How One Woman Is Teaching Herself To Fly Fish / An Interview with AmberJack

How One Woman Is Teaching Herself To Fly Fish / An Interview with AmberJack

Originally published on AmberJack by Anna Cohen.

When Claire Topalian sets her mind to something, she doesn’t stop until it is done. Earlier this year she found herself in need of a new project. She picked fly fishing and set out on a mission to learn everything she could about the sport. Starting from scratch, she has been teaching herself how to fly fish by reading books, watching Youtube videos, and practicing knot-tying on the bus to work. Claire has learned a lot along the way, and she is sharing some of what she’s learned here with us.

Tagging Along on the Cle Elum

Tagging Along on the Cle Elum

The initial steps had been conquered: read fly fishing books half-way, conduct outreach to companies until they fork over some gear, organize a casting lesson, fail at initial casting lesson…I wanted to leave the city and fish, and I wasn’t ready or deserving of fish. Deep down, I like to believe that I knew this, but I can’t be sure.

Day One: Rattlesnake Lake

Day One: Rattlesnake Lake

Having only fished a handful of times, I look back on my first outing with a good deal of gratitude. Rattlesnake Lake is where I first fly-fished, and rather fortuitously, where I first caught fish on a fly. This is now a historical fact that will remain throughout my fishing education. The experience was made possible by the patient support of experienced fishermen who offered up their time, advice and encouragement generously.

“You Could Always Pray”: Day One of Fly Casting

“You Could Always Pray”: Day One of Fly Casting

Feeling foolhardy, I met with a generous soul on the lawns of the Edgewater Apartments – a series of white-washed brick buildings that once served as army barracks – to make my first attempts at fly casting. My guide opened the trunk of his truck to reveal a few sets of fly rods, a kit of flies, books on fly fishing, and plenty of other gear that I had never encountered before.

Why Fly Fishing

Why Fly Fishing

Having only a romantic notion of “FLY-FISHING” running through my imagination, I am bent on learning the sport. If I can admit to one thing up front it is this: when I am bent on something, the borderline aggressive determination (also read: stubbornness) that tends to surface is something you’d not want to meet head-on as an opponent.

Ed Jasper: 1920-2014

I was seven years old when my family moved next door to Eddie Jasper.

Eddie had been there for a very long time: after serving in World War II, he built his house himself, with the help of a few friends. He and his family lived there for decades, which fortunately overlapped with the majority of my childhood and young adulthood.

Over the years, I learned and understood more about Eddie. Most of what I learned was transmitted through observation, as Eddie was not the type of man to tell you about what he’s done, unless you’re asking a pointed question. Instead, he was the one up before the rest of the block, mowing everyone’s lawn without hesitation. He was also the oldest man on the block – a fact that he didn’t seem to dwell on, and certainly not a fact that hindered his ambitions.

When I picture Eddie, I imagine him working in his yard. He was outside so often, in fact, that just about any time I went outside to play, I could hear him working – and he would always strike up a conversation over the fence, and he always had fresh raspberries from his yard to share.

I had been to Eddie’s house many times, often with my two younger sisters. For a few years, we were mostly encouraged to do so by my parents, who I imagine wanted us to be around Eddie for a number of reasons, one being that they hoped we would spend time with someone from another generation (my grandparents all live in Michigan, and this fact added to the cause). I recall fearfully knocking on the door – or forcing my sister to knock – before those initial visits. We were a little unsure about what to do once we were inside; we didn’t know what to expect from a man in his 80’s. Eddie always seemed amused at the sight of three girls sitting on his couch in a row, each of us sipping a Coke that he had brought out on a tin tray.

We began to anticipate an annual visit from Eddie over the holidays, when he would bring my sisters and me a Christmas gift. One year, the three of us each opened our own “Etch-A-Sketch,” and though I can’t put my finger on it precisely, the thought of this gift still makes me feel a little sad, if only for its sweetness, and the look of joy on Eddie’s face when the three of us opened the packages.

