Seventeen years of futility and losing, and it will likely become 18—possibly 19.
Yet I am still faithful, and I am not embarrassed whatsoever about rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Other Pittsburghers have stopped watching baseball altogether. Those Pittsburghers say "The Pirates suck and they always will," even though they haven't watched a game, or read about their farm system or current players in about 10 years.
And there are a few of us who still continue to root for the Pirates; the few people that still watch every single game from the first pitch to the final out; the few people that actually think positively when Charlie Morton doesn't give up more than six runs in a game; the few people that can still be proud, even after 17 consecutive losing seasons, of their Pirates.
There is reason for hope in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates have many high-quality prospects in their farm system (read: Pedro Alvarez). It also seems that upper management has finally started to care about winning. Neal Huntington and his brass have shown a lot of promise.
Andrew McCutchen is now a sports hero in Pittsburgh, and many kids are beginning to idolize the speedy center fielder with the braided hair and wiggle in his stance.
The trades of star players for prospects over recent years have turned out well for the most part.
And then, there is still reason to be pessimistic about the Pirates.
The team has had 17 consecutive losing seasons (Did I mention that earlier?). The Pirates are off to a losing start, and it is incredibly likely that the team will endure 18 consecutive seasons of futility and losses.
Also, it seems that the Nutting ownership tries to draw fans to the beautiful PNC Park by promoting concerts, showing off end-of-game fireworks, and giving out free caps. As long as they are making their money, the Nuttings will not try to sign free agents and increase payroll.
Speaking of payroll, the Pirates have the lowest team salary in the majors. Dead last.
Their highest-paid player is pitcher Paul Maholm. Maholm makes $5 million per year, chump change for your average Dodger or Yankee. Plus, Maholm isn't exactly a "star" pitcher. He's a good pitcher, a decent one, but he will never achieve Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum-esque superstardom.
But there are ways for small-market teams to win.
Truly, I am not ashamed to be a Pirates fan. I don't see any shame in rooting for a particular sports team. So what if I root for the Pirates? Your Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908.
In fact, I am actually excited to be a Pirates fan. I love baseball, and I love rooting for my hometown team.
I don't like it when the Pirates lose, but is it life or death? No, it's still only a game. It's a game that I love. It's a team that I love.
I will still continue to root for the Pirates, and Pittsburghers who have grown apart from the team they used to love should begin to like the Pirates again. At least they have some hope, with prospects coming up, and the recent successes of small-market clubs.
My name is Kevin Bertha, and I am, and always will be, a proud Pittsburgh Pirates fan.