By Bradley Lane
Secret Base, formerly known as SB Nation, is a media company that started as a single blog focused on the Oakland Athletics, but quickly blossomed into a successful network of regional blogs and most importantly to this article, a YouTube channel. This Youtube channel is contributed by numerous talented sports writers, but none creating more interesting
work than Jon Bois. However, to categorize Bois as a sports writer is to wildly understate his talents in contextualizing statistical data in sports as profoundly human events. This can be seen throughout his work at Secret Base, but none as sweepingly massive as his 2020 miniseries, The History of the Seattle Mariners.
This documentary mini-series recaps the Seattle Mariners entire existence as a team from their inception in 1977 all the way up to the time of production, 2019. However, that isn’t even the full story as Jon Bois has a wonderful tendency to view sports narratives as a long series of dominoes: zooming out to a birds eye view of cause and effect that makes every twist and turn feel like the universe is either working for, or more often against, the Mariners’ organization. This even manifests itself in the structure of the miniseries, as all six episodes slowly develop a massive infographic that tracks the Mariners struggled existence.
This approach to storytelling is what separates The History of the Seattle Mariners and most of Bois’ work from other sports docs. There is no high-profile talking heads interview to get the raw emotion and intimate details of the events described; rather, Bois and Secret Base contributor, Alex Rubenstein, narrate the series themselves. This allows for a different type of storytelling to emerge, a story that does not have a clear narrative.
To make conventional sports documentaries, even great ones, the chaotic and unpredictable world of professional sports is often contorted into neat packages to appeal to audiences’ narrative sensibilities. But very rarely is the real story as neat as the documentary makes it out to be and almost never is that narrative without some amount of flubbing of the facts. However, Bois embraces this chaos rather than shy away from it which informs the documentary’s constant irreverent
comedic tone. This approach is taken so seriously that in one or two instances when it seems like a convenient narrative is developing, Bois quickly and intentionally dismisses it by introducing the next plot point.
What makes The History of the Seattle Mariners special is that you do not need to care about baseball, or even sports at all, to care about the plights of Seattle’s pro baseball team. The plot developments move past baseball to tell a story that is funny, very weird, somewhat heartfelt but mostly, distinctively and unquestionably human. The History of the Seattle Mariners is available to stream for free on Secret Base’s YouTube channel in a six part episodic series.