At a certain point, because I was the oldest, I was awarded the most “independent” of all bedrooms in our house - the only bedroom downstairs (and it took a year or so to get over my fears associated with what I presumed was a lack of safety because of its location). What I remember so well about the room that I spent much of my childhood in was not a feature of the room itself, but of something outside of the room. The window to Eddie’s sitting room was located just across from my bedroom window, and though the curtains were never pulled aside, Eddie always kept a lamp on, and I grew accustomed to the faint glow from the lamp just outside my own window.

While visiting from college one year, I brought a boyfriend home to meet my family. He must have been overwhelmed by the loud, quick chatter of sisters reunited after some time, because he slipped out of our house without our noticing. I went outside to find him sitting on Eddie’s porch, the two men enjoying a cold beer. They looked like old friends somehow, despite knowing each other for a few minutes. I held very still for a few moments as I watched them with appreciation, not wanting to interrupt the scene before me.

Throughout my time in college and especially in the years following my graduation, Eddie’s health began to decline – a looming reality that is inevitable – but also harder to understand when it befalls someone like Eddie. We all had an idea of him as someone who didn’t change much, seemed as though he could live forever, and could always take care of himself.

Of my whole family, my dad remained closest with Eddie. My dad has worked out of our house for years, and in this way, he and Eddie were always a few steps away from sharing a whiskey or lending a hand. Later in Eddie’s life, the roles shifted a bit more, and my dad did more of the helping between the two of them. One day, Eddie called my dad because he needed a “quick ride to the E.R., please.” Upon arriving at the roundabout outside of the E.R., Eddie attempted to leap out of the car and take care of the rest on his own, hardly allowing the vehicle to come to a stop. Fortunately, my father protested.

Shortly after my birthday this year, on October 21st, my father regretfully told me that Eddie had died that morning, at the age of 94. It had occurred to me in recent years that this could happen soon. I was sad in the ways that one expects: at the idea that we wouldn’t see him any longer, the thought of past memories and the past altogether, and by the overwhelming confusion of death. But there was something else about Eddie’s passing that has stayed with me, and it’s something that my father understood when he, a man of very few words on such matters, noted that losing Eddie was much like losing an important part of a truly great generation.

What stays with me is Eddie’s self-sufficiency, his ability to be tough as nails yet still beam at the sight of three little girls opening up their own Etch-A-Sketch toys, and his daily gratitude that allowed him to see the adventure within convention and enjoy every minute of it.

I believe that you can tell a lot about the collective integrity of a society based on how they respect their older generations - living or deceased. I hope I can carry a bit of what Eddie exemplified as a very small tribute to his life, his values, and his generation. 

I’m not a little girl anymore, but there is still a comforting glow from Eddie’s lamp that keeps me company – just in a different way.

Male-Identifying Literature & The Absence of the Female Explorer

I have seen the reflection of Slocum, Thoreau, in other young women – but there is often a stifled demeanor about it; something that pushes that adrenaline into dormant, safe territory.  Are we avoiding living, exploring, finding a way to express our own hunger?

Diversity: A Key Component for Thriving Startup Communities

As the dialogue around the lack of diversity in the startup world continues to evolve, I've wondered how the startup culture at large can begin to get closer to the root of the issue. Indeed, startup leaders and founders are not experts in sociology, but in the face of ample evidence that sexism and a lack of diversity altogether are a problem in the world of tech startups in particular, I believe that founders and community builders have a unique responsibility - and opportunity - to alter the future of startup communities and their narratives. 

Last year, UP Global, the non-profit that I work for, pledged to create 1,000 thriving startup communities around the world with the support of the United States Government and other key partners. This commitment was made in light of a gradual understanding that we've seen take hold over the years: capable entrepreneurs are more likely to emerge from strong, thriving communities. Yet, at the time that we made this commitment, we knew that the term "thriving" was highly subjective; how does one compare what success looks like to a community in metropolitan California when compared to a rural, fledgling community in Uganda? 

Realizing that each community faces unique challenges and possess important distinctions, it also became clear that there could be - and should be - certain factors that are important and relevant across the board. In my brief time as Director of our Startup Women initiative, which aims to create 1,500 female-led startup teams this year, I've begun to see how critical diversity is in building out strong teams - and perhaps even more so, in building strong communities. As UP Global hones in on the key factors that create truly thriving communities, we're recognizing a unique opportunity: what if each early-stage community that we aim to support makes a significant effort to integrate diversity strategies into their efforts? Imagine a world in which every community builder is keenly aware of the advantages that diversity presents. 

