Mariners fandom, as seen through Materialism

DMZ · January 12, 2006 at 6:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

First in a series of high-faluting articles that came out of discussions about how to cope with being a Mariner fan. You can blame Jeff for encouraging this kind of content.

Fans without a team are in a state of anarchy, almost unbeing, restless and chaotic, a life almost not worth living. It is natural then that these fans seek out teams that they can follow and believe in, even in places where their favorite sport is not popular. Otherwise, they may fall into cheering at silly, trivial things, like the changing colors of traffic lights, or racing clouds.

This proclivity to fandom is a piece of our nature, and we seek out the sensations of being in the audience for a game as surely as we do water or food. Our joy at a team’s victory and our discomfort at our team’s losses are both products of the body and motivate us to find ways to grow closer to a team or to distance ourselves from them and seek a more pleasing team (which should worry the M’s, given the Seahawks recent success). Our perceived choice in the matter is little more than an illusion, and we will reliably look to whatever choice best satisfies our desires. We are baseball fans because a set of specific causes led us here, and we are Mariner fans because the Mariners are here and they satisfy their needs.

We all may wish to compete, but few are good, and fewer great, and so from any group of people, some will naturally be elevated from the population. These best athletes, who play the most favored sports, and these form teams. Teams, as an organism of their own, must find fans, for there is no audience for a game otherwise, and a team without an audience and revenue streams is like a state without citizens. So there is a contract between fan and team, established when a team deigns to come to some god-forsaken hell-hole, that inexorably binds them both.

Fans must submit to their team. The team is headed by a single leader, the owner, who then surrounds himself (it’s always a him) with employees to assist in the administration, and these are delegated authority. This is a necessary and inevitable development. A city could not run their own team, it would be impractical to take decisive action and even it was not, the populace would be paralyzed over every tiny decision and the tough ones – like whether to ditch a local kid in favor of anyone better – would never be made, or would be made badly. This structure actually enhances the enjoyment of a fan, for they enjoy the benefits of fandom without any responsibility, and are free to whine, praise, or wail about every move of the team freely, while others put in the actual work. Thus in submission we are all freer fans.

There is no defense of fans of other teams within a team’s home. The minority who prefer other teams have no right to complain about the local team, or to support foreign interests – they are bound by their contract with their peers to be fans of a single team and support it.


22 Responses to “Mariners fandom, as seen through Materialism”

  1. Jeff on January 12th, 2006 6:16 pm

    Thomas Hobbes couldn’t have said it better.

  2. J.L. on January 12th, 2006 6:18 pm

    Whoa. Hey, I thought I loved the M’s because that Giant Piece of Shag Carpeting (the Mariner Moose) crashed into the Kingdom wall and broke his ankle while rollerblading. I guess it was more complicated than that…….

  3. kenshin on January 12th, 2006 6:18 pm

    man… I was having a serious Leviathon flashback after the 1st sentance. freshman year of college

  4. J.L. on January 12th, 2006 6:30 pm

    This article sure makes you wonder why a person emotionally aligns oneself with their team. Is it merely proximity, or (failing that) latching on with a team that won big when you were young? When I was young and impressionable (for a few weeks in 1988), why didn’t I root for the cute and cuddly Minnesota Twins? Hey, I lived closer to KeyArena than the Kingdome, but for reasons that ecape me, I love the M’s a whole lot more than I love the Sonics (and, of course, it does matter that the Metrodome is, and was, 1500 miles away). Esentially, what I want to know, were we all predisposed to love the Mariners deeply, or is it a simple equation of (favorite sport) + (closest city) = M’s love.

  5. Jim Thomsen on January 12th, 2006 6:36 pm

    As Jerry Seinfeld said: “Why do people say ‘We won! We won!’ about their sports teams? No, THEY won. WE watched.”

    I know this … and yet I refer to “the Mariners” and “we” almost interchangeably.

    I guess that says everything about me as a fan. The Mariners belong to me. And I have allowed them to have ownership over me.

    I have seen the enemy, and we are me.

  6. Deanna on January 12th, 2006 6:57 pm

    I converted to Marinerdism when I moved here, sure, but being raised Philliestant, it’s hard to forget what I learned spending every Sunday of my youth in the great concrete chapel of Veterans Stadium — Thou Shalt Root Root Root For Thy Home Team Even If They Make Thee Vomit.

