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Jul
30
2013

Seattle

Tom Schreier lost a bet (kind of), so he had to write this, but he does truly love the Emerald City.

This is a love story. In fact, it is better than Sleepless in Seattle, although it might not be able to compete with When Harry Met Sally. It truly is about romance, but there are no fake orgasms.

Half of this love story is about two people that support baseball teams that have losing records this year. It is true passion we practice, the kind that is expressed rain or shine (or in Seattle: in the rain).

I have watched as many Minnesota Twins games this year as I did when they won 94 games in 2010. While I have no idea how many games my friend Andrew watches, I know he recently posted on Facebook that he was excited the American League won the All-Star Game because it would give the Seattle Mariners home field advantage in the World Series.

We both may be a little delusional—after all, I’m not ready to give up on the Twins just yet given how poor the AL Central has been this year—but logic should never get in the way of true love.

There are a very few things that feel as good as seeing a team you love win, even if it is just one game, and as Meg Ryan reminded us when she faked an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally, not all pleasure is real. Bandwagon fans may pretend to be ecstatic when their team wins the game they happen to be watching, but their joy is nothing compared to that of a genuine fan. Genuine fans enter a state of nirvana upon seeing their team win; bandwagon supporters simply bang on the nearest table and make animal noises.

Even Billy Crystal can tell the difference. And he’s a Yankees fan (I kid, I kid…please no hate mail).

The other half of this story is my love for the city of Seattle. It is a strange love, for Seattle is a little strange. Also Seattle is in Washington, not Minnesota, so it is by nature an inferior city to either Minneapolis or St. Paul. My love for the City of Goodwill is real, however—make no mistake about that.

My love for Seattle goes beyond viewing the skyline from the top of an apartment building on Queen Anne Hill or eating a mouth full of Dick’s (yes, everybody in Seattle eats Dick’s—it’s very liberal out there). My love for Seattle is derived from three separate events, all of which took place in Sea-Town, that manifest themselves in a wager I made with one die-hard Mariners fan.

***

Let’s start with the bet first.

On Thursday, July 25, Andrew, a college housemate of mine that grew up in Edmunds, Wash., texted me and asked if we were wagering on the upcoming four-game series between the Mariners and Twins. I said we were and set the terms: He had to buy me a 12-pack of Bud Light Platinum* if the Twins took the series and, in turn, I’d get him a 12-pack of his choice if the Mariners won.

*I love Platinum. I have only three goals in my life: 1) Earn a living as a sportswriter, 2) Marry up and 3) Drink as much Platinum as humanly possible. Not necessarily in that order, either.

He quickly responded that he did not want beer. Instead, he wanted me to write an opus on how great the Mariners future is going to be based on the prospects in their system and the players currently on the team. Trying to get people to believe in a team that somehow wrecked blue-chip prospects Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero? It would be easier to justify Ryan Braun threatening Dino Laurenzi over the handling of his urine sample!

Thankfully, the Mariners and Twins split the series, so I end up with a six-pack of Platinum and he gets half a story. It sounds fair to me.

***

Okay, this story isn’t really split in half, but I was never really all that good at math. All I learned from “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” is that you’re supposed to have fun and I found that math was not fun at all, so I just stopped paying attention in class at around age eight. To this day, I’m surprised I can tell you how many fish are on the cover of the book.

Anyways, there are three separate experiences I have had that that made me fall in love with Seattle.

 

Scene 1: A Rainy Day

Around a year ago I visited two friends, John and Megan, in Seattle for an event called Seafair, a major happening in the Pacific Northwest where people gather on the local beaches and watch fighter planes and souped-up boats cruise around. Although Seafair was great, the highlight of the weekend was jumping off an abandoned bridge, something I wrote about for FanMan at the time.

I have another memory from the trip, however, that does not involve reckless diving or boats that look like they belong in Hydro Thunder. It came a day after I jumped from that bridge.

On the day I made my leap of faith, it was 80 degrees and sunny. It was perfect weather for canoeing and it came as no surprise to me that plenty of other people were outside that day too. Lake Washington was filled with boats that we had to navigate around and the local bike paths were packed with pedestrians and cyclists.

What was surprising was that the next day, when it was cool and drizzling, we went down to a Green Lake Park and saw people playing volleyball. In fact, I had to dodge bikers and runners as well as cars on our way into the park.

The major knock on Washington, of course, is that it rains too much and no reasonable person can handle that much precipitation. Rick Reilly once wrote that Ken Griffey Jr. probably left Seattle because he wanted his son to play outside once and a while.

The crazy part of all this is that the very thing that is supposed to make Seattle unappealing, the rain, did not bother the people at the park at all. They just kept doing their thing. If they were going for a jog, they were going for a jog. If they wanted to ride their bike, they rode their bike. Hell, there is probably some nut job out there sailing because damn it he wanted to go sailing!

This place is wonderful.

 

Scene 2: Raining Ice Balls on the Fourth

The second event isn’t so much a memory as just bits and pieces of what I remember from the 4th of July this year.

I made a second trip to see John and Megan. They had moved from Green Lake to Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft is headquartered. I was a year older and supposedly a year wiser. This, of course, did not prove to be true.

My day started in a gym with exactly 40 ounces of beer in my hand and ended with approximately 40 ounces of vomit in my lap.

I woke up on the fourth and was informed that I was going to do cross-fit. Once I got there, I was told that I was partaking in the Filthy Forty: 40 box jumps, 40 pull-ups, 40 lunges, 40 swinging pull-ups, 40 kettle bell lifts, 40 leaps on a jump rope, 40 squats while throwing a ball off a wall and 40 burpies.

The burpies are what get you. The very name implies upchucking. You have to do a push up and then a jumping jack all in one motion. I just imagined myself puking my guts out for hours on end like that guy in Team America.

I held my own in the exercises and decided to put off drinking my 40 until the end. Fortunately I had a Budweiser, not malt liquor,

My enemy.

but still there was nothing I wanted to do less after doing an exercise routine than drink a 40. I sat there drowning in my own sweat, staring down that massive bottle, gazing into the eyes of my greatest enemy.

Somehow I managed to kill the drink, make it the whole ride back without tasting the Budweiser twice and write an article for Bleacher Report before taking an hour-long nap back at my friend’s place in Redmond.

After about an hour, I was awakened and told we were heading down to Queen Anne to watch a fireworks show. On the ride over, I was informed that there was going to be a guy from Minnesota there.

Upon arriving we immediately became friends. He was from Stillwater, a little town that borders Hudson, Wis. and known for its Anderson Windows plant. John busted out a fifth of Fireball, a whisky that tastes like Big Red chewing gum, and we all took a shot.

Things did not get too crazy until the Rumplement was cracked. Then it turned into a shitshow.

We had just got done watching a fireworks show over Lake Union and things had gotten out of control. Somebody we did not know had lit fireworks off of their boat in an attempt to compete with the show the city had put on and had blown up their motorcraft, starting a chain of explosions. From our point of view, there was so much black smoke that it looked like a building had caught fire. It did not take anything away from the Seattle skyline, which glimmered with the magenta from the night sky, but you couldn’t help but to notice a steady stream of smoking arising from the harbor.

It was breathtaking…which was nice because there was a lot of smog in the air from both the fireworks show and the exploding boats. Now I understand why the 4th of July is the most dangerous holiday in America.

We went back into the apartment and started taking Fireball shots again. At this point I had had more than a few beers in me* and the Fireball seemed to be cleansing my palette.

Then somebody whipped out a bottle of Rumplement and all hell broke loose.

*The Coors Light can said I could win a chance to play with the Seattle Mariners for a day. This is how desperate the team is for talent. There: That is my analysis of the team’s future. I was simply trying to make the team the same way Adam Kennedy did—by drinking excessively in the offseason.

The wonderful thing about Rumplement is that it tastes like a breath mint and goes down quicker than Tara Reid. The problem with Rumplement is that it tastes like a breath mint and goes down quicker…you know where I’m going with this. That product is concentrated evil.