It may be overly optimistic, but if this awareness were to truly take hold, we could see diverse and strong startup communities emerging globally in the next 5-10 years alone. This impact would, by default, spur the creation of more diverse startup teams, if teams continue to be build from localized talent networks; and if these teams become more and more diverse, we will see the stories of entrepreneurs who were once deemed minorities gradually take hold in the mainstream discourse of what success looks like and who is behind the entrepreneurial movement at large.

In a recent post by Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, he writes, "Debating whether or not sexism actually exists trivializes the problem in a toxic way." Similarly, I believe that we are beyond the point of debating whether or not lack of diversity altogether is a problem in the startup world. Debates aside, we would do well to move forward in the direction of diverse communities as a way of enriching talent networks and reshaping the worn out process of creating founding teams from our most immediate, comfortable connections. 

Women in Entrepreneurship Emerging Globally from Gaza to Kiev

On June 19th, 150 Gazan women and men gathered for the fourth Startup Weekend Gaza – but this particular event promised the presence of at least 50% women, as one of the events participating in this year’s Startup Women initiative.

One woman in attendance was Mariam Abultewi, winner of the previous Startup Weekend event for her startup Wasselni, a taxi-ordering/carpooling app. Notably, Mariam is the first Gazan woman to receive startup funding – a feat that may offer inspiration to other young women evaluating the entrepreneurial leap.

The journey of the entrepreneur is a difficult one, and though her startup has been moving forward actively for about four months, she continues to face unique challenges including the eight-year, international blockade of the region following Hamas’ ascension to de-facto political control of the Gaza strip.

Additionally, Mariam has also faced difficulties that are largely tied to the basic fact that she is female; it took a long time to convince her father to approve of her decision to focus on her startup, but Mariam’s persistence led her to have her first solo traveling experience and convinced her father of the value of entrepreneurship – so much so that he is now considering starting his own venture, and has encouraged Mariam’s siblings to do so as well.

The Organizing team for Gaza Startup Weekend 4.0 (Mohammed AlAfranji, Nadine Badereddine, Alaa Saqer, Said Hassan, Iliana Montauk, and Mohammed Skaik) focused on marketing and outreach that welcomed more women to the event, and their efforts were successful: over 650 applications were received with 150 attendees selected, 71 people pitched and 26 were women, 25 startup teams formed, and 16 were led by women.

Since the launch of the Startup Women initiative, we’ve seen “Womens Edition” events take shape in communities all around the world; from Tokyo, to Kansas City, to Kiev. This year’s Startup Weekend Womens Edition in Kiev was made possible by a dedicated Organizing team who dealt with ongoing political upheaval and violent protest in the midst of preparation for the event.

“My story is about how one weekend changed my life,” Tetiana Siyanko, Co-Organizer of the Kiev event, said. “I want to help others make this leap.”

Equally encouraging is the constant support from men in communities around the world for a greater emphasis on welcoming women into the world of startups – or simply highlighting the stories of female entrepreneurs more intentionally. As Akram Dweikat, Gazan Startup Weekend Organizer, says: “My top priority is empowering women in my community.”

Stories like Tetiana and Mariam’s have altered the scope and potential of the Startup Women initiative significantly. Given the demand and passion of women in the entrepreneurial space, UP Global aims to seed 1,000 thriving startup communities internationally by 2016, and to focus on the unique barriers to women throughout this growth.

Taking on this goal also means that we are working to define thriving in tangible terms. Through initiatives like Startup Women, UP Global recognizes the critical challenge of ensuring that early-stage communities integrate diversity into their conception of “thriving.” This challenge demands an evolving dialogue around the value of diversity in innovation, and its solution stands to solidify the socio-economic legacy of start-up communities internationally.

