Ben's Babbles: For the love of the game

April 14, 2012

For years I had the pennant hanging in my bedroom.

While the posters and décor in my room changed, the Tacoma Stars pennant remained the same.

The '80s were a heady time for indoor soccer in the U.S., with the NASL taking the football, soccer, hockey combo game to new markets, including Tacoma, Wash., and the cozy astro-turfed confines of the Tacoma Dome.

I only have dim memories of going to Stars matches, but as best as I can tell those games were the first professional sporting events I attended as a child.

I have dim memories of the field seeming so far away (I must have been really small, because the Tacoma Dome is not exactly huge) and fireworks after a win.

For anyone who has never been inside of the Tacoma, it's small, loud, the hard concrete floor kills your knees (I feel bad for the high school football players who play their championship games there) and has a neon tube "art" sculpture which looks like it walked straight of the opening titles of Saved by the Bell.

But we went because we loved sports.

Several years later when Tacoma got a minor league hockey team we went to those games and my little brother and I stood next to the penalty box and jeered players until they would turn and bang on the glass and thus draw further ire from the officials.

It didn't matter that I didn't have a clue about the rules of hockey or indoor soccer; it was sports and I loved it.

It didn't matter that the stadium was a dump, or that many times the teams stunk; they were my teams.

And win or lose, we kept coming back for more.

I'm not sure how many times over the years I've declared myself done with the Seattle Mariners, but I'm sure it's a lot.

Yet for some reason I'm still here watching, years later.

Every time I watch Miguel Olivo wave wildly at a pitch 3 feet off the strike zone, or stab pitifully with his glove at a pitch in the dirt, I will swear up and down I'm done with the team until they release him.

But I'm still watching - if only because I want to see how he screws up next.

Win or lose, we just keep coming back for more.

The varying reactions to those frustrations would provide someone with an interesting psychology paper.

Take the example of Olivo. I've seen many fans question why on earth he is in the lineup. Other fans respond to that by telling them that the manager is paid to make these decisions so they should just trust him and stop whining. Because, obviously whining and complaining has never, ever been a part of sports.

Then there are those who threaten to stop renewing their season tickets or to stop going to games. I have no idea how many people actually do this, but the next Blazers season may provide some quantitative data considering the number of internet posts I have see from people threatening to not renew.

Then there are the illegal responses, such as looting and rioting.

How does our love of the game take such bizarre turns?

I guess sometimes that love just gets twisted in bizarre and awful ways.

I can't say I've ever rioted, but I may have thrown a book across a room once or twice after last second defensive let-down or a blow save.

Also back in 1995 I penned a letter to then-Mariners General Manager Woody Woodward, saying I would be very sad if he let playoff heroes Tim Belcher and Andy Benes leave the Mariners.

Neither player pitched for the Mariners again.

For some reason, nearly 20 years later I'm still rooting for the team.

We can't help as fans; win or lose, we just keep coming back for more.

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