I’m a Mariners fan, and also a Cubs fan. People that know me are well aware of this. I can often be seen at work with a dirty Cubs hat, and a similarly dirty Mariners t-shirt on at the same time. Baseball is my favorite sport, and for whatever reason, the only sport where I hold two allegiances.
If the Mariners and Cubs were ever both in either the National or American League, I’d have to make a touch decision as to who to root for. But until Tuesday, when the Cubs made their first appearance in Safeco Field, I’ve never had to make the distinction.
Tuesday was the also the first time I’d ever seen the Cubs live, but not for lack of trying. Last July I went to Atlanta to reunite with a friend of mine from elementary school that I hadn’t seen since the end of Junior High. It was my birthday present from my mom, and along with the trip, she’d bought us two tickets to the Cubs game against the Braves. Carlos Zambrano was scheduled to start (he’s my favorite present Cub) and it seemed as though the baseball gods had given me the perfect scenario for watching my first ever Cubs game.
But you see, the Cubs and I have had an oft-ill-fated relationship. As a youth, I loved Dusty Baker. I said several times that I wanted him to manage the Mariners. When I really started to get into the Cubs more heavily, it was because I’d watched the highlights of Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game. Wood’s history of arm injuries are no secret, and suffice to say, I feel like I levied my own curse against the team.
Then Baker stepped in, a happy day.
My bad luck didn’t end there. Halfway through my sophomore baseball season Mark Prior made his debut. I was fascinated by how smoothly he moved all of the moving parts in a pitching motion. I pitched, and apart from the dreaded “Inverted W,” I tried to emulate him (and Joel Pineiro, for what it’s worth). He quickly became my favorite player in all of baseball. I copied the deliberate move to the plate he made with his legs, and his arm angle. I began to use my own curveball in the way he did. Rather than throwing it for a called strike, I threw it in the dirt for a swinging strike. I learned to throw a change up.
Two years later his arm would basically spontaneously combust, and his then-derailed career hasn’t found the tracks since 2006.
The baseball gods don’t like me liking the Cubs. So why would my trip to Atlanta be any different?
It was obnoxiously warm, and obscenely muggy my entire time in Atlanta. I had really good company, but I could take a shower, step outside, and have a lather of sweat almost immediately. I’ve spent very little time outside the Seattle area in my lifetime, and most of that time was spent in a similarly moderate climate. But it is great baseball weather.
Two hours before game time there were clouds in the sky.
Because my mom knows her son, and knows the type of friends he keeps, she also got us reservations at a hotel in town. She didn’t want us drinking and driving, and if anything characterizes my trip to Georgia, it’s the countless empty pint glasses and cans of the most average beer money can buy.
On the freeway it started to rain. Once we got into town it started to pour.
There is rain in Seattle, and a lot of it. But our rain spreads out over time. In Atlanta, apparently, when it rains it fills the street with six inches of water in a matter of minutes. I needed to use the bathroom when we got into town, but I may have had to swim to any convenience store, so I held it.
Sitting in the hotel bar, too many beers deep for that time of the day, we found out the game was cancelled.
So when I sat down in my right field seats at Safeco on Tuesday (bleachers are the best seats in any house, in my opinion), not a cloud in the sky, I was ready to find out that a storm front was coming and the roof was malfunctioning.
What I wasn’t ready for, though, was the miserable feeling of sitting in the stands and rooting against my own team. You see, for the first time in my life, I’d adorned the opposing team’s colors.
With the same Carlos Zambrano jersey as I’d worn in Atlanta, I sat in a sea of Mariners fans, with whom I’ve shared many sober victories, and many less-sober losses, and was the enemy.
I was with some of the best company I’ve ever been to a baseball game with, a Mariners fan, and was clapping in her face in the first inning when Marlon Byrd singled to lead off the game.
But when Franklin Gutierrez hit a homerun to scored the only two runs of the game, I was halfway out of my seat when my eye caught the blue pinstripes on my jersey, and my mind remembered the half-dozen Cubs fans to my left, and I sat back down. It was awful.
I had said before the game that the pitching matchup favored the Cubs. That Ryan Dempster’s biggest problem was the home run, and that the Mariner are really bad at hitting home runs. And that the Cubs mash left-handed pitching, and Jason Vargas is left-handed.
Well the Cubs didn’t mash Vargas, and Dempster gave up a home run. I went home a loser.
The following day, I watched the Cubs try to figure out Cliff Lee. No easy task, but yet another lefty that seemed beatable for them. Randy Wells is a pitcher that the Mariners should struggle with. He doesn’t walk many hitters, and his platoon splits don’t indicate he’s completely unable to get left-handed hitters out.
Again, my theory was worthless. The Mariners reeled off six runs and ten hits against Wells in six innings. Lee completed the game, in what may be his last start in blue and teal. But at least, for this game, I was wearing the victorious colors.
Then, for Thursday’s game, I left my house for work in the seventh inning with the scored tied. When I arrived at work, it was the 11th inning, still tied. We had a 401k meeting, and afterwards I was informed that the Mariners had lost to the Cubs in the 13th. That my investment portfolio has begun to bounce back held no candle to the fact that I’d missed the only Cubs victory I’d have had the opportunity to see live to this point in my life.
But what really sucks, is that the Cubs have a reasonable chance of making the playoffs, but with an ugly series loss against the Mariners, those chances just got dimmer.