Seven. That’s the number of losses the M’s have endured in their last seven games. Seven straight losses has been hard on us all, but it’s funny how we react to all of the little-league-esque failures we see every day from the Mariners. It’s like the baseball gods shone down on our rainy little northwest town and then suddenly unleashed the lightning bolts. Game after game we’re witness to some of the most spectacular failures and implosions that baseball has ever seen, and yet, as Mariners fans, we somehow manage to endure and soldier onwards, always wary of the next time our hearts will be broken.
It’s part of what I’ve come to call ‘the 5 stages of Mariners Fandom’. The stages of fandom that we all go through season after season, our own coping mechanism for the inevitable occasion where we just resign ourselves to the fact that next year is a new year. But how do we get there? It always starts well, our childish optimism glows brightly in the first week of April, but much like April Fool’s day, it quickly becomes much less fun and much more irritating.
The season always starts on a high note, the Mariners got it ramped up early this time around with the signing of Robinson Cano. “Look peasants!” Jack Z bellowed from his tower, “I have brought you a Hercules, and he shall bring you championships!” and the peasants loved him for it. He was supposed to be our savior, he was going to be the reason that Seattle baseball was getting back on the map. Bring in Cano, and the rest will fall into place.
Opening Week was the thing of dreams this year. For one brief moment the Mariners were atop the AL-West, and it looked like we might finally be in for something different. I mean, Shit, even ESPN was talking about us.
Four series losses and seven straight losses later, the Mariners have begun their annual slide into the basement, albeit it was a bit early this year. As we slide further and further into the rabbit hole, you can take solace in the knowledge that all of us are in this together, and these are the stages of grief we’re all going to face.
Stage 1: Denial
I’m sure you all remember this one. It happened around the time that Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker were announced to be on the DL. We all felt it, the unwillingness to believe there was a problem. This year it was compounded by the fact that the Mariners were actually winning without them, for a little while at least. How can we be losers if we’re winning so much? Unfortunately for you, this is the hallmark of the first stage of Mariners Fandom.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem.
Do you remember when the Mariners came back for the home opener and we said “It can’t be that bad, at least James Paxton can pick up the slack” And then the baseball gods sent their angels to Safeco to ensure we moved on to the second stage.
Stage 2: Anger
By this point we’ve accepted that there might be a problem, but we’re not happy about it. To an outsider, this is the most fun stage of the 5 stages of Mariners grief. Laughing at our misfortune can bring great joy to some. Generally at this point in the season, TV sales in Seattle go through the roof because of all the Mariners fans kicking their screens and needing to buy a new TV set (*citation needed).
For me, this happened when Brad Miller overthrew a ball to second to end the game last week. There were a lot of expletives thrown around that day.
But if that didn’t do it for you, how about the walk-off in Miami last weekend? While most people would think that Miller’s play last week was the worst way to lose a ball game, in a remarkable exposition of the Mariners’ losing prowess, they gave up a walk off grand slam and simultaneously punched every fan in the mouth.
Stage 3: Bargaining
This stage might not have happened for some of you yet, but trust me, you’ll get there. Usually when we get to the bargaining stage we start seeing headlines like “Iwakuma is back next week! We’re Saved!” or “The Mariners are only 2 series wins out of first place” and other wishful titles. I know, I’ve written them myself.
Remember how much fun baseball was when we were winning? We want to get back to that so badly that we’ll put a positive spin on anything. The Mariners have been walked-off a bunch of times already this year, but if we could only win those close games we’d be right back in it!
As you move through this stage you might start looking to the future a bit more too, you’ll find yourself saying things like “This season is a loss, but at least our rookies are getting lots of playing time in”.
The important thing to remember here is that this is your brain’s natural progression towards the ultimate acceptance that you’re a Mariners fan. But you’re not there yet, not even close.
Stage 4: Depression
You know that feeling you get when you’re watching Marley and Me, and then the dog dies? (spoiler alert), this is how Mariners fans feel for the majority of the season. Going to a ball game can sometimes feel like you’re walking into the Coliseum to watch the Christians valiantly try to fend off the lions, sometimes its hart to watch, and someone always ends up in tears.
At this point in the season it’s irrelevant who gets traded to where, and what kind of future we can look forward to from the rookies. You still go to the ballpark, but you spend all your time in line in the Pen trying to find another beer to drown your sorrows.
I’ll never forget the look on Eric Wedge‘s face when he hit this stage last year. He looked like a man defeated, he didn’t fire up the guys any more, he just sat back looking sad and stroking that glorious mustache. And then he quit.
This is a hard stage to break out of, but you will, and it’s sunny skies ahead.
Stage 5: Acceptance
You made it, you’re a Mariners fan and you’ve experienced more emotions in the span of a summer than some people feel in a lifetime. You’ve been happy, sad, angry, enraged, thrilled and disappointed so many times that you think you might even be immune to ever having feelings again.
But then it happens, you remember that even though they’re last in the AL, and they just got railroaded by Houston, they’re still YOUR TEAM. And damned if anyone is going to take that from you.
Someone will eventually comment on yet another blown save, and by some miracle you’ll find yourself defending them. It’s an out of body experience to watch yourself defend a team that only two days ago ripped out your heart and stomped on it. But you’ll do it, we all do it.
They’re misfits, but they’re our misfits. Damn anyone who picks on our boys.
It’s a long season, but being a Mariners fan means something more than winning pennants, it’s about a support system, it’s about collective commiseration, and it’s about being there for your fellow fans as they move through the 5 stages of being a Mariners fan.
Remember, I’m pulling for ya, we’re all in this together.
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