21st Times the Charm, Part 1: A Pirates Life For Me
Note: This is the first part of a 2 or 3 part series I’m doing about the Pirates. This section is not really about the current team, it’s more about the journey here. For both me and the Pirates. Part 2 should be posted on Sunday or earlier.
I knew this post would come. The one where I have to talk about the Pirates. My team. I should love to talk about them, but for some reason, I can’t figure out how to do this.
I just can’t explain the emotions this team has put me through. Never in my life have I been able to say that my team has had a winning season. The rise of the team in the past 2 seasons, and their subsequent downfalls, where extremely tough. I remember saying to people “This isn’t how baseball should make me feel. This should be fun. I shouldn’t want to punch something.”.
At least now I can say that I watched them mature. That I watched the whole process. I stood by them in the Jack Wilson/Freddy Sanchez years. I defended them after they sent Jason Bay and Nate Mclouth out of town. I realized they had a plan, and I bought into it. But the early phase of the plan was rough. Very rough.
Looking back, maybe I never should have become a Pirates fan. It would probably add years onto my life to become, say a Yankees fan, even an Orioles fan. But in the end, that’s not how it works. I fell in love with the team in the ugly pinstripes and sleeveless looking jerseys.
When I was choosing my team, my dad had long forgotten baseball. Probably scarred from Barry Bonds and Sid Bream, just like everyone else. It was my grandfather, who kept the fact that the Pirates were awful a secret to me until I started to watch myself, that made me a fan. We would go to his Country Club to watch the games, demanding that a small TV in the clubhouse be changed to the Pirates game. No way they would show it on the big screen, no one was that interested. I had no idea I was joining a bandwagon with 15 loosing seasons behind them and 5 more to come. But, I did.
My dad told me a few weeks ago that the last time he was this excited he ended up watching a hobbled Sid Bream run through a stop sign and slide across homeplate with the Pirates shell shocked. Andy Van Slyke, a man perhaps more Pittsburgh the steel itself, cried in centerfield.
I recently re-watched that game, the first act of a 21 part Shakespearian Tragedy. Even though I knew what was going to happen, deep down within me I was still hoping for a ground ball. Hoping for a better throw. Hoping that 20 seasons of futility would be erased.
That flicker of hope, that little light in a sometimes overpowering sea of darkness, has always existed. When I first started watching them, I remember looking at a newspaper and saying “Hey! We’re only 13 games out! There’s still time!”. Now, I realize how ridiculous it was, but in my head, that’s always been the thought. “Only 12 below .500! There’s still time! We just need to get hot!”.
Now, that dim little flicker has turned into a bonfire. If we finally win game 82, I can’t imagine what it will feel like. When Jason Grilli saves the game and pounds on Russell Martin’s chest protector to finish that 82nd win, what will happen? Will I feel relieved? Happy? All I know for certain is that, for the first time in my life, I’ll be able to say I’ve seen my favorite team finish with a winning season.
Being a Pirate fan is never easy, and rarely calming. But I’ll never stop cheering for them. Because there’s 3 things that remain constant with the Pittsburgh Pirates; Hope, Fear, and Baseball. And 2 of those are all that I need.