Ah, baseball. It’s America’s pastime sport, the harbinger of spring and summer and the sport that usually conjures up happy memories of being in the ballpark, eating hot dogs and cheering at the crack of a bat as your team wins the game. Today’s my team’s opening day. Odds are, they’ll lose. And they’ll have a losing season. Because my team…is the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For baseball fans, I’ll give you a moment to laugh at me. For others who don’t know, this is a serious disease I have.
If you know me, you know that I live and breathe Pittsburgh. I bleed black and gold. Anything that could possibly have anything to do with Pittsburgh, I’m immediately in love with it and buying it roses and chocolates and asking it to marry me. Pittsburgh prides itself on its sports teams. There are the six-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers (who I’m not talking to right now because of the idiocy and stupidity of Roethlisberger and Holmes. For them, I feel shame.) who the city bends over backwards for and has a wonderful family, the Rooneys, who owns them and have become gods of the NFL on their own accord.
Pittsburgh is also the home of the Penguins hockey team, a force to be reckoned with especially come playoff time with hockey-legends-in-the-making Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The two men who own the Penguins have saved this team from bankruptcy and moving. One of them, Mario Lemieux, is another god in Pittsburgh–the man who led the team to two Stanley Cups in his playing days, to buying the team, to making all the right moves, to owning a Stanley Cup winning team of just this past year.
Obviously, as you can see, I can go on and on and on about these two teams. But there is a third team. And the real focus of this story.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are the baseball team. Really, at this point, that’s about all most sportscasters and reporters can (barely) say with a smile on their face. But for me, the Pirates are the first Pittsburgh team I truly loved. I was started at the age of 3-4 hitting the wiffle ball at the local park with my dad. I LOVED the Pirates. I even had a kids’ book about Roberto Clemente, an incredible right fielder who played for the Pirates before he passed away in a plane crash (delivering supplies to an earthquake ravaged Nicaragua, his home country. I know, right? Canonize the man.). I listen to the radio announcement of Mazeroski hitting that home run over Forbes Field’s wall with the biggest grin on my face. I smile every time I hear that the Honus Wagner baseball card went for some extraordinary sum being the most expensive baseball card ever simply because he’s wearing a Pirates uniform in that card. I went to a season opener at Three Rivers Stadium when I was so, so young and I believe that PNC Park is the most breathtaking stadium I’ve ever been in of any sport.
The thing is…the Pirates have had losing seasons for a while. 17 years to be exact. To put this in perspective, they haven’t had a winning season since I was 7.
That’s a long, effing time to be the fan of a losing team.
Time and time again, the Pirates consistently play under .500 ball and end up either at the bottom of their division or damn close to it. The management and ownership are idiots who couldn’t run a baseball team out of a paper bag. They trade away all the good talent that we’ve had for prospects that will “blossom” in 2-3 years but never actually seems to happen. They dismantle the team year after year. I could list all the great talent they’ve traded away, but I don’t think the Internet has enough room for all that. They consistently have the lowest paid roster of anyone in MLB, with its payroll at $35.6 million, which, to quote this awesome article from the Post-Gazette, “management attributes to youth but which many fans attribute to prioritizing profits over winning. And that young roster will get even younger by mid-summer, when the next wave of prospects is due.”
Recently, to add insult to injury, the golden, godly owners of the Penguins made an offer to buy the team. The owner, Bob Nutting (and I’ll refrain from using my other name for him just so you know), told them thanks, but no thanks. He seems to be under this idea that he and the GM Neal Huntington have got all this under control and the Pirates will be winning again soon before you know it.
Oy. I think THIS someecard says it best:
I can’t say that the Pirates and the Pirates alone have had my undivided devotion. You have to remember, around the time that the Pirates started losing, a young, charismatic shortstop by the name of Derek Jeter started playing for the Yankees (1995). So, I’ve been foolishly the fan of the Yankees for the briefest period of time. I even briefly hopped on the Red Sox bandwagon when they won their World Series in 2004. These are moments of weakness. You’d have them too if your team couldn’t play .500 ball. The Pirates have made me apathetic to baseball over the years.
Now, you can imagine that when I say delusional in my blog title, it means that I’m delusional in being a fan of this team for so long. Actually, what it means is…I firmly believe that THIS IS THE YEAR.
At this point in time, anyone who knows baseball and is still laughing over the fact that I’m a fan of this team has just died from laughing too much.
My optimism is at an all time high. Never before have I truly 100% believed that they could have a winning season until this year. I realized today that this year is the 50th anniversary of the legendary home run that sealed the deal in the 1960 World Series. Maybe some good mojo will finally come to the Pirates because of this. It’s going to be the year. It has to be. I bet on it. No, seriously. I did.
Let me explain. The benefit of having a losing team means that you can have a healthy wager going down on whether or not you’ll have a winning season. The two lovely ladies of That’s Church and Burgh Baby have thrown a contest their readers’ way on the outcome of this season. Ginny, of That’s Church, is driving the bus that I’ll be on this year. As you can imagine, Michelle from Burgh Baby is thinking that she’s drinking the Kool-Aid way too early. They both set up a friendly competition where people can place $5 on whichever side and no matter what, the money goes to kids (‘Burghers are so awesome.). Appropriately titled Make Room for Crazy, this has made it incredibly easy for me to show my Pirate love especially since if they win, I could win prizes (What?).
I won’t be surprised if you think I’m completely crazy. Me last year would have agreed with you. But there’s something in the air this year. Or maybe the Kool-Aid. Either way, I’m running with it and showing my love more than I ever have.
So today, I’ll be wearing my Pirates shirt and hoping for the start of a crazy, magical year.