As of Monday, April 23, 2012
Eric Wedge didn’t listen.
Then again, neither did Don Wakamatsu, John McLaren, Mike Hargrove, Bob Melvin or Lou Pinella.
No matter how many desperate pleadings I make from the front seat of my car, the front of my television or with my laptop open in front of me, they never listen.
It was after my latest pleadings into the dark sky went unanswered that my remote control went flying across the room. After I begged with my radio for Felix Hernandez to stay in the game after eight stellar innings and 130 pitches, Wedge brought in reliever Brandon League, who promptly lost the game.
I hated Brandon League, just as I hated Bobby Ayala before him, and hated the guy who scored game-winning baskets against my high school team, and the guy who hit a game-winning three-pointer over my outstretched hand for an intramural championship in college.
Now this isn’t hate-hate mind you, but in the passion of the rooting moment or the competitive second; it’s the only feeling you can muster. Call it the first stage of sports grief. First comes anger, then denial, then finally acceptance.
The anger part usually is fleeting. I’m sure I’ll forgive Brandon League, as long as he doesn’t do that again tomorrow. However, you’ll never catch me rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which once upon a time were the basketball team I grew up rooting for — when they were the Seattle Supersonics.
It took me years to even semi-enjoy an NBA game again, and seeing that team become one of the best in the league has certainly brought me no joy.
Everybody gets angry after a loss. After a team loses a game, everybody, from the star player to the guy at the end of the bench (like me) wonders what they could have done differently. I remember after a couple of tough losses going back into the locker room saying I was done with this stupid game. Of course the next day I was back at practice. Anger fades.
The denial is a bit trickier. When my brother and I used to play sports video games, which we did with a fair amount of regularity, anytime he would lose he would push the reset button on the Nintendo and immediately cry “It didn’t happen!”
Of course I was far more mature. I waited until one day when I was drubbing him soundly in a basketball video game, only to have him storm back in the second behind something like 70 points from Dirk Nowitzki. As the final seconds ticked away, I hit the reset button. “It didn’t happen!”
Like I said, I was much more mature about these things.
Eventually that denial turns to acceptance. Like how my younger brother eventually accepted that I was just plain better than him at video games.
Or how I came to accept the Sonics were gone, or how it will likely be years before the Mariners are able to erase the portion of their history which reads “only American League team to not reach the World Series.”
Or how I came to accept that I just was not that great a basketball player and would probably be better off channeling my passion for sports with a pen and notepad than I would with a pair of sneakers.
So why you ask, do I keep putting up with the devastating losses, the teams moving or the pushing of the reset button on the video game system?
Because even though I may get driven crazy sometimes, I still love it. And the love overcomes any temporary pain.
That and there is always the chance that maybe someday the Mariners’ manager will listen to me.