There is a simple answer: Aristotelian poetics.
In Aristotle’s Poetics — Aristotle argues that reversal is the most satisfying part of a complex plot.
People like to discover something in an unexpected way, Aristotle wrote. People love surprises.
There’s a reason why you remember that moment — that crucial moment — when you meet the people with whom you fall in love. There’s a reason why you can close your eyes and see that sidewalk, that crowded bar, that kitchen table where you met them.
We value those moments above all others because of their sense of surprise, of reversal. What was mundane is transformed into the extraordinary. What was an average Wednesday night becomes the real beginning of the narrative of your life.
But Artistotle saw that reversal, alone, wasn’t the most important part of a story. It was more appealing when combined with recognition. You think: That moral dilemma seems familiar; I’ve been there before. And you empathize.
So there you have it: Recognition and reversal. The lynchpins of drama.
And if they were — by some miracle — to win the American League pennant or the World Series, it would be a reversal of massive proportions. By now, thirty years in, the Mariners are expected to lose. The day that they win will be the most satisfying, surprising day imaginable.
And Ken Griffey Jr? Well, he was the best player to put on that Mariners uniform. And thus he was the biggest reversal of all — a truly great, spectacularly talented athelete wearing the jersey that had previously been worn by the likes of Spike Owen, Jack Perconte, and Barry Bonnell.
So: I root for the recognizeable underdog. I root for reversal. Because — as Artistotle said — it’s life’s most compelling narrative.
Perepeteia and anagnorisis. Tonight I’ll see Griffey play baseball in Seattle for the first time in seven years. I may cry.