In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. This is the fourth post of the series- look here for the rest. Today, I look at how the Mariners may be the team to introduce a new generation of the American baseball fan experience.
Not too long ago, I lamented the state of baseball fans over at Hall of Very Good (which is somewhat recycled in this post). To make a long story short: American baseball fans are horrible when it comes to cheering at ballgames. With a few exceptions, the only cheers that happen are those prompted by the scoreboard or during or after plays. It’s a far cry from the days when Boston fans taunted Honus Wagner with rewritten songs, Brooklyn fans had a small amateur band of musicians and Wild Bill Hagy led the “Roar from 34” in Baltimore, and it is far more sedate than the madhouse atmospheres in Japan or the Caribbean.
However, there is a place where I believe American baseball fandom could make a return to the raucous years of old: Seattle.
A few reasons:
1) It’s known to be very loud and supportive of it’s other sports teams.
Seattle is famous for how much it supports it’s teams. The “12th Man” of the Seahawks is famous for how loud it can get, at times even registering on the Richter scale. Their soccer team, the Sounders, were featured on Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel due to how they have been able to replicate the European soccer crowd environment. The loss of the Sonics is a open wound that more was the result of corporate greed than any lack of support. Therefore, the residents of the Pacific Northwest know how to get loud and organized in support of their teams and can be ridiculously devoted to them.
2) It has deep Japanese connections
The Mariners are one of the most popular MLB teams in Japan, a result of the many Japanese imports who have come to Seattle, as well as Seattle’s large Asian-American population. Nintendo, a Japanese company, owns the Mariners. Is it really that hard to imagine that perhaps the Mariners would have the inspiration and the means to form some Japan-style cheering sections, perhaps throw in some ouendan?
3) The King’s Court provides a template/Jumping Point
A king reigns in Seattle. He is King Felix of the House Fernandez, First of His Name. And when he’s on the mound, the Mariners have a section devoted entirely to them, and it looks like this:
Look at that and tell me that wouldn’t make an excellent jumping-off point for forming Japan or Europe-style fan sections with chants and waving flags and all of that! You can’t, because it’d make a perfect jumping-off point for forming a Japanese or European-style fan section!
4) The Mariners are going to return to the postseason sooner rather than later.
It feels like, during the postseason, the fans who had to survive long droughts are wilder. In 2012, Baltimore was raucous while the Bronx was a morgue. Pittsburgh waited years to return to the playoffs and turned PNC Park into a madhouse. Atlanta was in the postseason for so many years that they ended up having trouble selling tickets to NLDS games.
The Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001. Guess what type of crowd they’ll bring when they make the playoffs next? The answer: a lot closer to the Baltimore or Pittsburgh experience. It’ll be loud. Very loud. And it is then, perhaps, that it will happen: Seattle will bring a new evolution of the baseball fan experience. And then, the Baseball Gods willing, nothing will be the same again.