If Hunting Was Like Baseball
The 2009 Seattle Mariners bounced back from a 101 loss season in 2008 to win 85 games and remain relevant in playoff discussion until September. 2009 also coincided with General Manager Jack Zduriencik’s first year on the job, and many Seattle fans saw him as the best thing to hit their town since Grunge Starbucks Microsoft Boeing. The promising finish in 2009 created excitement, and had fans throwing around terms like “playoffs” and “World Series” heading into the spring of 2010. The Mariner’s marketing department was sold on this team and they created the slogan, “Believe Big.” Zduriencik signed free agent, and former Mariner killer, Chone Figgins, to a four year deal that gave Mariner fans the giggles as they envisioned Ichiro and Figgins running loose at the top of a potent lineup. Fan favorite, Ken Griffey Jr. was brought back for “one more year,” and the pitching staff picked up Cliff Lee in a trade that made the front of the rotation look unhittable.
Asking the fans to “Believe Big” was not hard – the Mariners had been irrelevant for nearly a decade, and their fans were desperate for something to be excited about. 2009 gave them a small taste of playoff contention, and 2010 was expected to push them over the edge. A rough start out of the gates, however, dampened some of the enthusiasm. They ended April with an 11-12 record, but no matter, they were Believing Big. May began with seven losses in a row, and coupled with a 5 game losing streak they ended May with an overall record of 19-31 and effectively were out of the playoff race. A winning record in June tried to give rebirth to hope, but one of the worst months in the history of baseball – a 6 win July – cemented the 2010 Mariners to the cellar floor. As the season wore on and telecasts continued to air the “Believe Big” campaign, it became impossible for fans to suppress a groan from the utter depths of whatever organ harbors fandom – a likely response that only someone who ties their emotions into an event in which they have no control over the outcome could even hope to understand. The 2010 Seattle Mariners finished their season with an identical record as the dismal 2008 squad: 61-101.
In 2008, my brother drew a spring bear tag on his first attempt at putting in. He finished the season early, killing a bear on just his second trip. In 2009, he drew the tag again, and although he didn’t kill a bear that season, he had a couple of opportunities. In 2010, I drew the tag along with my mother. I was able to luck into a nice six foot bear on my third trip. Every year from 2008 through 2012, someone in our family drew 1 of the 75 spring bear tags offered in the unit near our home, so we were feeling optimistic this spring as we’d amassed five applicants in our family – more than we’d ever managed to squeeze in before.
The plans were already beginning to take shape for how we’d spend our trips. Routes, glassing points, and possible camping spots were all considered. Confident? Of course. We had no reason to feel anything but, and then late in the evening on the final day of February, I noticed that the Idaho Fish and Game had the results posted online. I checked my tag – nothing. I checked my wife’s tag – nothing. It was late at night, otherwise I would have called my folks and my brother, but I waited. In the morning, my dad and I had a meeting and on our way, I checked his tag on my Android – nope. My first feelings of doubt began to creep in, but I was sure that one of my mother or my brother had to have drawn that tag. As soon as our meetings were over, I called my brother and got his license number. I checked his tag – nope. Finally, we checked my mom’s license number – no. We failed – not one single tag out of five chances.
When I see folks headed out bear hunting this spring it’ll be with sadness as I realize the promise of a good spring bear hunt was taken from me, and the matter was out of my control the entire time. You may count this is that irrepressible groan, and in the words of every good baseball fan: There’s always next year.