“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles
I was talked into seeing Titanic in the theaters many, many years ago. Even as a teenage girl, I found that movie insufferable and entirely unnecessary. At the end, my best friend Nichole was sobbing so hard the collar of her shirt was soaking wet. Because I always know the most appropriate thing to say in any situation, I turned to her and said, “Don’t cry, Nichole. It was a happy time; Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium opened!”
Somehow, I survived the death stare (and avalanche of tears) I received in return.
Today was the 100th Opening Day at Fenway Park. For 100 years, the Grand Old Lady of Baseball has encompassed the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. For Red Sox fans prior to 2004, of course, that hope would last until the Sox choked in some spectacular fashion or another.
The Mariners don’t quite (or, you know, at all) have the rich history of the Red Sox, but today marks a milestone that, to Mariner fans, is just as meaningful.
This is the first home Opening Day in Mariners history that Dave Niehaus will not call.
I have had a hard time writing about him. Partly because there isn’t much I can say that hasn’t been said by everyone else. Partly because I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea of the Mariners without him. I can’t accept that the constant of my baseball fandom is gone.
Today I thought about Dave Niehaus throwing out the first pitch at the first game at Safeco Field. He in his coat tails, raising his arms in celebration to the crowd. There could be no one on earth who loved baseball more than he did. That moment marked an enormous change for baseball in Seattle. From the Kingdome to Safeco Field, the Mariners would finally play in a real ballpark on real grass in front of real fans (or, you know, the band wagoners that faked it well).
This season marks another huge shift for the Mariners. No longer do we have a magical voice that can paint an ugly team so beautifully. There’s a rawness now. He could smooth the rough edges, and bring them into stark focus all at once. No one could describe the pain of being a Mariners fan more befittingly than their most devoted fan.
It was 86 years between World Series for the Red Sox. The Mariners have only been in existence for 34 years. Someday, they’ll get there.
Please, sweet little baby Jesus in your manger, please let them get there someday.
As the Mariners open a new era of choking and stumbling and bumbling their way to the Holy Grail of baseball, it’s easy to feel like the best part of the team is gone. And as the crowds at the ballpark shrink with every terrible series, it’s easy to feel like there is a dearth of baseball fans in this city. For the real fans, it’s important to remember the greatest gift he gave us.
Dave Niehaus raised a generation of baseball fans. Real baseball fans who love and cherish whatever product is on the field because it is baseball.
He did the hard work.
It’s up to us to keep it going.