The Mariners’ season hit a new high point on Monday night, one that had nothing to do with the number of games they sit over .500, K cloths or the jarring number of Blue Jays fans in attendance.
OK, maybe it had a little something to do with the proliferation of Canadians.
Because when the Mariners responded to Jose Bautista’s solo home run in the fourth inning, scoring two runs of their own, a line was crossed at Safeco Field right there in section 128, rows 19 and 20.
I high-fived strangers. Several times. So did my wife. In fact, we did so repeatedly in what was without a doubt the most enjoyable Mariners game I have attended in 13 years.
Maybe not in terms of performance. As impressive as Felix Hernandez was, giving up three hits in seven innings while striking out eight, I’ve seen him pitch better. Not in terms of suspense, certainly, as you could be excused for mistaking Safeco Field for a woodshed the way the Mariners scored with impunity during a seven-run sixth inning.
It was the total experience of the game. From the King’s Court to the High Court to the feeling of watching the Mariners battle back against the Canadian infestation that was just waiting to make the Blue Jays feel like the home team.
Instead, Seattle got to bask while watching the Mariners lay an abject whupping on a team it’s competing with for the postseason, leaving erstwhile strangers down in section 128 high-fiving each other. Repeatedly.
It started with the two guys seated directly in front of us. It spread from there. Credit to the guy in the 2013 Dodgeball Champion T-shirt. He was the first to reach across the aisle and bridge our two sections, and before long there was a routine. A rotation. A proper series for celebration that was repeated nine times over the second half of the game, once for every run the Mariners scored.
We cheered when lightning flashed beyond the center field wall with Robinson Cano at the plate, and cheered louder when Cano drove a ball off the very top of that same wall later in the at-bat. And between innings, as AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” played, we stayed on our feet.
That is my very favorite phenomenon in sports, when the shared enthusiasm for a team comes together in one moment that melts away some of the usual social barriers. It’s not about where you’re sitting or whether you’re even at the game.
Everyone loses themselves in the moment.
It happened last fall with the Seahawks from the first training-camp practice right up until the night after the Super Bowl when I found myself in a Korean restaurant with a group of Seahawks fans. Some of them had flights that would take off in a matter of hours, and they were simply smiling too much to even consider sleeping.
And for a few innings, there was a hint of that feeling in Safeco Field Monday night, high-fiving strangers and drowning out Canadians down in section 128.