Saturday, February 04, 2006

Judica me, deus

I was born in 1977. The same year as my beloved Mariners, one year after my beloved Seahawks. In the years since then, I've been amply rewarded for my faith in both teams. I've seen Curt Warner, Jacob Green, Steve Largent; Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. The great Seahawks teams of the 1980s led by Kenny Easley, Dave Krieg, Joe Nash, etc., more than made up for the mediocre M's teams of Matt Young, Pat Putnam and Spike Owen.

Then, the M's caught fire - first with a nucleus of young talent led of course by Griffey, A-Rod and Randy Johnson, and later with a team without stars or weaknesses. If the M's had never finished higher than third, I would still be thankful that I got to witness such an alignment of baseball talent. There are fans of teams who've won multiple World Series titles that haven't witnessed the pure joy, the thrill of a game like this. If that was to be the limit, the ultimate reward for my fandom, I'd be okay with that.

It wasn't of course; the 1995 team's comeback from a seemingly insurmountable Angels' lead, the 1997 team's progress were both incredibly exciting, even though I was living far from Seattle at the time. I was in Europe for the 1997 season - a fact that made it both difficult and incredibly rewarding to be a fan. Fellow M's fans gathered together and it was there that I felt most personally the virtual community that being a fan engenders. I remember talking with another fan about the acquisition of Roberto Kelly like it was the most important thing in the world; we talked about how far that McGwire home run must have travelled and what it must have looked like and *sounded* like. Following the M's via the nascent internet (with Lynx browsers! Kids today have never understood the discrete charms of a UNIX-based browser! Look at me, I'm not even 30 and I talk like this...) was an incredibly powerful thing - I've never felt so connected to my hometown as when I listened to Dave Niehaus' voice coming through my crappy computer speakers (another factoid for the kids: listening to MLB radio feeds over the internet used to be free).

I've harangued countless sports fans in bars from Seattle to Slovenia impressing the point that it's in every mathematical sense 'better' to have won 116 games in a season than to win a World Series. I even believe this. The vagaries of a short playoff series are nothing compared to the true test of a long, 162 game slog. The sheer number of games, the statistical dominance in every facet of the game, these in a sense fill in the blanks left by a Seattle-less World series. That Sasaki and Rhodes came up short in singular moments that we all remember just reinforced the point that a postgame series comes down to about 4-5 single pitches - and what does THAT tell us? Come, all ye who declaim small sample sizes; if this doesn't prove the point that postseason series reward luck - that postseason series *lie* - then what does? There's a non-neglible chance that if *I* threw those same pitches, the M's would be World Champions. And that's exactly the point: it doesn't, in any mathematical or moral sense, detract from that team that those pitches 'got away' and resulted in the cosmic injustice that is: Arizona Diamondacks, World Series Champs, 2001.

And yet... anyone who's a fan of Football/Baseball gets into it understanding the ground rules. That is, despite the gross injustice towards statistical significance that is our playoff system, the champion IS crowned on the field. If you don't like it, you can follow the English Premier League, in which a team can win the Premiership (ie., the league) without winning the 'playoff' - which in this case might correspond to the FA Cup or the Champions League. 'Champions' - in several varieties - multiply and flourish, and while I respect that (I've been known to say that the Mariners won the 'Premiership' in 2001 to English friends who don't know better), there's something about letting it ride on one short series - about risking it all, and concentrating the thrill of victory in 3-4 competitions into one, sweet moment - that's incredibly seductive. Of course, it's all theoretical to me. But imagine what that must be like when it all comes down to one game. We've all got that chance now, and I don't want to let it slip away.

As a secular man, this is a strange place to be. It's also illuminating that the analagous activity to prayer for the secular guy is blogging, but so be it. To whatever force controlling luck; to whatever processes that tip the scales in an essentially random contest, hell, to randomness itself, I beseech you: please let the Seahawks win tomorrow.

I've been a damn good soldier. I've watched every game; I've stood by this team when it's offensive stars included perennial pro-bowlers, and when it's started Dan McGwire/Jeff Kemp/Kelly Stouffer. It's not been without painful moments - the record for punts in a year stands out as a time in which I COULD HAVE switched allegiances to another, less pitiful team. But, in reality, I couldn't have. This is my team, for right or wrong, and I'd like that 'faith' validated in some real, meaningful way. Again, it's been validated before - (Nov. 11, 1990, Dec. 31, 1983), and no one has been more diligent in their midrash of playoff losses than I, but at some point, you've got to bow to the majority and accept that a Superbowl really does mean something, and something more than an assemblage of moments and superstars. I accept that.
I know I can deal with disappointment, with coming so close, that losing feels like a slap in the face of logic, to say nothing of hope. I'm just tired of it. Now please, please, let me be allowed to opine on the 'playoff seasoning' of young players. Let me be allowed to cast doubts on the abilities of certain players to win 'the big one.' As anyone within 300 miles of Boston knows, it's not just the football team that wins a Superbowl, it's the fanbase as well. And while we don't get rings, we do get priveliges. I propose, humbly, that I've earned those priveleges.


