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Double Sports Dream Day

I stole the name for this post from Allen. Really, he probably should write this post because yesterday was his idea (hence his title). I had the pleasure of attending both the Sounders and Mariners games yesterday, hence the name Double Sports Dream Day. Perhaps calling a day involving the 2012 Mariners and 2012 Twins a dream was a bit presumptuous, but it wasn't, thanks to John Jaso. Then again, I was with great friends, so maybe it was destined to be a dream day regardless of the outcomes.

There are many angles I could take with the Double Sports Dream Day but: 1. This is a baseball blog and 2. at least half the conversation, even at the baseball game, would force me to change names to protect the innocent and/or write horribly long parenthetical comments to explain the obscure inside jokes we tossed around. So, I am naturally limited.

One thing that struck me during the Double Sports Dream Day is more of a nightmare than anything else. I realized just how far the Mariners have fallen. However, the Double Sports Dream Day also offered shimmers of hope.

Yesterday was my first Sounders game. I follow them very loosely, but close enough to know that they are pretty good and have been consistently pretty good since joining Major League Soccer. I know the basics of soccer too, including really basic strategies. I followed the Sounders game and had the ability to form my own opinions of the game, but soccer is well outside my baseball obsession. I was a fan first and foremost in a way that I really can't be with baseball. I go into baseball games with preconceived notions of how things should play out, whereas with the Sounders I could more ignorantly just blindly root for good outcomes. It impacted what I paid attention to.

Sounders fans love their team. Century Link Field was cloaked in rave green, largely thanks to all the fans that show up in Sounders gear. There were chants going the whole match too, some vicious. It seemed to me like the refs had a rough game, particularly in the first half, although I have to admit it is much easier to think that when the crowd chants multiple times about the ref not having a father. The crowd stood for the entire match also, and it was rare that I could make out what the announcer was saying. Sounders fans get into the game, to say the least.

I left the XBox Pitch feeling like the match was the focal point of a larger event. Fans are not part of the match per se, but they are an integral part of the experience. The tired, overused line across sports that "it's all about the fans" rang true. How could the match serve anything above Sounders fans with their dominating, maybe even overbearing, presence?

Across the street, at Safeco Field, things are different. There are fewer fans (lots fewer fans) than at Sounders games, which helps explain the quieter atmosphere. I also get the impression that baseball, in general, has more subdued fans than soccer. That's not necessarily bad in my book, just different. There were times that I wondered whether the crowd cared about the Mariners game at all though, and that's what struck me most.

Somebody started "the wave" in the seventh inning. It got going impressively well. It was lined up in both the lower and upper decks. It was also able to survive going around the patchy outfield seating.

The problem I had with last night's wave was that it came with the game tied at two in the seventh inning. The game was legitimately good and dramatic all night long. There weren't noticeable reactions (positive or negative) from the crowd to what was going on with the game as it hung in the balance, because most everyone seemed engrossed with the wave.

The Sounders match was the focal point that glued together competitors and fans into one cohesive experience. The Mariners game felt disjointed and independent from the crowd that theoretically paid to watch the outcome. The Sounders are relevant in Seattle, and fans treat them like they are. The Mariners are irrelevant right now, and fans treat them as such.

Fan bases are dynamic though, and the are reasons to dream on the Mariners. Last night, for me, was largely the blueprint back to relevancy. The Mariners got a good start from Jason Vargas. He was hittable, but limited the damage, and kept the M's in the ballgame. Then he turned the game over to a flame-throwing bullpen, punctuated by "The Bartender." The Mariners are temptingly close to turning games into six and seven inning affairs, where teams will know that the game is over if the M's hand a lead to the back end of their bullpen.

The offense will never be flashy but I could get used to games like last night's. The Mariners let Glen Perkins get himself into trouble in the ninth inning, and then Jaso hit a boring little sacrifice fly to finish off the contest. The Mariners may not be able to mount many dramatic comebacks, but if they can develop a feeling that they will find a way to punch a run across late in tight ballgames then there will be a good reason to watch every pitch.

The Sounders are among the better teams in Major League Soccer, but not far and away the best. They have rabid fans though. The Mariners, likewise, do not need to dominate the AL West to be a real factor in the Seattle sports scene again. They need to put a compelling product on the field, and compelling does not necessarily mean dominating. The wave died out last night when Dustin Ackley roped a line drive just across the wrong side of the foul pole. Fans still care, even in the largely punchless context of a Mariners-Twins game, when something happens that looks like it will make a difference.

I left last night's Mariners game optimistic that the M's are close to fielding a compelling product more often than not. They have an exciting bullpen and if they can hand them a few more one-run leads instead of one-run deficits the team will suddenly be interesting to watch. That seems like something that can happen in the near future. Sounders fans give their team a full 90; maybe Mariners fans can start giving a full 9.