For those of you Mariners fans living in the Seattle area, undoubtedly you've seen the latest promotion, a celebration of the 2001 Mariners team that won 116 games. You've seen the Mark McLemore and Mike Cameron bobblehead and the "116 wins" t-shirt.
When I first heard about the ten-year anniversary excitement, I could not help but think of what it says about this Seattle Mariners franchise.
Because for me, it speaks volumes about the tradition of losing season after losing season since 1977. Of being one of two teams to never play in a World Series. Of a franchise that is so snake-bitten that, in the decade since their 116-win season, they have finished better than third place just two times.
And, most of all, about has-beens and bygones.
The celebration of 2001 would have been much more appropriate had the Mariners done anything in the past decade, but they haven't. Instead, they've made terrible signings and trades that have netted them mostly losing seasons.
This team is hanging on with a death-grip to the past, like a high-school girl who still can't move on from a breakup from last year.
I get it; it sucks to be a Seattle sports fan. Especially when the 116-wins record is the crowning achievement of your baseball team.
I turned seven that season, and it truly was the beginning of my fanhood of the team. I'll never forget the Ichiro bobblehead the principal gave me for being the most-improved student in my class.
But the bottom line is this. As great as that team was, it never won the World Series. As Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest eloquently put it, without the championship, this weekend will be little more than a family reunion for the 2001 squad.
Indeed, except for Seattle, the baseball world merely remembers 2001 for the Arizona Diamondbacks-New York Yankees World Series and Derek Jeter and Luis Gonzalez.
Yet for older, lifelong M's fans, it still serves as a reminder of what could have been, and the last time the team was really good.
But you know what? I can understand the other side. It's about celebrating the best team the Mariners have had and will have for years to come, and possibly the best regular-season team the modern era has ever seen.
I get that, and I can accept that much of this is a marketing ploy to get more fans. After all, who doesn't want to see Sweet Lou Piniella, Bret Boone, Mark McLemore, and the like?
I get it. I totally get it. But the Mariners can't lose sight of their ultimate goal, which is to win a title in the future, and they can't keep hyping this 2001 team forever.
Going to the game this Saturday will serve as a painfully stark contrast between greatness and futility for a 2011 ballclub that will struggle to score half the runs the '01 team did.
And maybe, just maybe, passing along that torch of a bygone era will help light the future as the Mariners try to recapture that vintage magic.
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