Hollow "victories"

Quick guide to the perplexed, of which there appear to be many in Seattle this week: Not losing does not equal winning. I don't care how much champagne you pour on the problem.

The Mariner's wild-card berth this week (I'm getting to the tech stuff, cool your jets) is a hideous example of why sometimes it's not so much about who fields the best teams as about who fields the ones that are least worst. For the record, winning a wild-card berth by coming in second in a four-team division does not merit the kind of celebration that winning a pennant does. It does not, in the words of KIRO's New York Vinnie, smack of gorgeousity.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. In fact, let's let my friend and erstwhile editor Fred Moody state the case far more eloquently than I. "The Mariners," he says, "blew an INSURMOUNTABLE lead, managed to get a wild-card berth (roughly akin to the greatest shame you can endure in sports—a wild-card berth at the end of a 162-game season), and had the gall to celebrate with champagne. They lose, they celebrate as if they won something. When the Mets clinched their wild-card berth, there was no celebration—because, as one of them put it, 'This wasn't how we wanted to get into the postseason.' The thing that put me over the edge was Mariner President Howard Lincoln [saying], 'This is how Yamauchi pictured it when he signed Kazu: Kazu on the mound, clinching the TITLE.' He actually called it a title."

(Thanks, Fred!) Yes, folks, the "pennant" race in Seattle was an embarrassment, and I'm not just saying that as a Yankees fan (because after all, the Yankees did a fine job of stinking up September too). I'm beginning to think, though, that embarrassment is our lot here in Rain City, seeing as how before the M's did their thing the Supreme Court did its, handing Microsoft what some folks seem to persist in calling a victory.

A victory? Talk about your we'll-take-what-we-can-get spin: The Supreme Court declines to circumvent large chunks of the justice system to hear the MS appeal, the judge on that appeal throws a public snit about his whole fool verdict being possibly out the window, and suddenly Redmond supporters are putting up bunting. Puh-lease.

This is not a Microsoft "win." It did not merit front-page coverage in the dailies. Forbearing from hearing the case did not mean the court was denying itself its single opportunity of "making a mark" for the 2000- 01 term (yes, commentators really said that). I don't know why I keep seeing articles to the contrary. I wish they'd stop or, better still, go cover the myriad of topics that need thoughtful coverage and do not involve the words "Microsoft" or "Napster."

Why do we do that? Are Seattleites really rube enough to believe that a wild-card berth is a real postseason spot, or that the Court declining to hear The Case right this instant is a more solid indicator of corporate destiny than a random cup of tea leaves would provide at this point? It seems to be almost a sign of separation anxiety: from summer and its boys thereof, from the boring old operating-systems business model that Microsoft clung to just long enough to become a monopoly on a model that is fast becoming, as they know, obsolete.

And yet there I am with 'em. I'll keep watching Microsoft like news that matters might actually happen on that front. And I paid $40, heaven help us, to be in the stands Friday afternoon. Like other concerned local observers of those two infuriating M-entities, I keep holding on. I know not why.

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