Bumptious: Oh, but it’s so much more

Disclaimer: The Yankees suck. Deal with it.

“The road to the World Series runs through Yankee Stadium” is the opinion held by Lou Piniella, journalists, baseball fans, idle pedestrians, latte-toting Starbucks patrons, outdoorsy anarchists in Tevas and wool socks, yuppie mothers in SUVs and angry, bankrupt dot-comers in Seattle. In the aftermath of a 116-win disappointment, it would make sense that those Seattleites and others (and, I’ll have you know, hailing from Seattle, that every Seattleite, whether a Mariners fan or not, was disappointed) realize the truth behind that Boston adage: “The Yankees Suck.”

Because the truth is, after the 1995 season, Seattle Mariners fans yearned desperately to believe that since they could defeat the mighty pinstripes, they could hold something against George Steinbrenner eternally (in a manner akin to the way those same fans emerge from a defeat at the hands of the Bronx Bombers screaming, “But how’s Ken Phelps, Georgie?”) Ever since Ken Griffey Jr. came pounding around third base on that fateful Edgar Martinez double in Game Five, the Mariners have wanted to believe that in every close game, with everything on the line, they will emerge victorious. And what remains rather distressing is that most Seattleites hold on to this deranged notion.

But, and I’ll be the first to admit: The Yankees are good. The Yankees win. The Yankees win a lot. And I hate that. And Seattle hates it. And I’ve hated it for two years now. And I hated it Friday night, and I desperately hated it tonight and it seems that the only thing to calm my hatred for those Damn Yankees is to down a grande-mocha-frappuchino-with-a-half-shot-because-I-don’t-want-to-be-up-all-night-reliving-this from the Fifth and Pine Starbucks in Seattle. Unfortunately, there is no Starbucks on Spring St., and you poor readers get to read of my ranting and raving that even Thai Garden’s Thai donuts couldn’t mitigate.

News Flash: The Mariners Are Not Going to Win 116 Games This Year. Neither are the Yankees. Why? Because baseball is luck. Tell that to Ted Lilly, tell that to Alfonso Soriano, tell it to Derek Lowe (because honestly, that slug will never, ever get that again). Those guys got so close to history only to let Lady Luck rip it from their fingers. Lilly and Soriano are retiring to New York tonight thinking of the ESPN spotlight that could have been theirs instead of scanning their big screens for any mention of their “one-hit” performance which resulted, in Lilly’s case, in a Yankee loss. Baseball takes history from the arms of pitchers as quickly as it gives it to Bret Boone or Vladimir Guerrero or the Minnesota Twins. Baseball is about the “it-isn’t-fair” as much as it is about the “I-can’t-believe-it.” And, by the way, that’s why I love it. Because when the Mariners drop two of three to the Yankees, I can say, “Goddamnit, but that’s the game.” And it is just a game.

Oh, but it’s so much more. It’s so much more to that point where, in a recent conversation with a high school friend (who happens to be a Mariners fan, of course), we both determined that the following statement really isn’t that irrational: “I could not marry an American girl who hated baseball.” And why? “Because she obviously lied to me about being American.” It’s so much more to that point where, on a Saturday night after returning from Wood and Dodd, my perfect night could have been ruined had Lilly tossed a no-hitter against my home team. It’s so much more to that point where my sports editor almost refused a game of tennis in the sunshine the other day because his hometown boys were close to backing up Astacio’s no-no. It’s so much more to that point where in 1995 my father and I refused to move from our spots in the kitchen until two or three in the morning Pacific time to watch the Mariners take their third in a row to win the division series from the Pinstripes. It’s so much more to that point where that same year, a few days earlier, my grade school dismissed us early so that we could watch the Mariners’ one-game playoff against the Angels with our families.

In my first column of the year, I said that baseball defines what America believes. And, while it was a trite message of the post-Sept. 11 times, I still stand behind its spirit. If every man believes that working hard and being good leads to success, I show him every player in Detroit, who was the best in his high school and the best in college, and is getting paid nine million dollars a year to lose – because of luck. The luck he doesn’t have, and the luck that every American desperately wants to avoid.

Oh, I might have forgotten to mention, luck really pissed me off this afternoon. The Mariners lost. And the Yankees suck.

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