Memory Gap: How Pittsburgh Pirates Fans Cope
It's official. Once again, the Pirates won't be going to the postseason.
For a time this season, much like last year, there was hope. Yet for those of us that can remember the semi glory days of the late '80s to early '90s when the Bucs last contended, the disappointment of the past two decades leaves me to wonder if the franchise will ever turn the corner.
By now, one would think that the law of averages would finally give the Pirates a chance, but it would appear that anything short of perfect finish will doom them to another sub .500 season.
Coping with the situation is a personal choice, yet I'm having difficulty searching for an option that doesn't tax the mind or body. Whether you choose to be loyal and watch the ship sink, search for scapegoats, curse the moon, hide under a bed, or reminisce about the good times, every option involves effort and most include a small dose of pain.
While waiting for next year, I'm going to hop into a time machine and see where the ghosts of distant seasons past take me. The biggest obstacle for me in this escape is the not-so-small detail that the memories of the good times are becoming increasingly hazy with the passage of time.
Sure, some of us know the stories either through family, friends, coworkers, or through watching old highlights, but if we really think clearly about this, can anyone under the age of 40 remember the Bucs winning the 1979 World Series?
Can anyone under the age of 60 remember both the 1971 and 1960 Championships?
One of the sad side effects of the Pirates on-going failure is that the ballclub's history oddly becomes a strange double-edge sword of a comfort and a curse.
Sunday will mark the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit, yet the majority of Pirate fans today probably think Clemente is more myth than man.
As crazy as this sounds, Clemente might as well be a biblical figure when you consider his life, both on and off the field. Meanwhile, for four decades, now every outfield prospect with any potential talent has had to live in the long shadow of "The Great One."
According to my count, only two players came close to achieving some measure of greatness; however, both Dave Parker and Barry Bonds come attached with issues that are still difficult, in some ways, to reconcile.
On the bright side, there might be hope once again, as Andrew McCutchen looks like he might have what it takes to help carry this team, but he can't do it alone, as we saw for the second straight year now.
Whether he wins the MVP or simply gets a few votes this year, it really doesn't matter if the team fails to win, as it essentially leaves us back where we've started for years now...waiting for next year.
It's hard to root for the Pirates, but it's also hard not to root for the Pirates. You love them, you hate them, all while pitying them as they crush your spirit. Yet as I try to remember the good times, it gets harder because the memories are fading into the gap and the concept of winning seems all the more absurd as a result.
At what point does escaping to the past cease to soothe the soul?
I gather that when the memories are no longer your own, the idea of borrowing from the past becomes a bit hollow. If true, the Pirates, along with a handful of other long-suffering franchises in baseball, are in deep trouble when it comes to the prospects of not just growing, but maintaining, their fanbases.
Let's face it, history/nostalgia can be good in many ways, yet a lack of relevancy mixed with no hope of the future could render the Pirates obsolete in Pittsburgh if and when the time comes where only a handful of people have witnessed something truly special.
Perhaps it's one of the many reasons why ballclubs often hire former players as broadcasters in helping bridge that gap?
If that's true, then maybe Steve Blass is just as important to keeping the Pirates in town as Andrew McCutchen and the rest of the current Bucs.
Scary thought, but for now, it's all we've got. So while it might seem foolish to think Andrew McCutchen can reach the heights of Clemente, it would be nice to think he could some day push past Parker and Bonds in terms of their contributions as Pirates.
Otherwise, what's the point of watching anymore?
Like I said at the beginning, how you cope is your business, but understand I wish you the best this winter.
Now if you don't mind I'm going back to the past about five decades to see if the Pirates can beat the Yankees...
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