Every so often, sports in the City of Pittsburgh are kind of depressing. If you remember the mid-to-late 80's, every pro team in town was either mediocre or less than that.
The 90's and the 00's were great for Pittsburgh sports fans, complete with many postseason appearances, eight championship appearances and five parades.
Heck, even the Pitt Panthers men's basketball program became one of the better ones in the nation for a decade, and the football team even made it to the Fiesta Bowl, one time.
Sadly, now, the cupboard is a bit bare, these days.
While the Penguins are certainly one of the more talented teams in the NHL, they haven't had a ton of playoff success in recent years. And if you were at Heinz Field on Labor Day for the Panthers' ACC football debut against Florida State, well, let's just say the handful of coaching changes in a short period of time are probably going to delay hopes of a BCS bid anytime soon.
Speaking of Heinz Field, if you were there again this past Sunday and watched the Steelers in their season opener, you may have been tempted to call Vegas and place a wager on the team suffering its worst year since 1988, when 5-11 was "the standard."
Yes, it really could be that bad for the local pro football team this year. You know, the one we Pittsburghers can usually depend on to give us something to believe in when the hockey team loses to the Canadiens in the playoffs, the Panthers football team blows a three game lead in the conference standings, or Jamie Dixon's charges lose to Butler in the second round of the NCAA tournament, despite being a No. 1 seed.
In a Season 1 episode of Hawaii Five O (the original, starring the awesome Jack Lord), Steve McGarrett is critically shot, and it's up to his second in command, Detective Danny "Danno" Williams to, not only find the man who shot his boss, but also protect the state of Hawaii from the usual day-to-day criminal activity.
At the end of the episode, after Williams spends some time in his boss's shoes and also finds his attacker, he visits an improving McGarrett in the hospital and says, "You've got a lot on your shoulders in your position, Steve." And McGarrett says, "You're going to have to carry the load for a while, there, Danno."
And that brings me to our Pittsburgh Pirates.
I didn't even include them in the discussions of poor play of teams in recent years, because they've been so far off the radar for most of the past two decades (they had nothing to do with any of those five championship parades), a bad baseball season was almost an afterthought.
But now, things have changed. Thanks to a great rebuilding job by Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington, the Pirates are officially winners again for the first time since September 12, 1992.
With 19 games remaining, Pittsburgh is a game back in the National League Central and comfortably in front for one of the two wild card spots. A postseason berth is almost inevitable, but the Pirates have been floundering a bit. Despite their impressive 82-61 record, they've been playing .500 ball for about nine weeks, and even though the Buccos have acquired some nice pieces in Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, they appear to be walking to the playoffs and not sprinting.
But the opportunity is still there for a great October. Yes, I'll be jumping up and down when Pittsburgh officially clinches a playoff spot, later this month. But the Pirates will most likely have the spotlight all to themselves, come October, and it's a golden opportunity to give the City of Pittsburgh memories that will last forever.
That's what the playoffs are for.
The Steelers probably aren't going to leave us with any great memories this year, and we're a good eight or nine months away from the Penguins potentially creating any postseason magic.
It's up to you, Pirates. It's a heavy load, but maybe you're going to have to carry it for a while.
Let's Go Bucs!