Fuzzy picture, furry creature, real playoff chase

There was photographic evidence from TMobile Park on Wednesday night regarding the existence of a specific mythical creature. Just not the one you think.

One of my goals in starting this newsletter was to have a place to write about subjects in a different way than I have in the past. This started out as a simple and honestly kind of corny bit about a Sasquatch picture that Brittney Bush Bollay published on Twitter. She’s a great Mariners fan, whose Twitter feed I enjoy a great deal. I asked to talk to her and our conversation showed me that what’s happening with the Mariners is not some sort of statistical aberration, but one of the most truly exciting things in all of sports.

I’m grateful she took the time to talk to me and share her perspective, and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it.

The picture was out-of-focus, but that’s almost a requirement for these sorts of things. Northwest myths don’t exactly lend themselves to clear-cut photographic evidence provided by season-ticket holder Brittney Bush Bollay.

Not just hundreds but thousands of people at Wednesday’s game saw with their own eyes something that had to be seen to be believed: a Seattle Mariners playoff run.

Oh, you thought I was talking about the Squatch? C’mon. That’s just a dude wearing a fur suit holding one of those “Believe” signs from that soccer show everybody loves. I mean, it’s funny and all, but wearing a hairy get-up to an American sporting event may warrant a chuckle, perhaps even a Tweet, but it’s not something you need to see to believe. The Mariners’ mad dash toward playoffs on the other hand? That’s some pinch-yourself stuff right. There might not be a more unlikely story in American sports this year than the 2021 Seattle Mariners.

They’ve allowed more runs than they’ve scored this season, their only All-Star was Yusei Kikuchi and he’s pitched so poorly this month the Mariners didn’t trust him to make his last start. Seattle strikes out a ton, struggles to make contact and yet the Mariners are now tied with two other teams for the second and final wild-card berth in the American League.

Believe? You better, and not just because Brittney snapped the fuzzy picture of the furry critter during Wednesday’s game, which Seattle won 4-2.

“It was the best baseball game I’ve ever been to,” she said. “It has never meant that much.”

She paused.

“It’s never meant that much and turned out well.”

I talked to Brittney Thursday because I saw her photo of the Squatch on Twitter and thought it would be a funny angle to a story on the Mariners. I could make my joke about the real myth being the Mariners’ playoff chances and then recite a whole bunch of statistics to demonstrate just how unlikely and unexpected Seattle’s push toward the playoffs has been. Negative run differential. Terrible team batting average. Slightly below average ERA and yet here’s Seattle in position to end the longest postseason drought in any of America’s four largest sports leagues. It’s a tidy little story, but it misses the most meaningful part of what is happening, which is how utterly thrilling it is to experience success that is truly unexpected.

It doesn’t happen all that often. It occurred in 1995 when the Mariners made their mad dash to — and then through — the playoffs. It happened at the end of 2012 when the Seattle Seahawks and their rookie quarterback racked up 150 points in a three-week span, streaked to the playoffs and came 32 seconds away from playing for a conference title.

Look, wins will always make people happy, but there’s a joy that comes from experiencing a win that is both unlikely and truly longed for. Brittney reminded me of that. She has been regularly attending Mariners games since 2014, the year Seattle remained alive until the final day of the regular season when the A’s beat the Rangers and thereby clinched the final wild-card spot. Her season-ticket package has grown from 20 on up to 80 games. She has forged deep friendships with other Mariners fans, it has become an essential part of her social network.

“We’re nerds about it,” she said, “We’re hardcore and we love this team.”

It’s the kind of devotion that has to be its own reward. You’re not owed anything as a fan. That’s especially true if you’re a Mariners fan, but there’s always hope, too. That’s what this Mariners team is: hope, raw and uncut.

You can’t say they deserve this. Seattle has allowed 48 more runs than it has scored. It has one of the lowest collective batting averages in the league and the pitching staff is fairly average. But they’ve won nine of their past 10 games and Seattle has a chance to earn something that this city hasn’t seen in 20 years and that’s playoff baseball.

It’s the kind of possibility that we can only pray for as fans. A chance to see something that is this unexpected. That you will be in the stands for a game like Wednesday when there’s a man dressed as a Sasquatch in the stands and rookie like Jared Kelenic comes up with two men on, the Mariners trailing by one, and gives Seattle the lead with a single swing of his bat. What a beautiful, utterly nonsensical team this is.

It’s no longer a question if Seattle can sustain this, either. There are just three games left. Three games against an Angels team that has already decided Shohei Ohtani will not start the regular-season finale on Sunday. Three games at home where the Mariners are printed up 125,000 placards with the word “Believe” to be carried by fans whether they are dressed in Squatch attire or not. Three games left with Seattle in a dead heat with three other teams in the race for a postseason berth.

Join the conversation

or to participate.