Look, I can’t really say I’m speaking on behalf of an entire city or an entire fan base — I’m not THAT egotistical –but for the past eight years I’ve heard a common refrain and that is this: “You wrote exactly what I was thinking, but couldn’t put into words.”
So, I’m going to try to put into words what I think the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates are thinking as they wake up to the first morning of the 2013 offseason …
You didn’t do enough.
You did more than enough.
But before I get into that, you first have to understand what Pittsburgh’s passion for baseball was like back in March. It was a tiny, barely smoldering piece of tinder resting on the wet floor of a massive damp forest of disappointment that hadn’t seen a lick of flames in decades. Those were the odds stacked against you … lighting a fire in a monsoon. Good luck. You have a better chance of leashing the Kraken and taking it for a walk in the park.
What you managed to do as a team — a brotherhood — was to take that little piece of smoking tinder, and to slowly nurture it. Pick it up, blow on it gently, give it sun and warmth and oxygen. And when it grew ever so slightly, you didn’t let it get trampled or snuffed out. You protected it and fed it until that tiny flicker of light became a fire big enough to warm our hands on.
You didn’t stop there. When it died down ever so slightly, you went Bear Grylls on it — stoked it with wins until come September that once barely flickering tinder became a raging fire of baseball passion burning a path to the postseason and Smoky the Bear was all, “HAVE I TAUGHT YOU PEOPLE NOTHING?! LOOK AT THIS MESS, DAMN IT.”
You, not the team before you — not any of the teams before them — brought baseball back to Pittsburgh.
Who cares, right?
It’s just a sport.
Let’s get some perspective here, people. What about world peace, amirite?
Sure, it’s just a sport, but I haven’t found a single scripture in the Bible or the Brocode that says we can’t care about world peace while also caring about the fortunes of our baseball team. There’s nothing wrong with baseball mattering.
And you reminded us that, here in Pittsburgh, baseball … matters.
The sport of Roberto, of Maz, of kids in dirt fields. The sport of peanuts and Cracker Jacks and Jolly Rogers and Pierogie races (What’s in your purse, HANNAH?!), and high-fiving strangers, and the crack of the bat, and the glorious double play, and the slide into home with one finger gliding across the base, and living and dying by one single pitch in the bright late summer sun. It matters to us again, as it has mattered to America for centuries. You did that. You gave us that gift that will ripple on for years, and there’s no way for us to repay that gift to you.
You out-gifted us. You gave us a Mercedes with a big red bow on top; we are holding an engraved pen from Things Remembered behind our backs. Hope you like it. It says, “You’re #1.”
And that brings me back to my original point.
You did more than enough.
As a fan base, 2013 was like taking part in the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right. “What would you say about this … FIRST NON-LOSING SEASON IN 21 YEARS?!”
“But wait, there’s more! Enjoy your non-losing season for a few days, but then we’re going to put you into this … GORGEOUS WINNING SEASON!”
“And that’s not all! After you’re done celebrating your winning season, why not step into this brand … new … WILDCARD GAME!”
“But before you bid on all that, step away from that Wildcard Game and make your way over to … your very own NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES!?”
We would have been happy to go home with the winning season. And maybe one of the Showcase Showdown models.
But you gave us more than that — more than enough for 2013.
You gave us our pastime back. You gave us baseball that was more than bobbleheads and Free Shirt Fridays and Fireworks Spectaculars.
You made it okay to love the Pirates — the baseball team — again. You negated two decades of losing. You gave us the blackouts and fist pumps and a Strip District once barely dotted with Pirates merchandise, now bursting at the seams with thousands of unlicensed Bucs shirts. You gave us incredible defense, a home-run king, the Shark Tank, and a Sid Bream palate cleanse. You gave us that grizzly bear lumberjack werewolf Gerrit Cole (grrrrrrrrmmmmrowrrrrr).
Sure it sucks that you didn’t win last night and it probably feels like the end of a road. But before you start blaring Boyz II Men in the clubhouse, I’ll remind you of the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins who lost in the Stanley Cup Finals … only to win it the very next year.
This road ended last night, but come March, you’re going to step on another road, and for the first time in a long time, you’re going to walk that road with postseason experience, with the respect of the MLB, and with an entire city walking behind you. And I’m almost positive that road will lead us to an even better destination than this one did.
The bandwagon will not be burned and rolled into the Mon. It’s being cared for all winter. Upgraded. Bigger oxen. More margarita options. Extra taco topping choices. Additional seating not paid for with public dollars. And we’ll pull it out in March and we’ll climb in and we’ll raucously show America that indeed … baseball is back in Pittsburgh because the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates gave it back to us.
Much love and sports butt slaps to every single damn one of you,
Me and all of Pittsburgh