Why do we do it? Why after 19 straight losing seasons do us Pirate fans still follow and devote so much of our life to this franchise? What is the attraction at this point? Many of fans have already left and I can’t blame them for doing so. Just thinking about it logically that seems like the way to go but yet here I am writing what I consider a 4th tier Pirate blog, doing everything I can to keep up with the Pirates latest transactions. Those of you reading this are probably most likely devoted Pirate fans such as myself so you too are suffering through this. When you think about it, it’s not really logical but yet we do it anyway. Does that mean we are all insane? Maybe, to some extent we are but I don’t think that is it.
There is a special connection we have to this franchise and for each of us it is something different. The older generation can possibly recall the 1960 team that upset the Yankees in the World Series and I am sure that caught the attention of many. The next generation probably clings to the great teams of the 70s and cherishes the World Series title and the We are Family atmosphere. The generation before me recalls the thrills of the early 90s, the days before everything went so horribly wrong. There are explanations but yet there is still my generation of roughly 15-25 year-olds who either were not alive for a winning season or are too young to recall them. Why are we here, for some it is probably family tradition and others possibly a sense of supporting all of Pittsburgh but that doesn’t quite explain it. There is something intangible about this franchise that lures our special breed of fan in. It’s not an us against the world mentality because get the sense the world isn’t against us but it is something of the ilk.
It is tough to explain to an outsider just what this connection is but yet if you are one us you know what I mean. This team just draws you in and despite everything, poor draft choices, poor trades, poor signings, poor managerial hires, humiliating losses, and inexplicable losses we support this team to the end. We are truly a different breed we thrive off small moments; such as the ’97 freak show, a winning record after the All-Star break, a dramatic walk off home run by Alvarez (yes it has happened), McKenry’s home run last season (Pirate fans know what I’m talking about with no context) and yes the magical first four months of 2011. We also relish off the field accomplishments like the drafting of Taillon and Cole, the signing of Bell and especially the extension of our very own superstar, Andrew McCutchen. These moments are few and have been far between but yet they feed us and let us survive the long droughts in between. or some one of the moments I mentioned or maybe something I completely forgot is why they are still Pirate fans. For me it all got started with the ’97 freak show, specifically the combined no-no from Cordova and Rincon and the 9 million dollar team sweeping the 10 million dollar player (Albert Belle).
I’ve went through all of this but I haven’t covered what the real essence of being a fan of this Pirate team is. Us Pirate fans have a special relationship with our franchise unlike the relationship between any other fan base and franchise, it is special it is unique to only us. We have witnessed all 19 years of losing (15 for me personally) but for the most part there is no internal source that has been around that long. There have been 3 ownerships over that time, 5 General Managers, 6 managers and I’m sure a few hundred players. Baseball has seen a strike cause the cancellation of a World Series, several expansion franchises, changes such as inter league play and instant replay. The streak even predates our very own division. If you consider the streak to have starter, as most Pirate fans do, when Sid Bream slid across home plate it has been going since the Bush presidency (and not the son). Scores of coaches and scouts have surely come and gone. I’ll give a hat tip to our Bench Coach, Jeff Bannister, he has been here since the beginning. For the most part though the only people who have been around for this entire dark time in Pirates history is the fan base. You see this losing streak is not on the Pirate franchise, there is nothing left that has seen this though, the losing streak is on the fan base. This is not to say the fans are responsible for the losing streak, no far from it, but we are the only ones really connected to it and for that reason it matters more to us that the streak ends.
I make this all sound so negative though, the losing streak is connected to us the fans but you know what so are the years before this dark age. We are the connection to the brighter days; we are the last tie connecting this franchise to its legendary past. Without us the Pirate franchise is not a storied franchise but rather just one that has 19 consecutive losing seasons. Yes the past would still be there without us but we are the embodiment of that past and the hope of a better tomorrow. For us Pirate fans the act of supporting this team isn’t merely the act of following are favorite team. For you see we are the Pittsburgh Pirates, without us the past loses all its luster and the future doesn’t look as hopeful. We are keeping this franchise from once and all sinking into an abyss and for that reason we choose … nay … are destined to root for our franchise. There are die-hard fans but we surpass that we are never-die fans because we know if we go so do the Pirates we all love.