At 2/06/2006 8:15 AM, Blogger Snave said...

Nice comments, Marc. I desperately wanted to see the Seahawks win. They were in a hostile environment... the game might just as well have been played in Pittsburgh. There were a couple of questionable calls by officials that truly proved to be momentum-killers. There were a couple of defensive lapses that allowed big-play TDs. It seemed to me like Seattle outplayed the Steelers everywhere except where it counted, on the scoreboard.

The Seahawks showed lots of heart, and many of us NW sports fans have been waiting over 25 years for a Super Bowl. We finally got to see one! I hope this is a positive stepping stone for the franchise, and that we can see more NFC titles and Super Bowl appearances in the future.

Now, back to the business of following the Mariners... which for me, only abates during March Madness, late in the college football season, and on Super Bowl Sunday!

At 2/06/2006 8:43 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Another beautiful post here, Marc!

Any web user that hasn't suffered through LYNX (and PINE) doesn't really know how to use the web. It's like using a DOS (or, even further back, BASIC) computer.

I'm not disappointed in the 'Hawks. The Seahawks are still the Champions. Just because they're merely the NFC Champs and didn't win the Super Bowl, that doesn't erase the victories they did win.

Stay Tuned!

At 2/06/2006 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post, but I gotta be a bit pedantic here...

it's in every mathematical sense 'better' to have won 116 games in a season than to win a World Series.

Too bad baseball's not mathematics. :-) I understand what you're saying, but I'd trade 20 of those 116 wins for October wins in a freakin' heartbeat, and so would you. Who remembers who had the best regular season record? Not many. Who remembers who won the World Series? Many.

you can follow the English Premier League, in which a team can win the Premiership (ie., the league) without winning the 'playoff' - which in this case might correspond to the FA Cup or the Champions League.

The English Premiership is won by amassing the most points over a season (38 games, three points for a win, one for a draw). It's simple - you win games, and you win the championship. No playoffs, no flukes, just a reward for sustained excellence over a season.

The FA Cup and the Champions League are separate from the Premiership, and have no bearing on it; a Liverpool fan might say that it's better to win Europe than your own domestic competition, but I'm an Arsenal fan, and if I'm forced to choose, I'll take winning the league every year over either of the cups.

At 2/06/2006 1:56 PM, Blogger marc w. said...


I nominate this, "There were a couple of questionable calls by officials that truly proved to be momentum-killers," for understatement of the year.

I'm not sure you got the point of the post...
Nice post, but I gotta be a bit pedantic here...

it's in every mathematical sense 'better' to have won 116 games in a season than to win a World Series.

Too bad baseball's not mathematics. :-)

Yep, and that was my point - I'm done rationalizing the fact that it's 'harder' to win 116 than a WS, or, now, that the Seahawks are a better team than Pittsburgh. I just want to come out on the other side of one of these things - once. I CAN rationalize it, and it makes me feel better, but I know that I'm rationalizing, and I'm really tired of having to do so.
Your comments about the premier league are right - that's exactly my point. I know the prem/FA Cup/League Cup/UEFA have no bearing on each other - the point is that these things ARE separated. In america, they're not, and I think it's a little weird to see how much what we contemptuously call the regular season is devalued. You can talk about which one you'd rather win, but at least there's a choice. For the record, I agree - I'd rather win the premiership, which is why it's hard to take the 2001 M's season as a kind of failure. We won the damn premiership, even if they didn't give us a pretty trophy!

but I'm an Arsenal fan
And you admit that publicly?
I hate Arsenal. A lot. Go SPURS!!! :)

At 2/19/2006 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Mariners, Seahawks, and Liverpool fan, this post spoke to me.

I have long regarded the 116 wins of 2001 as a Premiership-type title. I agree that the American system of piling small-sample-size upon large is crazy.

But now what am I supposed to do? In more than 20 years of sports-fan-dom I have a total of 5 championship like experiences

The 1985 Royals
(I lived in MO then, switched to the Mariners in 1994 when my family moved. It was before the internet, so there was only one radio team to follow).
The 1995 Mariners
The 2001 Mariners
The 2005 Liverpool Champ's League
The 2006 Seahawks

Each instance is stained with one of two faults. Either we lost, when we didn't deserve to; or we won when we didn't deserve to. The 1985 Royals were a championship calibre team, but Deckinger's call was the only reason the Cards didn't win in 6. The 1995 Refuse-to-Losers had Edgar, Randy and Junior and the best closing run I've ever seen, but they didn't even make the series. 2001 M's and 2006 Hawks have already been covered. Liverpool's hollow victory in Istanbul was beyond dramatic, but our fifth-place Premiership finish was more indicative of our ability.

Well, I guess this has been cathartic. I only hope that one day, one of my many teams will be the kind of champion that no one can deny. I can cease my rationalizations or apologetic celebrations. The Super Bowl could've been that. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Maybe Felix will bring us that kind of joy in a not-to-distant World Series.


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