I haven't been bothered by a game like I have been by this one in a long time. Not even That Game last year at PNC. You know the one. Pirates had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Nobody out. Three batters all struck out. That was maddening. That was frustrating. The sweep at the hands of the Royals. Maddening. Frustrating. Blowing that huge lead against the D-Backs earlier this season? Maddening. Frustrating.
But it didn't eat at me like this one. We can't just lose a game. We have to come up with a brand new way to do it. Maybe I've got a guy like Matt Capps on too much of a pedestal, but he quite literally is the only relief pitcher Pirates fans are comfortable with. The only one!! And he was busting his ass out there in what had to be an immensely pressure-filled situation, and was just absolutely let down.
I think yesterday's draft is more responsible for this feeling than the game itself. But to follow that godawful performance with this immense dissappointment tonight? My wife's described my Pirates' fandom as something similar to a battered wife/abusive husband relationship, and that analogy might be overstating it just a tad, but how long can I (we) put up with this? The failures, the abuse (of our pocketbooks!!), the neglect, and the occassional, faint, just-enough-to-bring-you-back hope that maybe, just maybe, they're turning things around.
I've long thought that I never really can give up on the Pirates. I identify my childhood extremely closely with my love of baseball. Baseball was my childhood, and of course the Pirates were the team I chose. To give up on the Pirates is to cut ties with my childhood, and I just can't bring myself to do it. I know sports fans like to talk about the "pain" of defeat, but to do that would, I think, be something painful to me.
I can't give up on the Pirates because I want to be a little kid again. My first baseball game was freaking Game Three of the 1992 NLCS. I want to be in the stands again the next time the Pirates enjoy glory again. I can't just leave and come back. That wouldn't be right. I know that if the Pirates ever rose again, and I had quit on them (and on myself), I wouldn't be able to truly enjoy that triumph.
I'm rambling uncontrollably now. I am intrigued by sociological study of sport, specifically that modern sport is an awful lot like religion. The symbols, the "saints", the leaders, the congregations. I almost feel like ditching the Pirates would be harder than converting my religion. I can withhold my money from the McNuttings. But I can't withhold my fandom from the Pirates.
I always get overwhelmingly sad whenever I sit and think about sports and myself this way. I just want to be a happy little kid again. I want to sit in the "cheap" outfield seats at Game Three surrounded by a bunch of other little kids, both literal and figurative, and watch my boyhood heros win. And I honestly get a bit choked up that it really doesn't seem like I'll ever feel that feeling again. This hopelessness is stifling.