As somebody who has had season tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates since I was born 20 years ago, went to his first game as a one-month-old infant and has sat through 18 (could soon be 19) losing seasons, I understand the hardships that baseball fans in Pittsburgh have had to deal with.
When I was coming into my high school years, I didn’t merely like the Pittsburgh Pirates. I wasn’t just a season ticket holder, who was born into it after my parents first got them in 1994. No, being a fan wasn’t enough for me. I had to live and die by whether the Pirates won or lost.
Back in the 105-loss massacre that was the 2010 season, the Bucs suffered a 20-0 pummeling to the Milwaukee Brewers. I was so depressed that I couldn’t bring myself to come to West Allegheny Middle School the next day. More than once, I remember picking up every piece of Pirates merchandise I could find in my house and tossed it on the front step.
Over the past handful of years, I’ve thankfully calmed down quite a bit, with the help of three consecutive playoff appearances. By last season, the highest extent of my anger would be a long texting rant to one of my close friends.
Now, as a 20-year-old who’s perhaps best known for his ability to recite World Series facts, I’ve realized that baseball is just a game. It’s a shame that people who are twice, even three times my age haven’t seemed to figure that out.
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Pittsburgh is indisputably one of the best sports towns in the country. The Pirates have been by far the least successful of its three major sports teams over the past 30 years, so of course, baseball fans have reason to be frustrated with how things have gone. Three winning seasons in 26 years speak for themselves, so it’s impossible to blame a yinzer for not being happy with the organization.
But as far as fans are concerned, baseball, like all sports, is only a game. Sure, it’s a business for the players, managers, coaches, executives, and anybody who depends on it as a source of income. For everybody else in this city, it’s a game. Simple enough, right? Well, not always.
Those who look at baseball as more than a game believe that the Pirates front office is personally attacking them by not making the decisions that they agree with. They believe that the organization should make the moves necessary to win not because it’s, well, their job to do so, but because it would make please the fans.
More frustrating is that these people paint themselves to be victims, expecting others to feel sorry for them because of their suffering. Suffering that is very much optional, as they can stop supporting the franchise any time they want to. While I’m not a proponent of jumping ship, I’d take somebody who doesn’t support the Pirates over somebody who constantly whines about them.
Even more frustrating is that some in the local media encourage these types of fans sense of anger by sympathizing with them. It seems as if the more fans express their displeasure on social media, the more support they get from sportswriters, talk show hosts and fellow citizens, and all blame for a person being overly angry is placed on Bob Nutting, Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle, the easter bunny etc. Everyone except the fans themselves.
The Pirates current stretch of winning is an example of how people in this city think. The Bucs have won nine games in a row, they’re 11-1 in their last 12 games, they have gotten back into the National League Wild Card hunt, and Pittsburgh still finds things to complain about, even if they have nothing to do with the Pirates in any way (i.e. the Indians recent trade for closer Brad Hand).
The team is playing its best baseball of the season, yet its fans have chosen worry over enjoyment, forgetting that their concerns won’t make a bit of difference as far as what happens on the field goes.
Without fans, there are no sports. The paying customers will always play a big role, and their contributions are hardly meaningless. But while spectators are important to sports, sports shouldn’t be as important to them as they sometimes are. It’s only a game, people, and if somebody can’t get enjoyment out of it, they always have the choice to stop watching.