In December 2017, the Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins and punched a ticket to their first NFL postseason in 18 years. On the opposite corner of the country, a pall began to form over Safeco Field. See, when Buffalo made the playoffs, the Seattle Mariners took over the longest postseason drought in American sports. We’re now, officially, the country’s biggest losers.
Sixteen seasons—since 2001—without a whiff of a championship, much less the short thrill of sneaking into the postseason for a single wild card game. Put it this way: Two weeks after the M’s lost the American League Championship Series to the Yankees, the first Harry Potter movie debuted in theaters. That’s right. Postseason Mariners are pre–Daniel Radcliffe.
Local sports writers and fans blame the dismal stretch on the Mariners’ inability to attract top free-agent talent and a consistent failure to develop promising players into franchise stars. Either way, by August every year, we return to the basement of the American League West and stay there. The Seattle version of Moneyball would end 20 minutes in, with the team still in last place and Brad Pitt stuck on Interstate 5.
This season looks to be more of the same. After general manager Jerry Dipoto traded away a key prospect this off-season to free up room for highly touted Japanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani, we all watched as the young star signed with…the Angels. Our division rival.
These days, fans resign to a “There’s always next season” mentality before the season even starts. Rather than dwell on the talented free agents we didn’t sign, we get giddy about Safeco Field’s new food offerings. Oaxacan crickets? What will they think of next?
And why not? With no end of misery in sight, let’s take pride in the misery. The Cubs are good now, after all, so baseball needs another Lovable Loser to root for. And Seattle is a way better home for a depressed-with-dignity fan base than Chicago ever was. It’s kind of our whole thing.
In fact, since the Sounders and Seahawks both nabbed championship trophies in the last four years, the very bad Mariners are the only thing keeping Seattle fans from becoming insufferable showboats embarrassing themselves on national TV (cough, Boston).
So here we are again, people. Time to buck up. Don the jersey like emotional armor, burn a candle in front of that Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead, dig deep. And when the season begins to tank, keep going to games. Drink more expensive beer. Cheer harder. Losing doesn’t hurt if losing is what you live for. And with any luck, the boys on the field may surprise you.
No, just kidding. This season’s going to suck. But there’s always next season.
Mariners Season Opener
Mar 29, Safeco Field, mariners.org