with them.

At least Icarus has someone to keep him company as he falls.

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Tags: Chone Figgins Don Wakamatsu Edgar Martinez Ken Griffey Jr

  • 200tang

    I think the worst part about this team is how easily fixable everything is and how smart the guys at the helm are. Is it really that hard to move Figgins/Lopez/Griffey away from the top 5? Or put Bradley at DH and Saunders/Langerhans in LF regardless of pitcher handedness? Is it that hard to understand who the good and bad relievers on the team are? Is it tough to realize Rob Johnson is incapable of catching guys like Brandon League?

    I could go on, but I don’t want to. Seriously, the fact that I can figure these things out is what’s so frustrating. The team ISN’T this bad, but because of how stubborn the staff has been with all the issues it’s almost to the point where it doesn’t even matter if they do or don’t fix them.

    I was 7 years old when ’95 happened and I have fond memories of that entire year and the double. That play featured my favorite player of all time (Edgar) and was one of the better memories I have with my dad, but the past is the past. There are kids growing up right now who want to have those same memories with the current team, but they probably won’t have the chance because Wak wants to keep running Griffey/White/Colome/etc.. out there in high leverage situations and I feel a bit sad for them.

    It’s gotten to the point where now I’m more concerned about next 2 years than this year (which by the way looks pretty fun with Ackley/Pineda/Triunfel/etc..). It’s what, game 41? That’s unbelievable.

    /every rant so far on every blog

    • Griffin Cooper

      I agree with everything you said except for the bit about Figgins – he’s coming around now and we knew he was going to start hitting. He belongs in the 2 hole.