Seemingly every single year, my Seattle Mariners fail to meet my expectations. Regardless of positive predictions from sports news sites or new acquisitions by the team, it always happens. The Mariners have had just three winning seasons since 2003, and haven’t made the playoffs since 2001.
While the Mariners have struggled all these years, every year I have high hopes for them. Every year, the first week of April brings a sense of possibility that this year may be the year. This year might be the year the M’s make the playoffs. This is the year the M’s win the American League. This is the year the M’s bring a title back to Seattle.
While April brings its sense of euphoria, July and August eventually come around to put the dreams of fans of bad baseball teams in the dirt and to bring us back to earth. As I have come to see it, these later months have come to tell baseball fans everywhere things such as “No, just because Fernando Rodney had a cool closing celebration did not mean he was actually a good enough closer to help the Mariners go to the playoffs.” This has made being a Mariners fan a very tough duty of mine that, I will admit, I have struggled to carry out at times.
Sadly, for people that don’t live in San Francisco, St. Louis, New York or Boston, this is, more often than not, the reality of baseball season. In April and May there is still some hope, then June comes around and that hope starts to dwindle. This continues until July and August, when that hope has finally faded away leaving an empty, horrid sense of loss and defeat in the stomachs of baseball fans all over the country.
How is baseball different than other sports in this regard? What makes a bad baseball season so demoralizing to its fans? Plenty of other teams in other sports start with high expectations from their fans and fail to live up to them (looking at you, Philadelphia Eagles).
So what is different about baseball that brings such a crushing sense of defeat to its fans? Well, let’s look at what makes baseball so different from other professional sports in America.
The glaringly obvious thing is the baseball season is much longer than any other sports season in this country. Individual baseball games don’t have as much impact on a season as an individual football game or even a basketball game.
One other thing that makes baseball so special is the passion of baseball fans. While baseball is no longer the most popular sport in America, I would argue that baseball fans are, in many ways, much more passionate about their teams than fans of other sports. No other set of sports fans are so attentive to the game or follow their sports as close as baseball fans do.
In my experience, baseball fans are constantly on top of trades, offseason moves, win streaks, losing streaks, everything. No other set of sports fans can say that, as a whole, they are as dedicated and follow their sports as closely as fans of “America’s favorite pastime” do.
So, how do baseball’s differences make it so crushing to follow a bad team throughout the season? I think the obvious thing is the length of the season. Given how long the season is, teams can lose games and still be in contention to bring the season back for a long time. This means, that the “this is our year” phase of the baseball season lasts much longer than it does for other sports. Fans are able to believe in their teams for a long time before finally losing hope, making that day when your team finally gets eliminated from playoff contention that much more devastating.
It can also be frustrating to follow a team for 162 games, and track the score of every game, just to have the team utterly disappoint you. With a sport like football, there are only 16 games, and fans are usually put out of their misery relatively quickly once all hope of the postseason is lost. With baseball, it is a long, grueling process that slowly sucks the soul out of humans, and turns people into dark shells of individuals.
The passion of the fans also leads to more extreme sadness at the end of an unsuccessful season. Fans get so into their teams, and have such high expectations, just to be let down and disappointed. These two things make an unsuccessful baseball season much more crushing than an unsuccessful football or basketball season.
This year, come August, I will likely find myself in another state of good old-fashioned baseball depression. I still believe though, that this is the year. This is the year Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano tear the cover off the ball, and the rest of the lineup follows suit to provide enough run support for the Mariners to win games. Against all odds, I believe it. This year is our year.