Ups and Downs

The vexing, confusing Mariners continue their wild sawtooth ride through the season. They’ve won their last five games and are three over .500 for the first time since April 8. If the season had ended with yesterday’s games, the Mariners would be playing the Orioles today, with the winner going to the playoffs. Amazin’.

In reality, the season goes on. If the Mariners can extend their winning streak to 107 games, they’ll clinch the wild card*. The odds of that happening don’t even qualify as “somewhere between slim and none”.

* In reality, running their record to 138-28 wouldn’t clinch the second wild card, it would effectively clinch the division and the best record in baseball–the current record for wins in a season is 116. It would also raise some serious questions about the accuracy of MLB’s scorekeepers, since there are only 162 games in a season, so let’s not go there…

I’m not bringing this up to illustrate the flights of fancy that a small winning streak can induce, or even as an opportunity to gloat*. I bring it up as an example of the kind of small victory everybody needs to counter the small losses that we experience on a regular basis.

* Well, maybe a little. Take that, Yankees! Take that, Braves!

Case in point: A few days ago, I got a greeting card in the mail. “How peculiar,” I thought with apologies to Norton Juster. “I don’t think it’s my birthday, and Christmas must be months away, and I haven’t been outstandingly good, or even good at all.”*

* OK, I exaggerate a little: I knew very well that it wasn’t my birthday. But I couldn’t resist the chance to plug one of my favorite books.

I opened the envelope and discovered that somebody apparently thought I was Number One:
card1

The good feeling from that thought lasted until I opened the card and read the fatal words inside:
card2

“Holy expletive deleted*!” I thought. “Has it really been that long?”

* Yes, I really did think “expletive deleted”. Sometimes I can’t think of anything vile enough to express my feelings. When that happens, I find the illusion that my brain has censored itself to protect me from my own vocabulary as exercising that vocabulary would have been. Try it some time.

It really has been that long, give or take a couple of months. And keep in mind that I got my master’s degree at Texas. Faced with the realization that I’ve been out of school for twenty-five years–more than half my life–the fact that the card was a plea for money from the alumni association was secondary.

Maybe it wouldn’t bother me as much if I was actually using the degree I got from UT. I do use some of the skills, but I haven’t used the full suite since the 90s. It gives the card an aura of “Congratulations! You’re ancient and you’ve wasted the time you spent with us.”

OK, before this gets really depressing, I’ll note that I’ve spent more time writing this blog post than I have in brooding about the card. It’s one of those small losses I mentioned about three hundred words ago. But that’s why I’m unreasonably pleased about the Mariners’ recent success. And when they inevitably lose a few (or, this being the Mariners, more than a few), there will be small victory to counter it.

And there will be cat pictures tomorrow.

Take your victories where you find them.

6 thoughts on “Ups and Downs

  1. Well, precisely. When I find myself explaining the importance of baseball (and other sports, I suppose) to non-believers, one of the things I stress is the sense of vicarious winning (or losing, depending on your needs) that comes with identifying with a baseball team. Call it irrational, if you will, but when the Giants win, I feel a small sense of personal satisfaction- a little lift in my mood, and this year my mood is getting a lot of lifting. I’m prepared for the “June Swoon” that the baseball gods may have in store, because that leaves several months to recover and emerge victorious.
    I sometimes wonder about people who are, say, Cubs or Red Socks fans. I suppose their needs, which could only be characterized as masochistic, are being met, too. Personally, to be brutally honest, I couldn’t stand it. I even flirted, one year when the Giants were in the dumpster, with becoming a Yankees fan. As it turns out, that wouldn’t have been a good idea, but, who knew?

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    • I don’t know about other sports. Is the sense of vicarious winning/losing as strong in hockey and basketball, where half the teams make it into the playoffs? Does a weekly boost from football have enough oomph to get you through to the next week?

      Cubs and (until recently) Sox fans are in the same boat as Mariners fans, I’d say. We take the victories when they come, and we get more of a boost from them precisely because they’re rare. Unfortunately, the converse isn’t true: the losses are just as painful as anyone else’s, probably because there’s a cumulative effect.

      I’ll withhold comment on your poor taste in alternate rooting interests…

      PS: 5-1 Giants over Reds as I type this. Enjoy.

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