The floor is yours, Seattle Mariners. Welcome back.
I don’t mean back from spring training, even though all those split-squad games render the Cactus League schedule longer than a celebrity marriage. I mean back to the main stage of the big tent.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament season ended Monday night with one shining moment, followed by another moment — not so shining — that found the losing coach whining about the officiating.
The NBA playoffs have yet to begin, but are shaping up around here as a two-month yoga exercise combining deep yawns with shoulder shrugging.
And while the NFL in general, and the Seahawks in particular, long ago turned pro football into the Seattle Sport That Never Sleeps, I haven’t seen the names of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in the news for, like, three days.
As I was saying: The floor is yours, Mariners. If you’ve got ambitions of turning the low-spark buzz borne of some flattering preseason predictions into the high-heat buzz that captivates fans through the summer, the first month of the 2015 baseball season is as good a time as any to put on a show.
The opener against the Los Angeles Angels portended baseball’s resurgence in Seattle. Not that Safeco Field was a quiet place last year to spend quality time with a previously estranged loved one, but the Mariners’ legitimate hopes in the pennant race didn’t translate into something resembling pennant fever until the final weekend.
Monday afternoon, the pennant-fever mood became apparent from Felix Hernandez’s first pitch — strike one on Angels leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun — and was sustained through the game’s final pitch, a double-play, imaginary-arrow inducing grounder thrown by closer Fernando Rodney.
The eighth-inning, two-out confrontation between Carson Smith and defending American League MVP Mike Trout reminded me of what Safeco Field sounds like, and feels like, when a relevant result is on the line.
A couple of runners aboard, a rookie reliever challenged to hold a three-run lead against Trout, who’d already hit a homer: The difference between a magical afternoon destined for the memory bank, and a doomed afternoon also destined for the memory bank, lurked on each Smith pitch.
“Ahh!,” the crowd roared in response to strike one. “Ahh!,” it roared again. “Oooh!,” the crowd responded to a borderline ball called low.
A split-second after Smith overpowered Trout for strike three, Safeco Field’s signature rally song, Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” blared over the sound system.
We all recognize the Euro-techno tune — “da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-da-da-dum, da-dum, dee-dum” — from those seasons in the early 2000’s, when Lou Piniella’s clubs pretty much owned the local sports market. Hearing it Monday, as a grinning Carson Smith walked off the mound to a dancing ovation, gave me chills.
The floor is yours, Mariners, but it won’t be yours for long. Although it’s unlikely the Seahawks trade up to recover the first-round choice they relinquished to New Orleans for tight end Jimmy Graham, the NFL draft, which begins April 30, figures to restore football as a 24-7 conversation topic.
The U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, home of the first major pro golf tournament in the South Sound, is another potential diversion. Considering the Open is in late June and the opening of Seahawks training camp is in July, the Mariners’ best chance to grip the attention of local sports fans might be right now.
The floor belongs to you guys, if only temporarily, but no introduction is necessary. Fans at Safeco Field know the tune: Da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-da-
da-dum, da-dum, dee-dum.
Make ’em dance.