Oct 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs fans celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Cubs won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Well, the inevitable occurred.
Here’s my pre-game Facebook “status update” concerning the third straight wild game hosted in Pittsburgh: “Two years ago, the wild card game was a novelty. I just wanted to be part of the party. Good times! Last year, I attempted to relive the excitement of the first year, but as they say, nothing is as good the second time around. This year, I’m watching the game alone, sober, and with dead seriousness. I’m approaching the game with all the pomp and circumstance of a midnight meeting of the Soviet Politburo.”
For the 2013 and 2014 wild card games, I met up with friends at Dominics, a bar inside PNC Park. But last night, I did myself a favor by avoiding the brouhaha on Federal Street. Why? I had learned. Last year I fled the Bumgarner bloodbath after the sixth inning. I was a black ‘n gold refugee whose slog from PNC Park to the First Ave garage imparted wisdom that can only be absorbed amid the lowest of times. I had come to carouse, but became hung-over before the euphoria.
The 2014 wild card game hardened me as a Pirates fan. The 2013 game had quickly become a memory—a pleasant dream vaguely recalled.
I wasn’t about to relive that longest of walks last night. I was quite aware of how Jake Arrieta had dominated the Pirates, and the league, over much of the season. I predicted a Bucco beat-down the instance the Cardinals began celebrating the NLC crown on PNC Park grass. Sure, I desperately hoped the Pirates would swipe victory from the Cubs’ paws, but I’m no fool.
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Here we are—the day after the fall. I’m doing okay. I am. In some perverted way, I do feel like a winner on some level. Over the past several days, I’ve heard ad nauseam from co-workers and friends alike: “Matt, don’t be so pessimistic. You gotta’ have faith,” or “Cheer up, the Bucs will ride the Cole Train to victory,” or my favorite “Arrieta is due to lose.” Maybe…in 2023. Apparently, the cheeriest of Pirates fans choose to ignore the Monte Carlo fallacy.
Anyway, I was right to toss the towel after Kyle Schwarber batted in the top of the first. By time Schwarber blasted a 449-foot dinger innings later, the towel had already been picked up off the killing grate and tossed several more times. The gloominess I’d exhibited in the days and hours and minutes leading up to Dextor Fowler’s leadoff base hit to center field suddenly became justified.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want my dark suspicions to come to fruition. I’d rather the Bucs win and be made to withstand “I told you so,” a million times over.
But had I taken the advice of the Bucco faithful, I would’ve landed at Dominics, only to eventually endure the arduous trek from PNC to the opposite edge of town once more. As I write this I imagine myself moping about, stepping in back alley mud puddles of floating trash, and passing shadowy figures lurking on street corners…”Hey you. Spare me bus fare back to Chicago. You know, the city that just kicked your ass. Heh, heh, heh.”
I wouldn’t have cursed the Pittsburgh Pirates. I would’ve cursed myself for being a sucker.
Oct 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first basemanSean Rodriguez
(3) is held back by teammates during an altercation with the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning in the National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Rodriguez was ejected from the game. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
I did indeed watch the game alone and sober, thankful I wasn’t among the throngs of Leftfield Loonies whooping when Tony Watson plunked Arreita, or when Sean Rodriguez went all Jeff Reid on a defenseless Gatorade cooler. Sorry, but you lost, Pirates fans. We lost. Quit making Watson out to be a hero. Save the cheers for…I don’t know…the elusive extra-base base hit.
So here we are, 20 scoreless innings of scoreless wild card baseball since Russell Martin homered off Logan Ondrusek in 2013. I’m in no mood to reflect on the 98-win 2015 regular season. No mood at all. But hey, maybe I’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling in my belly when the Pirates send their annual E-Christmas card to my Hotmail account.
G’dammit. The Pirates finally get really good, but so do the Chicago Cubs. Of course, the St. Louis Cardinals remain so. Gerrit Cole finally looks the true ace. Jake Arrieta looks the demigod. The Pirates take one step forward. The Cards take one step back…only to crush the competition under their cleats, before taking two steps forward.
Nope. No long walk for me last night, unless you consider the 25 steps from my Poang chair to my bed a long walk. As for the game itself? Unlike last year, the game didn’t gradually dwindle from behind as I drug myself across the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
Just a click of the remote…BLACKOUT.