Evanson: Are you a Mariners fan? More importantly, should you be?
Are you a Mariners fan? It's OK to admit. After all, for years now I've found myself rooting for—in addition to my childhood team, the Los Angeles Dodgers — Seattle's Major League franchise due to Portland's geographical proximity to the Emerald City. But, while a seemingly harmless affair, I've often wondered whether doing so puts me in breach of the contract we as sports fans unwittingly sign upon pledging our allegiance to a team, player or city of our choosing.
The argument "for" is simple: Oregon hasn't a team and with Seattle being just 200 miles away and a part of — like Portland — the Pacific Northwest region, it's just a minor stretch to consider the team a home team away from home.
But the argument against starts with the city of Seattle itself and ends with Portland's sports fanatics' relationship with the teams and fans they love to hate.
This would've been less of a topic three weeks ago. After all, the hapless Mariners were at the time 37-42, failing to meet preseason expectations, and well on their way to missing the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season. But after riding a 14-game win streak into the All-Star Break and rekindling hope in a fanbase which has been hopeless for two decades, rising from the ashes are countless Oregon Mariner fans walking a fine line between what may or may not be OK.
Seattle is not our friend.
Harsh? Maybe, but ask a Sounders fan what they think of the Timbers.
Ask a former Sonics fan how they felt about the Trail Blazers.
And ask a Husky about their thoughts on the Ducks.
Now ask a Timbers, Blazers or Ducks fan the same question regarding that other team that did or still does reside a handful of hours to the north, and you'll get little love from either regarding their team and their experience with their "enemy."
History has a way of driving a wedge between fans and their archrivals.
University of Washington faithful can't rub University of Oregon fans' noses in their co-national football championship (see what I did there?) fast enough, while the name Kenny Wheaton will always result in an eyeroll or expletive from any Husky honk.
There was little love lost when the Blazers and Sonics met back in the day, in what was and is still considered one of the league's most historically intense rivalries.
And there are entire blogs and websites dedicated to the vitriol that's risen between Portland and Seattle's soccer finest since the Timbers joined MLS in 2011, and even prior dating back to the days of the NASL in the 1970s and early-80s. You'd never catch either, or really anyone on one side of the fence or the other wishing anything but pain and suffering for the other—within reason of course.
Which is why adopting and pulling for one of "their" teams is conflicting at best, and at worst a crime against sports humanity.
It helps that the Mariners have become professional sports' lovable losers. They've yet to win a world championship since the franchise's inception in 1977, are the only MLB team never to have appeared in the World Series and have the longest postseason drought of any team in any of this country's four major professional leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL).
It also doesn't hurt that over the last 30 years they've had very easy players to root for, including but not limited to Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, a young Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and now Julio Rodriguez, a 21-year-old phenom who's batting .275 with 16 home runs and who just finished second in the Home Run Derby at last week's MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
But is that coupled with Portland's lack of a team enough to right what many would say is without question wrong?
If the Red Sox imploded tomorrow, Boston fans are never rooting for the Yankees.
There isn't a world in which Ohio State fans root for Michigan.
Find someone in Philadelphia who has or ever will pull for the Cowboys.
And for tennis fans: speak up if you think Jimmy Connors ever sat on his couch during a Wimbledon final and said, "go McEnroe, go!"
No chance. So, why is rooting for Seattle's Mariners cool in the eyes of Rose City beholders? Good question, but while the answer may be personal, the public needs to know.
Or at least I do.
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