When I was a kid that was a statement parents made (when you lost) but it never really resonated with most of us. Back then we all knew the truth. If winning didn't matter they wouldn't keep score. Somehow, that cliché has become relevant and for 20 years our very own Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen victim to it.
But alas, it’s that time of year – again. The Bucs are playing well and in contention. This time feels better than last time. This year seems like the year. To be fair last year felt better than the previous year and the year before that might have felt better than the year before it… But after 20 years of this; it is difficult to know up from down and hope from genetically inherited fandom.
I was Willie Stargell’s paper boy – literally. I remember tossing the paper on his porch wondering if he noticed my arm strength but not bold enough to hit the door with a thud. He had an “S” in his driveway formed by bricks set into the concrete, and as far as I knew an “S” on his chest. Being a Pirate fan is in my DNA. I had all the gear – from infancy through the early years of the Pirate depression. I got all the bats from the bat days before bats were weapons. I collected all the cards before they took the gum away. I threw sidearm like Tekulve. Thought Sister Sledge must have been a Pittsburgh Group. And, despite the dark days, I've never lost my love for the team. I was at PNC Park on its opening day. I was there when Three Rivers exploded. My children only support Pittsburgh teams though in baseball they have never seen a winning season. I tell them to just believe as I reminisce about the gory days. I have kept my end of the bargain. Yet, I’m still haunted by Sid Bream’s quickness, mirroring that of Jason in Friday the 13th – slow but somehow faster than you want. I run but his ghost is always there…
I moved from Pittsburgh because of life’s circumstances shortly after Sid’s slide. Like the superstition of not watching a game somehow having an impact on the game I thought my moving away caused the Buco demise. I moved back for a few years to test that theory before being pulled me away again – this time with the full understanding my moving had little impact on the team.
Today, June 10th 2013 we are eleven (yes 11) games above 500 and seem to be playing quality ball. We have the 3rd best record in the National League (5th best in baseball). We are tied with the Yankees… The Yankees! The Steelers of Baseball. We are not exceeding our potential or playing above our ability. It might even be fair to think some of our stars are playing smaller than they should or could. But, what can we… what can I… make of the 2013 Pirates. Is Lucy standing by to pull the ball away again? Does the cruel joke have more low-blow punch lines?
Can I really hope again? Should I honestly believe again? Can winning and losing matter again? Or, should I just be happy they are playing the game?