It is difficult for me to do a shot of just about every other hard liquor known to man. I’m a beer guy and can barely stomach vodka and rum. But put a bottle of Rumplement in front of my face I’ll sip it like it is a 3.2 beer. Megan learned this early on that night and I was more than willing to chase my Fireball shot with a swig of Rumplement.

So, yes, safe to say a 175 proof alcohol does damage when consumed quickly and, no, the body is not supposed to process an Ice Ball.

After a steady diet of Fireball and Rumplement, I decided to join a group of people that were headed outside the apartment to light

WARNING: Do not combine with Rumplemint.

off fireworks on the street. Somewhere in the trip down the stairs from the third floor I realized that I should not be handling fireworks and decided just to watch the action unfold.

All went well until somebody lit one off underneath a Ford Expedition that was passing the apartment complex. The driver pulled up beside the group, which consisted of about three or four people. He slowly rolled down his window…and produced a bottle of vodka.

So there I was, sipping a bottle of vodka from a man I never met. He had moved to Seattle from Ghana three years ago and told me that he was a Mariners fan. I remember little else after that. From what I hear, we sat arm-in-arm as I tried to explain to him why he should become a Twins fan. Then I went inside, sac tapped* John so hard he fell to the floor immediately upon impact and then played some King’s Cup while babbling incoherently.

*Jeff Francoeur probably subconsciously inspired the sac tap. I had just witnessed this the other day and thought it was hilarious. A reminder to professional athletes: You better behave because children and intoxicated people imitate your every move.

My next memory is vomiting all over myself in John’s Volvo hatchback. I had two massive heaves. My food was half-digested, so it there was little lettuce shreds and food crumbs all over my pants. Thankfully, I had drank so much Rumplement that it didn’t smell all that bad. I was told that I was communicating using “meeps” the whole ride and did not utter common vocabulary until the alcohol I consumed that day officially became borrowed. Safe to say John and Megan, who had sobered up at the time, were as confused with my new language as the Geico gecko was when he met the Roadrunner for the first time.

I was by no means sober on the ride home. In fact, I awoke in the nude the next morning, wondering where my clothes were and why I was back in Redmond—not completely comprehending how I had got back home.

John told me later that day that while I was in the shower washing myself off, he had asked if I needed clothes. I calmly responded, “No” without slurring or speaking like a cartoon character. Convinced, he went to bed without asking a follow-up question.

As I scrambled around the room the next morning, trying to find my clothes, I hear my phone go off. I find my pants, put them on and look at the screen. I got a message from a young lady I had not seen since college, asking if I had gotten “a little intoxicated last night.”

A pang of fright rippled through my body. What if this had become national news? I just imagined the headline: “Kid from Minnesota Gets Drunk off of “Ice Balls,” Thinks He is the Roadrunner from Looney Toons.” For four years I’ve tried to make traction as a sportswriter and my most famous moment would be imitating a cartoon character. It’s not a good feeling, trust me.

Fortunately, this news did not quite go national, or even local. I learned that had just texted her that night. It is what Bill Simmons famously called the Eye Gouge. It’s not the Stomach Punch, but it still smarts and I was smarting already. The Eye Gouge I could deal with, but didn’t need the Stomach Punch. My brain was already knocking on my skull as if to say, “Fuck this man, I’m outta here!” and my stomach was probably packing its bags too.

I couldn’t move until about noon. We finally went out and got some Chipotle and I have never, ever tasted anything that good in my life. I sat their slowly eating a bowl full of greatness in the middle of a strip mall in Richmond, wondering how the hell things got that out of control that night.

It was there that I made a promise to myself: No more Ice Balls. In fact, hard liquor as a whole might have to go. I was in a world of pain.

 

Scene 3: Making it rain…money that is

Quick story here after that meaty one.

