Last week the Mariners played to their smallest crowd of the millenium—9,808 fans for a contest against the mighty Astros—so it was a good time to score great seats. A friend and I bought tickets in the second row behind the visiting dugout. This unprecedented proximity allowed me to deduce a chilling secret that explains the Mariners’ decade of incompetence.
When my friend and I got to our seats, a bored Astros player was tossing Double Bubble into the crowd. Why have opposing players dispense complimentary chewables? By game’s end, I would know.
Soon it was time for a beer. The M’s vendors sell 22-ounce bombers, but the largest cup holds only 20 ounces. I asked the beer guy: “Why don’t they get you guys bigger cups?” His response: “You see what’s happening on the field; you can imagine how screwed up it is for the beer vendors.” Or maybe there’s another reason the Mariners limit their patrons’ intake of high-ABV microbrews.
My buddy ventured some G-rated heckling—even getting a laugh from an Astros coach. Then an old fart sitting in front of us piped up. “You’re right in my ear. Why don’t you move down a couple of seats if you want to yell?” At CenturyLink, they set Guinness World Records for crowd noise. At Safeco Field, you can also be as loud as you want . . . as long as you don’t discomfit an 80-year-old.
And then it dawned on me: the soft gum. The downsized beers. An anemic offense, limiting noise and excitement. Yes, the Mariners are running a nursing home.
Maybe you joked about this when the team acquired 40-year-old Raúl Ibañez—never imagining how close you were to the truth. Ever wonder who owns all those luxury boxes that sit dark night after night? No one does; those are the rooms of the nursing home and the lights are off because their occupants are sleeping. Notice how the team has expanded The Pen, the bar in the outfield? That’s to keep young rowdies away from the tenants, who sometimes wander down to catch a game like the geezer in front of me did. Notice all the skinny Southerners playing infield? It’s because the Safeco Retirement Community residents requested a team that looks like the 1940s Brooklyn Dodgers.
There’s still so much we don’t know. Was moving the fences in just a cover story to permit construction of a below-ground bingo parlor? Was the new video screen only necessary because elderly eyes require a 56-foot-high Matlock? Is Lou Piniella a tenant?
Wasn’t that long ago that the Mariners were as beloved in this city as the Seahawks are now. Now we know why it all went wrong.