My favorite moments from the 2014 UP Summit

This year, over 500 community leaders from over 75 countries gathered in Downtown Las Vegas, the startup hub of Nevada and product of Tony Hsieh's vision for a bustling entrepreneurial community. With the Las Vegas strip just about 10 minutes away, the downtown startup hustle and energy provided a powerful juxtaposition to the typical features of "The Strip." In just a few days, the UP Global community gathered to share best practices, stories of failure and success, party, explore, and connect over a common interest in bettering the world through the transformative power of entrepreneurship.

At one point, I was fortunate enough to hear the story of one young woman who has dedicated her life to innovating education in New York. As we filmed her recounting her narrative, she teared up describing the opportunities that her mother fought to give her in the form of education. Today, she is a leader and advocate in the ed-tech space in New York, hosting Startup Education events and consulting with early education startups to help change the face of the industry and, as she puts it, "make education accessible to everyone, and not as a result of luck."

Another community leader stopped me to tell me how important it was that New Zealand build the strongest possible group around innovation and opportunity. "Our country is small, but we have some of the most passionate people around, and we've hosted more events than many other much larger countries." In every person I had the opportunity to speak with, this same sense of pride and ownership came through; people expressed, over and over, that their personal success rested in the publicsuccess of their own community. This narrative of sacrifice and leadership is powerful to see in just one person -- but try being around 500 of these leaders at once. It is inevitably a disruptive and exciting experience.

For me, the most rewarding moment came at the Startup Women dinner, which I had been working on with a few fantastic co workers for months. I feared that the message of inclusion and collaboration would be lost over assumptions that the initiative was just "another women-only thing." I underestimated the positive outlook of the community, though, and was blown away by the support that I witnessed at this particular event; men and women both opted to attend this dinner to show their passion around the subject. One community leader from Seattle -- a young man -- came up to me and said, "I elected to attend this dinner because I think this topic is the most important." Another leader from Palestine - another young man - came up to me to say, "Helping more women become leaders in my community is my top priority." Hearing this, and looking out at the crowd of engaged community members and genuinely concerned, invested, and optimistic people - I was filled with a type of hope for real change to unfold as a result of our work together. After studying gender and society for years now, I have been all-too familiar with feelings of resentment, even anger, as I try to understand how to evoke change around me; but this gathering and the sentiments shared by everyone there proved to me that we have a rare opportunity to make a real dent. We don't have time to be angry, we must keep working and show others how we work.

Photo from the Startup Women dinner 

Photo from the Startup Women dinner 

I would be dishonest if I said I wasn't ready to go home at the end of this whirlwind: it was probably one of the most exhausting things I've ever done, both physically and mentally. But this type of exhaustion is inevitable when you've just spent time with genuine, committed people in a hyper-social atmosphere, and it is all worth it for the experience of sharing what you are passionate about, learning about new people and new communities, and looking for ways to take action today for a better future.

Girls Who Read | Rosemarie Urquico

"Date a Girl Who Reads" by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who reads understands that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

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Preserving Our Sense of Wonder

There is a forgotten and quiet promise that someday, we might exceed clever and become wise. I think that when we do, it will be clear that we should have honored our innocence more.

Despite the facade of at-times brash essay writing, I am consistently gullible when in personal conversation and have been referred to a number of times as “innocent.” This is specifically in response to the way that I seem genuinely and even alarmingly “amazed” by seemingly trite ideas or news. I am always surprised by this, because I, like most people who have exceeded their teenage years, don’t feel innocent, and a part of me always longs for the simplicity and clarity of being a child. A clean slate. But the sentiment remains, and it causes me to wonder why this would stand out to others or surprise them in any way.

More broadly speaking, I fear a constant shift in my own generation and I harbor pangs of guilt and protection when I witness the experiences of my 16-year-old sister, who I dare say is a great deal more innocent than the common 16-year-old (and I say this with every bias imaginable). The shift that I fear, alongside this protective instinct, is a suspicion and observational understanding that we - all of us - are dealing with too many opportunities to not be innocent - to compromise our authentic, childlike sense of the world. There is no one reason; the list is long - but the usual suspects are what you might expect: media, technology, capitalism …

