Welcome to the most interesting team in North American sports
My friend and frequent collaborator Jon Bois calls me a life-long Seattle Mariners fan. Strictly speaking, this isn’t true; in my early childhood I had no idea what baseball was, let alone the Mariners. It is, on the other, more metaphorical hand, an understatement. In just a few years this team can deliver the fandom equivalent of lifetimes of … well, not misery. At least, not exactly.
Being a Mariners fan is frequently traumatic, but despite the sustained, impressive and yet still somehow surprising ineptitude the overall experience hasn’t been all that upsetting. There is something about this team that sort of transcends sports, turning an 18-year playoff drought into an extremely funny dark comedy, rendered even funnier by our willing participation.
Technically, the Mariners are a sports team. Admittedly, they’re a team that probably should never have existed, and is lucky to still exist, one that’s squandered more or less every good thing that’s ever happened to them in increasingly bizarre and upsetting ways.
From the outside, the Mariners are funny and interesting and lovable, for all the reasons Jon and Alex Rubenstein are highlighting in their six-part History of the Seattle Mariners. From the inside, they’re something weirder and purer, a sort of testament to the blinding power of affection.
The Mariners should not have any fans. None! Their default state, disguised by a seven-year blip, is rampant and frequently surreal futility. Just how surreal (and no matter what you’re expecting, you’ll be surprised) is something you’ll discover during Jon and Alex’s documentary. Yet the fans still exist, bound to this odyssey of a team by inexplicable, unbreakable ties.
A surprising number of us — the Mariners have generated a genuine parade of brilliant bloggers — write about it, presumably as some sort of coping mechanism. Most sportswriting is about sports. Writing about the Seattle Mariners? That’s about love. Bitter and reluctant and grumpy love, perhaps. Which, I think, might be the whole point.