AS READERS may have noticed, the Seattle Mariners baseball team did pretty well last year. (Right up until they lost, anyway.) You may have noticed this because not since the discovery of Klondike gold has anything in Seattle gotten quite so much hype.
Until this year.
In the Mariners' sordid, pennantless history, one thing the team has never had to worry about is inflated expectations. Until this season, when winning "only" 115 games will be a downturn. Now that spring training is halfway done and April 1's Opening Day is just around the corner, woe unto you who aren't baseball fans—not only because you will be tormented at every turn for the next half year, but because your lack of interest will be violating several new state and local laws.
But for those worried that your social life or your job or your personal freedom might be at risk if you can be proved to be ignorant of anything related to the Mariners, fret not. It has been foretold. Here's what will happen over the next seven months. Commit it to memory, and you should be safe until the 2003 season.
If there is one.
March 23: Vowing not to get left behind on full news coverage of Mariners highlights this year, local TV news directors announce the elimination of weather forecasts from the evening news. The daily papers, which already put the weather on the back page of their sports sections, eliminate their other sections instead.
March 30: In anticipation of Opening Day, the Washington state Legislature adjourns, but not before passing the You've Gotta Love These Guys Act of 2002 making Mariners baseball the official state religion. An entire penal code based on the teachings of baseball, known as the "three strikes" laws, is passed. State residents are required to pray in the direction of Safeco Field five times daily and to make at least one annual pilgrimage. A special fund is set up for state residents who cannot afford parking.
April 5: A local Seattle disc jockey pledges to broadcast continuously without sleep until the Mariners lose their first game.
April 10: Ichiro Suzuki opens his front door to get the morning paper. Fourteen national Japanese TV networks break into normal programming. For the 37 others, it already is normal programming.
April 14: The Mariners clinch the pennant.
May 21: Capitalizing on the Mariners' 43-0 start—the "fastest ever," according to local TV stations—M's management announces that it will move to Northern Virginia if the public does not pay for a new $2.6 billion stadium to replace aging Safeco Field. "We simply can't remain competitive without a state-of-the-art, world-class facility," explains club chairman Howard Lincoln. Daily newspapers immediately editorialize in favor of the project but reject Sound Transit's bid to build the train tracks beyond right field. The M's become the 14th Major League Baseball team in 2002 to announce plans to move to Northern Virginia.
May 22: Babbling incoherently, a sleepless local disc jockey is led away to Western State Hospital.
July 10: In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball agrees to play its All-Star Game in Seattle two years in a row, since Mariners players were named to each starting position in both leagues.
July 22: The Mariners announce the signing of free agent God Almighty to be the backup designated hitter. G.A. will spell Edgar on Sundays.
Aug. 4: The new 14,000 seat Nintendo Stadium opens, with 12,500 luxury skyboxes and 1,500 other seats in the left-field bleachers. It is $4.3 billion over budget.
Aug. 13: The Mariners lose their first game of the year, 13-6, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Thousands of disappointed new M's fans vow that they'll be back next year.
Aug. 25: M's backup designated hitter blasts a record-setting 4,822-foot home run. He is immediately released; General manager Pat Gillick explains, "We don't want any stars on this team, no matter how perfect they are."
Oct. 25: Despite failing to make the playoffs, the Yankees win the World Series.
Oct. 26: A day after the end of the 2002 baseball season, Commissioner Bud Selig announces that Major League Baseball will "contract" for the 2003 season, abolishing Seattle and 28 other major-league franchises. Only Milwaukee will remain.