Innocence is so challenging because it is not something that we can build up through experience. We must instead preserve innocence and prevent grime from attaching itself to our innocent spirit - and we must avoid actions that might chip away at that core of our selves.  In my own experience, I think what people point out to me is not so much innocence, but rather a mentality that resembles wonder - and which has to do with poetry, of all things. So let us move away from this idea of innocence, for it is too riddled with semiotic residue, and instead consider WONDER. For the purpose of this essay:

Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. "He had stood in front of it, observing the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child"

We live in an era of hyper exposure and ‘online presence,’ hyper sexuality, and the deteriorating effects of not needing patience -- we simply do not need to wait for anything anymore. Not one thing. Technology and capitalism, formidably wedded, have made our lives so convenient that we need not wait or save or have any sense of gradual understanding or patience. This is a powerful force, especially when attached to our pre-existing glorification of youth.  To summarize: our love for immediacy, rapid reward, and youth are all very much linked. These ‘rewards’, this ‘speed’ also means that we are losing our sense of wonder.  If we never need to wait, and we strive always to be youthful, beautiful, agile … how will we a) pay attention to the mundane, lovely in its own right, b) cope with aging c) maintain any sense of appreciation, gratitude for our world and d) hold on to our innocence, which makes us so much more equipped to understand beauty.

In college, I turned a corner into the world of poetry and felt that I was locating, for the first time in such depth, a new dimension of existing that allowed me to protect my own sense of wonder. I think poetry is the key element in my life that makes me feel innocent, even as I greedily seek out new experiences. Poetry demands wonder in order to function; poetry is the effort of appreciating or striving to understand even the mundane in its glory - not in its lack of excitement. There is glory in our fingers wrapped around a warm cup of tea. There is glory in the wrinkles around our eyes when we smile. Poetry suggests, again and again: you are human, and the world you are in is rich beyond our understanding, but never beyond our capacity to feel.

When I consider the attack on innocence and wonder,  I think of the potential of poetic mentality. I understand that poetry feels inaccessible to many, and I am not so obtuse as to not see why - but the broad decline in poetry’s role as a key cultural artifact is what really unsettles me. In other words, I do not know what has replaced poetry. What is the modern artifact that tells us about our own human nature? Is there one?

Releasing crabs and lobster into the ocean with my sister, after insisting that we rescue them from a tank at our local grocery store.

Releasing crabs and lobster into the ocean with my sister, after insisting that we rescue them from a tank at our local grocery store.

I love this game.

I love this game. I'm conscious enough to know that this sensation is fueled largely by an irrational reaction to environment, upbringing, culture, exposure, and the most romantic nostalgia I can conjure up in my mind...but I can't help it: I'm an irrational human being and the thought of baseball stirs up something in my gut. 

For Peter Doumit, it’s something like this:

Baseball is such a game of hope. Anything can happen — and often does — usually in the most tension-filled times. Maybe your team is up by a run or two with only three outs to get. Why does it seem that those three outs are always the toughest three to get? Or maybe you are on the other side of the ledger with your team being down a run or two with three outs to go. Doesn’t hope spring eternal if you get a base runner or two on?

It’s all this, and it’s much more.

All is Right Again

I can count on Opening Day. Each year, in early Spring, it’s going to be Opening Day. This day is one that I look forward to in ways that most would anticipate a holiday, and for me, it exceeds that type of expectation, because Opening Day also promises a long, long summer of this beautiful game being played in some of the most iconic establishments across the United States — ballparks. I’m going to go ahead and say that part of the reason everyone loves Summer is because it’s dipped in the honey of baseball. If you disagree, I think you’re missing something big here.

The baseball fan this morning awoke from a long Winter’s sleep, stretched his arms, yawned and frightened the neighborhood trying out the rusty pipes of his vocal chords. 
— New York Times, 1911.

I know I’m not alone with these sentiments. In a recent article touching on this same theme, a baseball believer goes so far as to describe the meaning of Opening Day with a religious lens, “It can’t be an accident that baseball always starts around the time of both Easter and Passover and thus ‘elicits a sense of renewal.’ For the faithful, it means that ‘the long dark nights of winter are over’ and ‘the slate is clean.’ All teams, the exalted and lowly alike, ‘are tied at zero wins and zero losses.’” It’s how Opening Day has always been, and always will be.

