A Letter to the Pittsburgh Sports Fan

Nicholas CaseCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2008

Hey Pittsburgh Sports Fan,

My name's Nick.  How's it going?  We haven't met much.  I live in South Carolina, so I've been observing your work from afar for years.  While I think you do a decent job, there are some things I wanted to inform you about.

First off, lets look back on the last 20 years in Pittsburgh sports history:

Two NLCS appearances.  Two Super Bowl appearances with one win.  In addition, four other trips to the AFC Championship game.  Three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals with two wins, and two other times in the Eastern Conference Finals.  In the past 20 odd years, 13 of those years had a Pittsburgh team near the summit.  You can even go back to the 1900s and only three decades didn't have a Pittsburgh team win a championship.  That's pretty impressive, isn't it?

Also impressive, the talent that has come through the city of Pittsburgh in those 20 years. 

The Penguins have had the names of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Mark Recchi, Tom Barasso, Petr Nedved, Larry Murphy, Luc Robitaille, Alex Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Gonchar, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin.  Some teams cant look back at their entire history and see that much talent, let alone in the past 20 years.

Potentially four of the best hockey players ever (Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby, Francis) have played hockey in the city of Pittsburgh.

How about the beloved Steelers?  Two Hall of Fame coaches in Chuck Knoll and Bill Cowher in the past 20 years.  Many Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl players.  Gregg Lloyd, Rod Woodson, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Carnell Lake, Gary Anderson, Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Joey Porter, Alan Faneca. 

Few other NFL teams will have that amount of talent and consistency in the past two decades.

The Pirates?  Well, the best home run hitter of all time did start his career there.  And... uh... their ball park is REALLY nice?

Either way Pittsburgh Sports Fan, there are things you need to realize about your teams and players.

By and large they know what they are doing much better than you do.

To Average Penguins Fan who sits in the stands.  When the Penguins are on the power play and the defeseman has the puck at the point, or Sid has the biscuit along the boards, this does not mean he has an open lane.  And seeing as you're sitting up in Section E with a beer in your hand and a slice of pizza in the other, they will not hear you yelling, "SHOOT!"  Even if they could, the defenseman blocking the open lane will not let them follow your orders.

The best players have bad games.  Stop going to a game thinking, "Dat Sid da Kid is gon' put in a hat trick tonight n'at, write it dahn."  The more you say this, the less people respect you.  Remember, the best points per game average in NHL history is from Wayne Gretzky, at under two points per game.  There's a decent chance you wont hear John Barbaro announce, "Sidney Crooooooooooooooosby!" after a score.  Same goes for Malkin.

Oh, don't forget this sterling nugget: You've been spoiled by the instant success of the likes of Malkin, Crosby, Lemieux, Jagr, Staal.  Some prospects take time to develop.  The way you were willing to write off Marc-Andre Fleury after he didn't go 82-0 and 82 shut outs in his first couple seasons was nothing short of annoying, and the fact that you don't give Ryan Whitney his due is ignorant.  Do you realize he's put up 99 points in the last two seasons?  And he's a defenseman?  And he's still developing?  That's outstanding!

Mr/s. Stillers Fan, with your Primanti and IC Light stains on your Hines Ward jersey, I have a revelation for you: It's not always the quarterback's fault.

If Ben is scrambling and throws it away, it's because he doesn't see any other option.  Just because you see Santonio Holmes "wide open" (i.e., defender is three feet away) in the deep field does not mean Mr. Roethlisberger is going to be able to make that pass while he's running.  And no, you couldn't have "hit dat pass dahn 'ere."

The coaches will coach the game as they wish.  Chances are they have inside information that you dont know regarding trends on certain downs and yardage situations.  If you're puzzled by the passing play on 3rd and 1, the staff probably knew something you didn't.  Let them be.  It's rare that the coach alone will cost the team a game.

Dear Sir/Madam Pirates Fan, I beg you to do me one favor.  Stop attending their games.  I don't care about the give aways.  I don't care about the fire works.  I don't care about how beautiful the stadium is. 

I am proud to say I'm from Pittsburgh.  I am proud to root for my favorite team in the Penguins.  I puff my chest when I say I root for the five time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  When the subject of baseball comes up, I have nothing to say.  Fifteen years of losing baseball is not only embarrassing, but pathetic. 

The fact that a generation of children will grow up not knowing or caring about the tradition of Pirates baseball is deeply saddening.  There are few ways to change this that you can control, but not going to games is one of them.  By attending their games, you show you're nothing more than sheep that will go look at anything shiny or pretty. 

We want wins.  We want success.  We want PRIDE.  The Pittsburgh Pirates bring none of that, and unless you show that you demand wins, the Nuttings will spend enough to field a so-so team and spend a little cash on give aways to keep you coming back so they can rake in profit hand over fist. 

The Penguins poor seasons were necessary to keep the team afloat.  The Pirates poor seasons are nothing more than the side effect of a pathetic excuse of ownership.

What do I want you to take from this all, Mr/s. Pittsburgh Sports Fan?

By and large your teams are good.  Very good.  You've boasted some of the best athletic talent the world has seen in the past 20 years and have a lot to show for it.  Unless you're a Pirates fan, any complaints I hear come off as little more than whining.  Be happy you have the teams and traditions you have.  Be proud of the talent you have been able to bear witness to.  Be thrilled with the three teams with amazing pasts that the city boasts.

Three teams with great tradition that flow through the city, much like the three rivers that form the beautiful landscape it surrounds.  Embrace it, accept it, love it.  Stop booing, stop blaming, stop beating the tiny minors into the ground. 

Start accepting it, loving it, and for the love of God... be glad you're not Philly or Cleveland.

Thank you for reading, Mr/s. Pittsburgh Sports Fan.  Just remember, I still love you.


Nicholas Case