One week from today, the Pittsburgh Pirates will embark on what figures to be their 16th consecutive losing season, tying the mark set by the cross-state Phillies from 1933-48.
At 15 consecutive failure-laden seasons, they currently hold the longest such streak in professional sports. In an attempt to cheer up the other seven remaining Pirate fans, here is a list of 10 reasons why being a Pirate fan can still be fun, even in the midst of losing...
10. New management in GM Neal Huntington, Executive President Frank Coonelly, et al has finally instilled a sense of mild intelligence in the front office. At the start of spring training, Huntington wrote a letter to Pirate fans.
In it, he explained that gone are the days when the Bucs make trades just to make a trade, and gone are the days when they sign high-priced free agents just trying to win over the city's fickle fans.
In other words, gone are the days when Dave Littlefield gets drunk and trades for Matt Morris and his massive contract.
9. A new Dominican baseball academy is being built by the Pirates. Groundbreaking was Jan. 22, so the payoff won't come for awhile, but in the words of Ricky Bobby, "It's just cool that we're trying stuff like that, you know?"
8. Insults: you've heard them all. Try as they might, no one can get under your skin, because you never have to defend your team.
Someone says the Pirates suck, and you have the easiest "shut-up-the-jerk-in-the-corner" response: "Yep." Insulters will soon find it very boring to hurl criticism at your team, only to discover you'd like to join in.
7. Walk-up tickets are almost always available. Try showing up at Fenway Park without tickets an hour before first pitch. At that point, your only option is shelling out $300 per ticket so you can see the BoSox play the mighty Royals on a Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, PNC Park's ticket windows are welcoming, and sellouts are rare—unless it's fireworks or bobblehead night. Pittsburghers will always show up if they know a) something will get blown up, or b) they'll get something for free, such as a coveted John Wehner Bobblehead doll.
6. Low expectations means every win is uplifting. Unlike other teams, with the Pirates, you don't enter the stadium expecting a win. You hope for one, but expect that, somehow, they'll find a way to screw it up. They are the Pirates, after all.
But occasionally, they pull through in a big way and beat the Mets 4-3 to avoid being swept in a weekend series. Then, you get to go to work or school the next day and proclaim, "I went to the Pirates game yesterday, and they actually won!" I'm not kidding either—these proclamations really happen.
5. Bragging about your loyalty becomes fulfilling after awhile. Being a Pirate fan is the ultimate trump card. People call you a fair-weather fan or a bandwagon jumper on anything, and you pulll out the "Hey, I'm a Pirates fan, so I stick with teams even when they've descended to the depths of Hades" card. Plus, the payoff is going to be sooooo sweeeeet when they finally break through and make the playoffs in 2023.
4. Great teams often visit. I've often thought the Pirates marketing department should adopt this as their official team slogan. It would be much more honest than "We Will," "It's All Fun and Games", or whatever crap they usually come up with.
Watching Bucs commercials on TV in Pittsburgh is quite hilarious. It usually goes something like this: "Howard! Rollins! Utley! Cole Hamels! Come watch the Pirates take on the Phillies April 25-27 as the NL East Division Champions roll into town.
"See the exciting action, and your Pittsburgh Pirates [who apparently, are not included in said "exciting action"] this weekend! Friday is Fireworks Night, Saturday is Doug Mientkiewicz Bobblehead Night, and Sunday all kids receive a plush pierogie doll!"
3. The storied history offers comfort in times of distress. When the Tampa Bay Sunshine-makes-me-happy-Rays have a miserable season, they don't have five World Series rings to look back on.
The Pirates also feature legends such as Roberto Clemente, Willie "Pops" Stargell, the Waner bros. (Big Poison and Little Poison—how cool are those nicknames?), and Honus Wagner, who is probably better known for his rare baseball card, but was quite a player back in the day. At least we can remember what the Pirates were before any of us were born.
2. Funny things happen when you're losing. Any time a Pirate fan feels down, he or she can always look back on the hilarious moments that have come from 15 consecutive losing seasons.
Legendary Lloyd McClendon once ripped first base out of the ground, tucked it under his arm, and took it back to the dugout after being tossed from a game for arguing a call.
Derek Bell went into "Operation Shutdown" because the Bucs made him compete for the starting RF job after hitting at the Mendoza line during the previous season. And the Bucs are also the only team who has had a player arrested and charged with assaulting a sausage in the Milwaukee sausage race.
1. PNC Park is quite possibly the most beautiful modern ballpark in the majors. The Pittsburgh skyline is neatly tucked into the outfield opening, there's possibility for home run balls to splash into the Allegheny River, and the field itself has quirky attributes, such as the 21-foot high RF wall in honor of Roberto Clemente, who wore No. 21.
You can taste the local fare—Primanti's, Quaker Steak, or even pierogies. The groundskeeping crew is among the best in baseball, and keeps the field looking pristine year-round.
This year, they're also adding an open bar and restaurant with a patio where Outback Steakhouse used to be. The space will be similar to the Chophouse and Top of the Chop found in Atlanta's Turner Field. Every baseball fan needs to experience baseball in this park before they die.