I’m watching the final game of the Twins-Mariners series on Sunday. Minnesota got off to an early 2-0 lead, but Chris Colabello was robbed of a second home run by Endy Chavez and Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier failed to turn a double-play, leading to a three-run home run by Nick Franklin, one of two that night.

During the seventh-inning stretch, a website called 5kTailgate.com released $6000 dollars in $1 bills from the top of Safeco Field, literally making it rain in the Emerald City. The crazy thing wasn’t that some random website went Pacman Jones on Seattle, it’s that there was no bloodshed.

In some cities, the Overzealous Foul Ball Catcher will trample a score of children just to get a piece of leather and cork, but in Seattle the trickling of genuine American currency hardly merits a peep. Or a meep.

Imagine if this had happened in Miami, Detroit or Los Angeles. In Detroit the official attendance would be cut in half. In Miami and L.A. it would mean that literally nobody would be watching the game at the end of the brawl.

Yeah, there was a little fuss among the crowd, but there were dollar bills that were left on the ground long enough for the Fox Sports North crew to use as b-roll at the end of the inning.

So there you have it: In a city where a team that had a $100 million payroll and lost 100 games, money literally falls from the sky and people are rather indifferent.

***

Joe Posnanski once wrote that you can literally mock and gripe about any place. New York and L.A. have too much traffic. San Francisco and Boston are too stuck up. Atlanta and St. Louis are so hot that Nelly would take his clothes off. It snows too much in the Twin Cities and the rain in Seattle is unbearable…we all know this refrain.

“Problems are easy,” he writes. “The charms and wonders of a place, though—that might take a little explaining and a little bit of patience.”

It is fun to listen to a person like Andrew talk about Seattle because he grew up there and loves it. Only he and his fellow Seattleites can truly express the greatness of the city. It’s not hard to fall in love with a place where the people are friendly, openly confess to eating Dick’s and believe in their feckless baseball team, though. There are a lot of people that would have fun jumping off an abandoned bridge, drinking a 40 after doing a workout routine or watching a company toss dollar bills at a large mass of people.

What is even better is if you can appreciate the nuances of an experience. I love that people don’t let a little rain keep them inside. I love that the Mariners have a loyal enough fanbase that a man that moved from Ghana three years ago feels a connection with people in the city because he roots for them. I love that the fans at Safeco on Sunday did not get violent in the pursuit of one-dollar bills that were falling from the sky—as though it was a routine occurrence.

This brings me to the bet I had with Andrew. By all means, the Mariners and Twins were playing in a relatively meaningless series. Neither team was in the pennant race nor is there a natural rivalry between Seattle and Minnesota. In fact, because it was played in the Western Time Zone, most Twins fans probably were asleep by the fifth inning.

Colabello has been one of the best surprises of the year.

The series became meaningful, however, because we bet on it. Both Andrew and I knew who our favorite team was playing that

week and because we cared enough to wager on it.

I’ll admit: You have to be a little nuts to support a team that might win 60 games for a third straight year, and Andrew will probably admit he’s not right in the head either.

I’ve always felt, however, that if you are a loyal fan, you will never be bored. There is always a game on—whether it is football, basketball, hockey or baseball—and always a storyline to follow. Chris Colabello is a 30-year-old rookie that spent most of his career in the minors and is getting his first shot in the Show, Minnesota native Glen Perkins is emerging as an elite closer in the league and Trevor Plouffe is evolving into a power hitter right before my very eyes.

Sports are what you make them out to be. Everyone likes a winning team, but finding joy in watching a team struggle through a few losing seasons can be very rewarding. Just like the snow and the rain, you can either choose to allow losing to ruin your day or to carry on despite it.

Seeing the Twins win on Friday and Saturday? That was absolutely wonderful.

Getting a free six-pack of Platinum as a result? That made my heart sing.

Like I said in the beginning, it’s a love story.

Tom Schreier writes for TheFanManifesto. He can followed on Twitter at @tschreier3. Email him at tschreier3@gmail.com.

The entire FanMan team can be followed on Twitter at @TheFanManifesto, or liked on Facebook by clicking here.

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