The ‘Greats’ are Greater

Baseball heroes are able to be a different type of hero. Like any man-made institution, baseball has had plenty of flaws — and there are far too many examples of individuals who have degraded the game. But those who we can still point to as heroic seem to embody an added class. There’s a new expectation from this fan-to-player relationship that marks certain figures in baseball as timeless and classic. Trades in baseball seem to cut a little deeper for this reason; we expect a certain loyalty from our heroes, and a trade can feel like a slap in the face — a mark of betrayal towards the team, the city, the fans, the game. From Ty Cobb to Shoeless Joe Jackson to Jackie Robinson to Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. — we all have our favorites, and they aren’t always the most polished characters — but it would be strange if they were. We don’t anticipate perfect manners or gracefulness in demeanor, but when it comes to the field, a new type of class and grace emerges, and iconic figures are quickly born within the constraints and nobility of the rules.

Love the One You’re With

I love baseball in general, but I grew up and live in Seattle, so I also must love the Mariners — no matter what. Some might scoff at their overall “success,” but I know, because I was here, that there are a few things that can cultivate a lifelong Mariners fan.

1995

I was six years old when I was swept up in a love for baseball. Anyone in Seattle in 1995 could probably say the same — and if it didn’t introduce a love for the game, it renewed a dormant one. The drama of ‘95 captivated fans, and I don’t know if Seattle has ever been more supportive of a sports team.

In May of ‘95, Griffey went after a ball that threatened to soar over the centerfield fence — he caught the ball, but shattered his wrist. This incident went down as one of the most memorable Griffey moments in Seattle, but it also kept him on the bench for 73 games.

But it was the legendary 1995 Wild Card selection and post-season that stands out most for fans. This felt like the last shot for the team, and pressure was building; it was increasingly clear that management was on the cusp of taking the team apart and looking to ‘96 for better luck. Lou Piniella, now a manager of the M’s for three years, is remembered for his strategic vision in this critical window of opportunity. Piniella rallied the team and brought on three new players to finish out the regular season — Coleman, Charlton, and Benes.

Griffey’s wrist healed just enough to get back in the game in mid-August, and the Mariners’ luck began to turn around. After an epic series win against the Yankees that month, the Mariners went on a winning streak to close out the season that made the phrase “Refuse to Lose” famous among Seattleites. The Mariners climbed the ranks until they were tied in regular season wins with the Angels (a team they were behind by 11 1/2 games not long ago). The pieces continued to stack up. The tie meant that the two teams would battle in a one-game playoff that would crown the division leader. This game proved to be a true pitcher’s duel, and Langston and Johnson held on to near perfection for most of the game; Langston allowed one run and Johnson pitched a perfect game until the 6th inning. In the 7th inning, the Mariners were able to load the bases for Luis Sojo, who hit a ground ball that got away. The Kingdome erupted; every single base runner scored. The Mariners took the division title with a 9-1 win.

It seemed that the ‘95 season would hit a pinnacle moment only to build up even more excitement and tension for the next challenge. In the postseason, everything came down to a final incredible playoff series against a despised rival of the Mariners — The Yankees. The story seemed to unfold like a well-crafted novel, robust with colorful heroes in the form of Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson. The rest fell into place: The final chance, the enemy, the strategy, the prize in sight.

The series went into game five, closing on what has to be one of the most incredible moments I’ve been alive to experience on some level. In the 11th inning, Joey Cora made it onto first base as the game-tying run. Griffey, up next, made it onto first and Cora found his way to third — two men on base, Griffey the potential game-winning run. Here’s where anyone can predict, or hope for, a legendary baseball moment — the game is anyone’s: Edgar is up to bat, everything is at stake. Martinez connected with the third pitch. Cora came in to tie the game, and Griffey raced the incoming throw to home plate in their last shot for the win. The throw was late — Griffey found his way home, and the scene is something I’ll never forget. Griffey’s hero’s welcome at home plate went down in history as one of the best moments in Seattle baseball. For nearly 20 years, a newspaper clipping of this moment was displayed proudly in my home (before it organically deteriorated, essentially). When I think about baseball, this image surfaces quickly — Griffey’s famous grin, lit up beneath a pile of his teammates. It is this image that, for me and many others, marks so much of what it is to love the Mariners — the underdog team that rallied and rewarded everyone with a piece of history.

