Boredom (n): the state of being bored. That’s straightforward enough, but we probably all already knew what the word “boredom” meant. Presently, we live in a world where you have the right — and often the ability — to avoid boredom. We have thousands of options, or more, with every entertainment choice we make. From Netflix and Hulu to WatchESPN and the MLB.tv app — and many more — choices are catered to us at every turn, offering our interests on a platter.
That brings us to Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball. As I write this, the Pirates are 23-35, 9.5 games back in the division, with a -75 run differential. We all knew this season was a wash to begin with. We all knew that if we were going to be engaged with a team expected to lose 100 games, we would have to look for individual storylines. That’s obviously still the case.
Potential storylines notwithstanding — and there are some, admittedly — are you bored?
In Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special Inside, in a sinister-looking, carnival-barker style song, Burnham claims, “Apathy’s a tragedy and boredom is a crime.” What I’ve come to see regarding the Pirates for the last five or so years are: 1) Apathy; 2) Boredom. So I ask again, though a little differently: Are you committing a tragic crime? Simply put, are you apathetic and bored with the Pirates?
Are you bored with the Pirates?
This poll is closed
Ask me again in two months
Are you apathetic towards the Pirates?
This poll is closed
Ask me again in two months
Those questions, while bleak, seem necessary to answer. I have no obligation to pump up the organization like the broadcasters do; I have no financial incentive to rouse the fanbase and attract more attention to the club like the marketing department does. I ask those questions because I frequently see those sentiments expressed on social media. “I’m done” is common; “Nutting is cheap”; “When is ‘X’ gonna be traded to the Yankees?”
Try being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan your whole life https://t.co/Bj9QHwT7rI— joe (@JoeyRaible12) June 7, 2021
The perennial punchline of Major League Baseball’s aggregate fanbase:
not every day a team tries to out Pirate the Pittsburgh Pirates https://t.co/nfi3oxDWdL— Encourager (@youmatter0125) June 6, 2021
Response to a Ke’Bryan Hayes tweet, which is very original:
He’ll be traded within a year— nick (@palybroo) June 4, 2021
A similar refrain as the last:
I'm sorry to say he will be here for maybe 3 more years at the most at that's pushing it then he will sign somewhere else or be traded I guarantee that as long as Bob Nutting owns our team when it's time for a contract they walk He will not pay Major League talent money— Jason Evans (@JasonEv09613919) June 5, 2021
Unrelated. Also, to whom is this question directed? The social media team?
Sell the team— Chris Armstrong (@carmstrong1986) June 4, 2021
I love the pirates!..BUT let's face it we will waste him!.. we are the farm system for MLB.. ..#newownership— Millrrr (@millrrr31) June 6, 2021
A Pirate who’s fun to watch? Don’t worry I’m sure we’ll get rid of him soon— Sebastian Henry (@bashshenry) June 4, 2021
Presently, the Pirates — who, remember, we’re trying to decide if they’re boring or not — are last in OPS (.649), home runs (39), 29th in runs scored (206), and 29th in wRC+ (82); 24th in ERA and FIP (4.69, 4.39), and 23rd in HR/9 (1.29).
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. The Pirates, though not under new ownership as so many Twitter fans hope would be the case, are under new general management. Thus far, we’ve seen GM Ben Cherington make plenty of quality over quantity and high-risk, high-reward moves, something that previous GM Neal Huntington was never keen on doing.
While it will take some time to assess whether or not those moves pan out, as well as Cherington’s draft picks, there is hope to be had in the present. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a Rookie of the Year contender, despite missing two months. He’s also the future of the organization. The Pirates haven’t seen a young player with so much potential since Andrew McCutchen’s early days in the organization.
Bryan Reynolds, who’s pre-arbitration, figures to be around when the Pirates show signs of contention; he’s also rebounding after a dreadful 2020. Much of the rest of the team is in a bit of limbo, with many being too old — or too expensive — to hang around — or be kept around — when the team is vying for playoff appearances, but they provide something to watch, nonetheless.
Adam Frazier’s 76 hits leads all of baseball, as does his doubles count (20). While it’s true Frazier won’t be around for the long haul, he’s still an intriguing piece to watch as the season progresses. Besides, the better he plays, the greater the return.
Richard Rodriguez has been stellar out of the ‘pen. His calm and composed demeanor has netted a 1.95 FIP and .209 BABIP, which is in stark contrast to his days in Baltimore (13.39 FIP, .400 BABIP), where he worked briefly in his first major league season. Like Frazier, the best version of Rodriguez fetches the best return.
At times, I’ve found myself bridging into apathy: “This is just the way it is.” Perhaps that’s a coping mechanism; an understanding that I was thrust into this life (thanks, dad!) and that whatever torment is meant to be bestowed unto me, I must dutifully carry on my back. The derealization of a moment or two or 10 encroaches as I sit perched in my PNC Park seat, fan-paralysis the symptom of being a “true fan” — don’t join us during the highs, whenever they may come, if you couldn’t drudge through the lows — or something like that.
That’s what has led me to this moment. As sports’ fans, we’re taught to stick with our team through thick-and-thin. It’s a badge of honor to muscle through nearly a full slate of games, whether by television, streaming, radio, or attendance, even if the team is 20 games under .500 most of the year. We wear our calloused hearts pridefully, as though peeling back our eyelids and forcing the intake of three runs per game somehow elevates our status as a fan — the ultimate fan.
While I would never lobby for a person to attempt to change their preferred team — I don’t think it’s even possible — I wonder at the benefit of laboring through another season, scoreboard checking every night, or even carving out time to watch the game, some three-and-a-half hours later, another loss. Eventually you lose count, but return again the next night, just as you had the night before and as you will the night after.
But all the while, I have to know: Were you feeling bored? Were you feeling apathetic? Did you check your phone in the second inning? And then again in the third? The fifth? Once more in the fifth? Did you feel as though these are the trials you must overcome because once a Wild Card berth reappears in the city of Pittsburgh, you’ll experience a greater jubilance than the rest because you subjected yourself to 11-3 losses for the last decade?
Our attention is valuable. Given our proclivity to expend energy on that which deserves none of it, it’s not surprising many of us seek entertainment in that which seldom fails to disappoint. Though baseball is not often existential, it sometimes can be. The ultimate question is this: Why? Why do you do it? That’s the question to the answer I’m really after, independent of my rambling and probably erroneous logic and egocentric input. Do you enjoy your time? Or do you do it for the memories? Because when years pass by, you’ll remember the good times; as for the bad times, you’ll just remember a rosy perspective of them.
It’s the question I most often ask — not just of Pirates’ fans but sports fans in general — and the answers always amaze me: Why do you keep coming back?