Regarding 82 wins: I'm not used to caring about the Pirates. I mean, I care, obviously. I wouldn't have done this for nine-plus years -- so far -- if I didn't. But I'm used to watching baseball through the cracks between my fingers. I'm used to rooting for this Pirates player but not that Pirates player, because I want the idiot GM to learn a lesson for once about why signing that Pirates player was stupid. I'm used to watching the game, or reading about the trade, and then shutting my computer and putting it behind me.
The Pirates' losing streak has lasted more than half my life. I haven't spent that time being miserable, and I hope that, for your own sakes and for the sakes of those around you, you haven't either. Baseball is, fundamentally, a made-up game played by grown men wearing pajamas while trying to hit a ball with a stick. It's important to us, for all kinds of valid cultural and evolutionary reasons. But there are many things in life that are more important. There haven't been many good things about the streak, but maybe it's helped some of us learn to put sports in perspective.
So: I'm a Pirates fan. I'm a big Pirates fan. But I'm used to my fandom being selective. Not this year, I'll think, but maybe three years from now. Not Randall Simon, but maybe Craig Wilson. Not Dave Littlefield, but maybe someone else, someday. I learned to take pleasure in smaller things than victories, and in vague dreams about the future, and I could do it even when the Pirates didn't win. What I'm not used to is unironic, uncomplicated joy, largely because I've blocked out its opposite as well. These last 20 years have been difficult. Even writing about the team has often felt like a ridiculous, fruitless enterprise, and if I hadn't known how to step back a bit from the reality of losing, I wouldn't have continued to write.
In my recap tonight, I wrote that the end of the streak felt great. Just 45 minutes later, I'm thinking that might have been an (unintentional) exaggeration. Or maybe I'm just having a hard time coming to terms with this. But the truth is that, when the Pirates recorded their last out this evening, not much happened. I felt unburdened, to a degree. But it was mostly just a fist pump, and then back to work. And that's okay. The Pirates have much more to achieve, and if they win a World Series this year -- and that's still possible -- I'd like a stock of amazing feelings in the warehouse, just in case.
In the meantime, I'm proud to announce that I'm writing a book about Pirates fans, and it will be out early in the 2014 season. I've been working on it since last June. I would have written it anyway, but with the Pirates having a surprisingly great year, I've lucked into a fantastic story. I've done probably about 100 interviews with Pirates fans over Skype and at PNC Park and PirateFest, and I've also talked to radio personalities, bloggers, sports psychologists, and fans of similarly sad-sack teams like the Royals, Orioles and Browns. I'm trying to figure out what kept us going during the streak, and how we feel about it now that it's over. I'll issue a more formal announcement later, but in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled.