Close your eyes and you could swear you were at a Toronto Blue Jays playoff game. “Canada’s team” showed up in a big way for the Blue Jays’ annual west coast swing in Seattle. They were loud, they were proud and they put on a show at Safeco Field.
As heartwarming as it was to hear from several Blue Jays players about the playoff-esque atmosphere, there’s a dark underbelly to having thousands upon thousands of visiting fans invade a ballpark. At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket here, there’s a dark side to the Blue Jays’ invasion at Safeco Field.
At first, I didn’t understand why this series wasn’t completely sold out. The Mariners are having their best season in 17 years, attempting to squash the longest playoff drought in professional sports and their fans aren’t packing the ballpark every single night. How could this be?
After the Blue Jays swung their massive trade deadline deals in 2015, they were drawing over 40,000 fans per game in August, regardless of whether it was a weeknight or weekend game. Saturday’s tilt against the Blue Jays was only the 8th highest attendance at Safeco Field this year. Given the time of year, the gravity of these games and the nature of this opponent, that should make for a clear sellout.
So, why wasn’t it? Because a large subset of Mariners fans wants nothing to do with the Blue Jays’ annual pilgrimage across the border. When half of Western Canada invades Safeco field, that’s their cue to get out of town, no matter how well the Mariners are playing.
In a sense, it’s hard to blame them. That’s like getting the heck out of dodge when the annual EDM festival rolls into town; you’d rather just get some damn sleep in a hotel instead of staking your claim at home and being subjected to incessant pulsing noises all weekend.
The Mariners’ Marco Gonzalez described the Blue Jays invasion as follows:
“A team comes in here and brings their faithful fans and their muddy shoes and stomps on their carpet and takes a dump on our living room table”.
For some reason, my mind went to the Chappelle’s Show sketch when Rick James stomped his muddy boots all over Eddie Murphy’s suede couch. Gonzales made a pretty good analogy there and gave some insight into how the Mariners view this Canadian invasion.
Blue Jays fans clearly outnumbered Mariners fans during this series at Safeco Field and for many home fans, it’s simply not worth the fight to defend their home turf against these crazy beer-swigging hosers.
That’s not to group all Jays fans in attendance for that series into one category. There were plenty of well-behaved, good-spirited Blue Jays representatives from the West Coast. They made Safeco Field feel like Rogers Centre West for the weekend. Yet, just like any group, there are always a few bad apples.
You may have seen some of the tweets from Mariners fans decrying the throngs of Jays fans in their ballpark. Not all long ago, Jays fans could relate. You could attend any Yankees or Red Sox series at the Rogers Centre during the 2000’s and come across thousands of visiting fans, often louder than the home contingent.
It was annoying, frustrating and embarrassing to have visiting fans show up in Toronto and take over the stadium. Not only that, but the Blue Jays seemingly catered to the visitors and let them run amok.
That must be exactly how Mariners fans feel about what transpired this weekend. Being outnumbered, outcheered and outplayed on the field was a bad recipe for hostility between the two fan bases.
In the past, the Blue Jays’ organization not only catered to visiting fans, they downright rolled out the red carpet for them. I recall a certain debacle under the J.P. Ricciardi regime when Red Sox fans had an exclusive pre-sale to Blue Jays Home Opener tickets before Blue Jays fans ever did.
The Mariners themselves definitely hype this series against the Blue Jays, but it’s in their best interest to do so. Canadian tourists spend thousands, if not millions of dollars during this series, taking over local restaurants, pubs and hotels. The tourists may be a little brash at times, but they’re spending tonnes of money in Seattle.
The Blue Jays’ takeover of Safeco Field wasn’t without its issues, though. This is just one of the many incidents when visiting Blue Jays fans behaved poorly.
Walking to my car I was repeatedly heckled by Blue Jays fans until I finally snapped.
Guy: Even though you lost, I’d still date you…
Me: There aren’t enough wins in the world to make you dateable.
I also started chanting “51 and 59” as I walked away, which I’m not proud of
— Lydia Cruz (@TheLydiaCruz) August 5, 2018
As fun as it might be to completely take over another team’s stadium, it’s not cool when they don’t even feel comfortable in their home ballpark.
The difference with this Blue Jays-Mariners series is Jays fans aren’t the minority in this situation, they outnumber the Mariners fans and the atmosphere is similar to that of a Blue Jays home game in Toronto. Since it feels just like home, that led to a little excess alcohol and some unruly behaviour from visiting fans.
Apparently, the streaker from Saturday’s game was from Vancouver (and assumed to be a Blue Jays fan), but because he adorned no colours whatsoever, his true allegiance is unclear. That’s not a good look for the visiting crew at Safeco Field.
Understandably, Mariners fans are little on-edge right now. They saw an eight-game lead in the Wild Card evaporate in the span of one month and they find themselves 2.5 games back of a playoff spot. The Mariners lost 3 of 4 to the Blue Jays of all teams; a club that started Tyler Clippard and had Mike Hauschild – someone who signed his deal 30 minutes before first pitch – throw six scoreless innings against the M’s on Thursday.
I don’t mean to get down on the fine folks who make the trek from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and even fans from as far away as Ontario and the eastern provinces. That’s a long journey to make to see your favourite ball team in a neighbouring country and no one can fault you for enjoying yourselves on vacation in Seattle.
This is my “dad voice” kicking in, but have fun, just don’t have fun at other people’s expense. If anything, there should be empathy for Mariners fans right now because they’re the longest-suffering fan base in pro sports. For their own sanity, these Mariners fans need a damn playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Jays fans just want to get their jag on and watch their team not totally embarrass themselves the last eight weeks of the season.