Alleviating the pain alongside the Three Rivers
My buddy is a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan. That means his suffering is significantly more substantial than any other fan’s suffering. The Pirates haven’t had a winning campaign in 17 seasons. The best record they’ve ever posted since he started following the team was 79-83.
However, that has done nothing to deter my friend. If anything, it inspires him to be more of a fan. He is fiercely loyal and endlessly optimistic. One of his favorite pastimes has been to create a Facebook status about the team’s victory flag after each win. Naturally, these statuses are usually few and far between, on account of the Pirates don’t win a whole heck of a lot.
I noticed these statuses popping up in my news feed with greater frequency back in late May or early June. I followed up this observation with a quick glance at the National League standings in my newspaper to learn, lo and behold, the Pirates had some friskiness to them, hovering at about .500.
It turns out they’ve got a lot of friskiness to them. As of today the Pirates are percentage points ahead of their competitors. They sit in first place in the N.L. Central, leading it in the loss column. An 80 or 85-win season seems possible.
And my buddy? Well, he’s living the dream.
"For years, people asked me why I've remained a Pirates fan,” he told me recently. “I told them that suffering for so long would only make the good times feel that much better. Seeing people around town wearing Pirates gear for the first time ever, hearing Pirates talk on the radio in July.
“These things mean the world to me, and make me feel like the suffering was worth it."
Who knows if the Pirates can keep this going. The history of baseball is full of young teams that weren’t quite ready to make the big step and fell apart in September or simply caught lightning in a bottle and came crashing back to reality soon after.
Let’s hope they can. It’s good for the game. If you’re smart and spend money the right way, anyone can win, no matter how small the market. Oakland, Minnesota and Tampa Bay have established this. Pittsburgh is on its way to proving it further. It’s also good for the fans. Sure, it’s not like my buddy and his brethren are absolutely pained – those shiny Lombardi Trophies courtesy of Big Ben and Co. are awfully nice – but he and every other fan that stuck with it deserve a post-season success, and they’ll get one eventually.
If this season does happen to be the ultimate payoff, then it’ll be time for a new column, a new lead sentence. That one, which I’m sure my buddy would gladly accept, would be the same, save one key word.
My buddy was a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan.