A piece I posted under my local newspaper alias in the Seattle Times in response to sportswriter Larry Stone's article: "Why did the Mariners' season go terribly wrong?"
A voice in the rain 30 minutes ago
A slightly different take on the long, sad saga that is the Seattle Mariners: what if their mediocrity is in part due to the fact that Seattle is just not a real sports town? Before you hurl your latte at this question, consider our history.
Most of our teams have endured long, long stretches of marginal success. Some have transcended this norm on occasion. Even the Mariners for a moment back in the 1990's. The Sonics and the Seahawks were celebrated, embraced, admired even when they were wallowing though some pretty awful stretches. When they somehow got it together and won championships, we as a city felt vindication along with our elation. We stuck by them through the tough times, and the victories were even sweeter as a result of this loyalty.
The problem with this otherwise admirable civic trait is that we tend to tolerate a level of mediocrity that other more "passionate" sports towns might not stand for. Sure, the Cubs have been perennial jokes for a long time, and no one knows what's going on with the Knicks or the Phillies these days, but when you enter the city gates of those iconic sports towns, you can smell the blood in the air. The sportswriters, fans, community leaders and stakeholders from every corner of those cities foment an epic level of froth when things are going bad, so much so that at least one satisfying result occurs: heads do roll.
Here in Seattle, Jack Z. has been merrily playing pro baseball nerf darts for a major league eternity. Yet, night after night, Root Sports and all the unfortunate folks who work for the Mariners smile and talk about the next bobble-head night and how amazing the fireworks were. The sports press asks incredibly silly questions like: "What went wrong?" I, guilty as the other narcoleptic fans sitting with me in Safeco, simply stare into the middle distance in existential numbness. At least there is a Starbucks nearby.
Yes, we've been on a manager date-a-thon for a while, and our roster changes have made a difference here and there, but saying that amounts to gutsy change is like saying a couple more Seattle Times articles about unfortunate folks getting bum-rushed and beaten around Pine and 3rd is going to make any difference at all.
Seattle has its "freeze", it's own special passive-aggressive culture and its own kind of weird patience. Notice how we have collectively decided to let the I-5 corridor simply lock up permanently in the near future, but in the meantime are content to just sit there and inch our way to and from work? No civic leaders are called to account for this insanity. We let them make speeches about bike paths 'cause we like those. Okay. The Mariners might just be the team we deserve after all.