“The Seattle Mariners are eminently lovable, profoundly human, and stunningly, outrageously weird.” These words come courtesy of Jon Bois, writer, editor, animator, producer, and director of the idiosyncratic and extraordinarily engaging The History of the Seattle Mariners. He’s describing its subject, but he might as well be describing the project itself, a sprawling, intensely funny, and engrossing sports documentary that also happens to be an internet-spawned evolution of documentary form, not to mention an emotional experience unlike any other on the subject you’re likely to encounter. Initially presented as a miniseries of Bois’ and co-writer Alex Rubenstein’s Youtube series Dorktown, and here cut into a 3-hour-40-minute whole, the film treats audiences not only to a thorough reckoning with a sports team’s frequently heartbreaking record, but also to the ridiculous personalities behind it; peppered throughout are absurd stories, like the time a cow was smuggled into the manager’s office or when a hotel room’s entire contents were clandestinely emptied or the equally moving microtales of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 43-hour solo drive from Seattle to Tampa, just because he was lonely. This monument is assembled almost entirely of statistics, very occasionally supplemented with archival footage of actual sporting events, and featuring zero talking heads. The visual scheme is that of a massive chart, with a virtual camera careening through its many subsets as if they were structures set in their own landscape, and the endless synth music seems to echo off the windows of these skyscrapers of data. You’ve never seen sports the way Bois sees sports, but we should all learn to.
Published as part of Top 25 Films of 2020 — 25-11.