  7. TheEmrys on January 12th, 2006 8:00 pm

    Marge Schott…. wait… yeah, every owner is indeed always a man. Nevermind. It all makes so much more sense now.

  8. Tom on January 12th, 2006 8:19 pm

    This almost seems like a funeral and we’ve lost a deep friend.

    This isn’t the end of the Mariners people!!!!

    I’ve been a Mariners fan since their magical playoff run of 1995 when I was 7 years old and me and my dad attended those ALDS games against the Yankees sitting in the upper deck.

    And I can tell you right now, that a Seahawks playoff run doesn’t mean the Mariners are leaving town and waving goodbye!

    If anything, we should feel blessed that we’ve been lucky enough to follow a team the last 10 years that has moved into a beautiful ballpark, seen enormous fan growth, seen playoff runs and an All-Star Game come to Seattle, and saw the Mariner players, coaches, and even TV and radio announcers practically become our next door neighbors.

    I hope, like you, that this isn’t the end of the success of the Mariners in Seattle.

    Yes, they are struggling right now, but just you wait, if the front office continues to spend money and develops their young talent like YuBet, King, George Sherill, Soriano, etc. then you could be looking at a another fun Mariners run in the next couple of years.

    Remember, around 2002, the fanbase around here thought Mike Holmgren, Shaun Alexander, and Matt Hasselbeck needed to go away and never return to Seattle and play for the Seahawks. Yet, the Seahawks had a plan. They got free agents, the right personnell got hired/fired, they developed their young talent. And guess what boys and girls? They may be going to the Super Bowl in 2 weeks!

    Hopefully the attendance won’t dip dramatically low until the M’s get good again (I’d imagine it will be around 2.5 to 2.65 million this year if there isn’t a pennant race appearance) and the Mariners will still get good support from the fans who attend the games.

    But for now, lets just see how far the Seahawks can go into the playoffs.

    So. . .
    Until they get eliminated: Go Seahawks!
    And when the Seahawks get eliminated: Go Mariners!

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 12th, 2006 8:34 pm

    “All our lives, we had fun … had two seasons in the sun … but the playoff hills we climbed ran out season out of time ….”

  10. darrylzero on January 12th, 2006 8:58 pm

    #1 Just curious, do you specify Thomas Hobbes so that no one gets confused and thinks Calvin and Hobbes? I only ask because I was thinking it was a silly clarification until I realized how annoying such a confusion could quickly become in the comments.

    #4 I think it’s mostly an expression of autochthony, my new favorite word, but I suppose there are other factors at play too. I knew when I was a kid it was hard for me to root for local teams because, I think in retrospect, it didn’t allow as much space for an independent identity different from the other kids. My little brother was the same way for a while; between us we bought Tigers, Twins, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Marlins hats before we eventually acquiesced to being homers. I still haven’t really come around on the Seahawks or the Huskies for reasons I can’t really explain, and yet being a fan of some non-Mariners team is totally incomprehensible to me. But of course that didn’t stop watching the 2004 ALCS with my Red Sox fan friends from being the most exciting sporting event in my memory.

    It’s all just the politics of belonging and identity, I guess, of “we” and “they”, with a little bit of “me” versus “us” as well. Like everything else in life (especially music and movie appreciation), more or less. Or maybe not–what do I know? It’s powerful though, that’s for sure.

  11. Jeff on January 12th, 2006 9:03 pm

    Calvin couldn’t have said it better either.

  12. msb on January 12th, 2006 9:19 pm

    #9. damn you Jim.

    I have no idea what causes fandom — we lived over on the eastside, and I picked the Pirates because of Clemente, completely ignoring that team over in Seattle who tried to curry favor by handing out free tickets to impressionable schoolchildren….

    hmmm hmm hmm
    hmm hmm hmm
    hmm hmm seasons in the sun
    hmm hmm hmmm
    hmm hmm hmm
    hmm hm hmmmmmmmmmm

  13. Jim Thomsen on January 12th, 2006 9:28 pm

    msb, just wait and see what I can do with “The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald” … or “Abraham, Martin and John” ….

  14. msb on January 12th, 2006 9:35 pm

    K-Tel Records presents “Gordon Lightfoot sings every song ever written… record 4.99, tape or cassette 6.99.

  15. dlupham on January 12th, 2006 10:38 pm

    I believe that your favorite team is based a lot on what (or who) you can follow. Growing up in Seattle meant that I could follow the Rainiers (at the end they were the Angels), then the pilots and then the Mariners. For pro football we had San Francisco (all their games were broadcast here). The fact that Hurring Hugh played for SF just made it better. It is hard to become a fan of a team that you can’t really follow.


