Seattle sports fans are distinctively raw. They possess a unique combination of unwavering passion and enduring dedication akin to the passion and dedication with which I grew up amidst Oakland A's fans. I remember attending A's games with the expectation they'd lose, and not caring about the W because it was all for the love of the game and the experience inherent in live baseball. It was only after the 20 game winning streak of 2002, The Streak canonized in the movie, Moneyball, that my hope for more than the occasional Win became palatable. I remember my buddy Dave, a die-hard Oakland A's fan and overall baseball guru, had tears in his eyes after that first loss post-streak. After The Streak catapulted the A's into playoffs, and after the season ended with the A's out of the running for the big dance, Dave said something along the lines of, "I knew it was too good to be true. Maybe next year." He watched each and every game after The Streak ended, and at the beginning of the following season, Dave -- once again fully invested in Oakland -- watched each and every game. To my knowledge, he has yet to miss a game. For a true fan, heartbreak is a mere speed bump on the road of fandom.
Having recently relocated to Seattle, and having been a longtime fan of the Oakland A's myself, I am acutely aware of how easy it would be to fall in love with a team like the Mariners, especially after this recent, and eerily familiar, 8-game winning streak. Essential to fandom is the willingness to see a team through the darkest of times, and at the end of a crappy season -- or in this case, in the middle of a mediocre season -- there are little seeds of hope growing deep in a true fan's soul that sprout and whisper, "Wait until next year." Look to the Chicago Cubs -- it's been their motto for years -- or the Pittsburg Pirates, the Cleveland Indians, shoot, even the Mariners are a "wait until next year" team. You could say that for every single team that doesn't win the last game of the year. True fans are fans no matter what. Win or lose, tears of joy or heartbreak, we will watch the teams we love. What changes is whether or not we watch from the stadium's seats.
If you are anything like me, you'll probably agree that stadium seats are way overpriced. In fact, everything in the stadium is overpriced. It's too expensive to support a team from inside the stadium when they break your heart all the time. Sure they offer "promo" deals, but I don't want Mariner earbuds or beard-beanies. I want a reasonably ticket for a decent seat to watch the game. Look at Oakland's classic promo, put on by BART: $2 Wednesdays ignite some of my favorite adolescent memories, and even when Oakland is killing it on the field, the promotion still stands. Yes, I know that for any ticket except the bleachers, the Mariners gave me $7 off for the seventh win, and $8 off for the eighth, but it's not good enough. The streak has ended and prices will go back up. You can do better than that, Mariners. I want to keep watching games in the stadium. I don't want fancy, gourmet concession stands or craft style beer (nevermind that I don't drink). I want a cheap hot dog and some Crackerjacks. Call me old fashioned, but I didn't come to the stadium for fine dining. I came to watch a ballgame, and I don't want to break my bank doing it.
Cleveland is a great example of a ball club that saw the problem of Progressive Field's dwindling attendance during a "pathetic" season and sought a creative solution. They offer $4 beers and $3 hotdogs, price breaks that made national news. Even though the Indians are fourth to last in attendance (Seattle is fifth to last), promotions like $1 hot dogs and fireworks boost ticket sales, and most likely, player moral. A quick search on Ticketmaster will show that ticket prices are similar to the Mariners, but at least dinner won't be more than your mortgage once you're inside the stadium.
My two favorite questions to ask baseball guru Dave are, "why was it so bad?" and, "when will it get better?" I attended Monday's Mariners/Indians game (1-2, Mariners), and after Wednesday's Mariners/Indians game, a total annihilation (10-1, Indians), I called Dave for some moral support. Like I said, I want to be a Mariners fan too. Dave said, "You can take solace from the fact that...their talented young players have begun to make appearances with their big league club. Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino, and Brad Miller are prime examples of what could be a solid core of young position players. King Felix and Iwakuma teamed with prize prospect Taijuan Walker will comprise a big three rotation that will rival any in baseball. There are good things to come for Mariners fans." Dave should be in baseball. He knows everything about it, except how to deal with the rising cost of being a fan that attends games.
Unfortunately, if Mariner fans continue to attend games, we will be paying a lot to wait for those good things. The stadium is empty for a reason, but it's not just the losses. Seattle is filled with hardcore sports fans! From the Sounders to the Seahawks, people up here want to love and root for the home team, and Seattle fans want to express that love live and in the stadium. Saturday afternoon, I marched from Pioneer Square with my fiancé, a native Seattleite and maniac Seattle sports fan, and other Sounders fans. He's a lifelong Seahawks fan, and we fell in love over the losses our football teams regularly incurred. We have tickets for preseason and regular season Seahawks games (ouchy wallet!), and you can bet every penny you own I'll be in full A's gear when they come back to town. But unless the M's can figure out a better way to keep my butt in the seat, we'll be at home, mourning from our couch.