“A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;”
– Ernest Thayer Casey at the Bat
Dave Niehaus used to read Casey at the Bat during the radio pre-game show each year on the anniversary of its publication. The poem so perfectly captures the tumult of sports fandom; despair, hope, elation, then tumbling back down into dispirit despair. It so perfectly captures the tumult of being a Mariners fan.
I often think about the 1997 Mariners, the team that holds the single season home run record. Steroids, schmeroids, that team could hit baseballs very hard and very far very often. The 1997 Mariners had on their roster Future Hall of Famers like Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Edgar Martinez (Cooperstown, Schmooperstown he’s a Hall of Famer). The 1997 Mariners were picked to win the World Series by people who were supposed to be smart enough to know those things, leading my poor, naive 15 year old self to believe them.
The 1997 Mariners won one playoff game.
That is a season that lives so vividly in my mind I think you’re crazy for suggesting that it happened 16 years ago. That is a season that grows ever more heartbreaking as the years pass.
So here we stand on the threshold of another season that I know I’ll only survive thanks to a healthy mix of sarcasm, subterranean expectations, and several kegs of the finest Northwest microbrews. I know this because I’m a wizened Mariners fan who has had her heart broken too many times to risk it again.
But here we stand on the threshold of another season and all I see are home runs. All I hear is that perfect crack of perfectly placed bat on ball. I can smell, taste, and feel that stupid hope hopping around down there in my chest.
Homers, bombs, dingers, mashers, going yards, moonshots, four baggers, round trippers, long balls, taters, big flies, roof shots, jacks.
Be still, my heart. It’s only Spring Training.