The 1995 Mariners were the first Mariners to make the playoffs, beating a team they should have lost to in order to get there.

2001

With 116 wins and an incredible lineup of talent, the 2001 team, and season, was one that rejuvenated baseball in Seattle. For the six-year-old who barely understood the magic of 1995, 2001 gave me a conscious, deep love of the game itself. I recall being asked by my teacher to stand up to my 6th grade class and explain exactly what was “at stake” and what strategies the M’s were likely going to deploy in order to close out a particularly nerve-racking inning during the season — a game that played off of a classroom computer, the expected lecture halted for the period. Standing up to discuss the “6-4-3″ play for my classmates was genuinely important to me… As a pre-teen who still fell into a “tomboy” category, the Mariners were a point of pride, and this was our season — and I was prepared to convert anyone I encountered who saw otherwise.

2001 marked the debut of Ichiro, who quickly became another Seattle hero. Ichiro appealed to a wide fan base, and it seemed that children were discovering baseball in a new way — and adults were awakened to rally behind a team and a sport that had existed dormantly in their minds and hearts for some time. Ichiro’s debut was exciting to watch, but the entire team that season came together in a rare, cohesive way; I don’t know when we will see another team quite like this. Brett Boone, Carlos Guillen, Mike Cameron, Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson … Edgar Martinez — the list goes on.

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For years now, it seems there’s always a lot of talk and skepticism about our poor odds for a solid season. I’d argue that there’s plenty we still and always will have, always plenty to look forward to — and I know that negativity won’t be the fuel that gets us anywhere.

Here’s what we have that can’t be taken away.

  1. We can forget trades for a moment and look to the ‘Greats’ of the past and present: Johnson, Martinez, Griffey, and many more. Keeping them alive, giving a nod to the past is part of what fuels the love for the game itself, and regardless of where a beloved Mariner hero is now, it will always be true that they once wore the jersey, and so they always are a Mariner.
  2. We can and should celebrate our unique heroes — both on and off the field. Seattle was lucky to have an off-field hero in Dave Niehaus until 2010. His voice and spirit embodied the Mariners as a team and stayed with fans through every season, every game. His famous lines, “My oh my” or “Bring out the rye bread” are embedded into my memories of baseball, as they are for many. You can hear some of his best moments here.
  3. We can appreciate the small, but powerful, elements of baseball that are easily overlooked. The next time you find yourself at a game, think about the perfection of the field, the history of the sport, its place in American culture, the simple but rewarding time spent watching a graceful sport unfold with a beer in your hand. That’s a great day, and that’s there for us regardless of scorecard.
  4. The fans who keep showing up. Seattle is a younger city, and a very young team — but we aren’t a dead fan base; we are more dormant, curious than anything, and we can do better — but it doesn’t mean we aren’t here. As young as the Mariners are, everyone should know our best legends and eagerly look to the next ‘95 or 2001.
  5. We can let go of pride or skepticism and dwell in possibility instead — and the felt fact that baseball is a sport that deals in hope.

I can’t predict what this season or next season or any season after will look like for the Mariners or any other team — no one can — and that is one of the best things about baseball. It’s unpredictable, it allows for rallies, it let’s mental focus and strategy into a physical game. Perhaps best of all, there’s always room for an underdog to disappoint the bets -- whether you’re up one run in the 9th and holding your breath for your relief pitcher or you’re behind two runs with two men on base and a promising rookie up to bat -- it’s about hope.

Why We All Need To Start Thinking Like Entrepreneurs

I am writing from a predictable, sheltered background. I have always calculated risks, hesitated before taking action, made thousands of lists, worked to please others, and strived to fit into a societal expectation of what it means to be successful. I’ve studied hard in order to reflect my intelligence in numbers, taken all the standardized tests, even considered law school (largely for “security” reasons). It’s fair to say that I have a history of obsessive planning and commitment to safety.