  16. Marty Lighthizer on January 13th, 2006 1:48 am

    #15 David,
    I agree for the most part — I’m a Mariner fan (since 2001) solely because of the huge number of Mariner games that are televised here in Japan. However, even more Yankee games are shown — but that’ll NEVER make me a Yankee fan.

    And Jim, while you’re working on (deservedly) forgettable tunes from the ’70s, do you want to try your hand at “The Night Chicago Died” or “Kung Fu Fighting”?

  17. terry on January 13th, 2006 7:06 am

    yawn….and that is probably the most on topic comment Ive ever made 😛

  18. cjdahl60 on January 13th, 2006 7:55 am

    I grew up in the Bay Area and became an immediate A’s fan when my Dad took me to Bat Day in 1968. I got a green Jim Pagliaroni bat. How cool was that? Still remember it fondly.

    I saw the good times of the early 70’s World Series, the bad times of the early 80’s (we called them the Triple A’s) and then the resurgence of the late 80’s.

    When we moved to Seattle, it was surprisingly easy to change allegiance. I still follow the A’s a bit and partake in some good natured teasing with my brother who remains in the Bay Area, but I’m definitely a Mariners guy now.

    I don’t know what all this has to do with how one becomes a fan of a particular team, but I throw it out for what it’s worth.

  19. Dash on January 13th, 2006 8:11 am

    I spent a good part of my formative years in Salem, so I had no professional team to hitch my allegiances too. (wasn’t into baseketball, so the Blazers don’t count.) So being a free agent, so to speak, my allegiance seemed to shift every year or two. Most of the teams I liked seem to now reside in the NL Central strangely enough. The (than) California Angels were my AL team of choice as their single A (Salem Senators, at that time) affiliate played at the local community college 2 blocks away from my house.

    It wasn’t until I moved here that I bought into the Seattle teams. Heck I even became a Pepsi Junior Mariner. I remember games where one could walk up to the ticket booth before the game and still get good (relative term) 100 level seats at the Dome. Richie Zisk, Julio and Tommy Cruz, Alvin Davis, Al Cowens, Floyd Bannister the list of players mired in futility goes on and on.

    Those were the days.

    Those were the days.

  20. FrankL on January 13th, 2006 8:15 am

    “There is no defense of fans of other teams within a team’s home. The minority who prefer other teams have no right to complain about the local team, or to support foreign interests – they are bound by their contract with their peers to be fans of a single team and support it.”/

    You’re creeping me out here, eliminating choice and free will and all that stuff. (Note to self: Must not write anything criticizing Mariners. Washburn signing a good thing. Everett signing a good thing.)

    The earlier analogy to Hobbes (Thomas) was spot on. Life as a Mariner’s fan is indeed, “nasty, short, and brutish”. Especially the nasty and brutish parts.

  21. pdb on January 13th, 2006 9:55 am

    Our joy at a team’s victory and our discomfort at our team’s losses …motivate us to find ways to grow closer to a team or to distance ourselves from them and seek a more pleasing team

    My first favorite baseball team was the Pirates, then my dad pointed me towards the local nine, and I’ve been a Mariner fan ever since (this was in about 1979).

    After being a fan of this team for that long, I can no more distance myself from the Mariners than I can distance myself from my family if they have a bad year. Other teams float across my transom every now and again, but the anchor of my baseball life, for better or worse, is the Mariners.

    Adversity really tests the loyalty of a fan – it’s easy to be a fan when things are going well; when the team struggles mightily, and you work in a place full of/hang out with people that are fans of a different team, that’s when your true fandom is tested.

    Do you defend your dire team, find the small nuggets of Felix-shaped optimism in the future, or do you give up and say “hey, I really like what the A’s did last year, maybe I’ll like them this season?”

    Maybe it’s different for people that didn’t grow up in a major league baseball city; for me, though, there are the Mariners and then there’s everyone else.

  22. Evan on January 13th, 2006 10:22 am

    they are bound by their contract with their peers to be fans of a single team and support it.

    This is obviously false, and flies in the face of individualism. With no explicit agreement, fans have no responsibility to cheer the home side.

    Oh, and Hobbes was the Materialist. Calvin would have argued something like fandom from predestination.

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