A sleeping giant is ready to awake in Pittsburgh
I’m a new writer to this site, and I have a confession to make – I am a proud Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
Now aside from that, I’m a lot of things, most notably a college graduate and successful businessman. But in the end of it all, I’m proud to say that I’m from Pittsburgh. It’s a city that has a lot going for it, and one of those things is a rich sports tradition. People in Pittsburgh live and die by what the Steelers do every Sunday in the fall, and now that the NHL’s postseason is about to begin, the people in the city will eat, sleep and breathe Penguins hockey.
Those outside of the city might forget our third professional sports team: the Pirates. And if you’re one of those people that forgot, I can’t blame you. Eighteen years of futility would make just about anyone or anything irrelevant. But Pittsburgh residents haven’t forgotten, and the Pirates fan base is ready to awaken and come to life.
The year 2009 was a great one in Pittsburgh sports. The Steelers won the Super Bowl, the Pens won the Stanley Cup and the Pitt Panthers basketball team was one Scottie Reynolds drive from a Final Four appearance. Through all of the revelry, there was a low grumble in the city: “Now if only the Pirates could …”
People in this city want to see the Pirates win. We’ve come to expect it from our teams, and the Pirates are no exception. I’ll admit that the fan’s in this city can be brutal. People called for Jamie Dixon to be fired after a season in which he won a Big East Title and earned 200 victories more quickly than any coach in NCAA basketball history. Other’s called for Marc-Andre Fluery’s head after a poor start to the hockey season. And the rage carries over to Pirates baseball, too. We still curse Barry Bonds for leaving, cringe when we hear Sid Bream’s name and loathe the Kevin McClatchy period in team history, also known as the dark ages.
But in the end, we want nothing more than a winner on the field. You could hear the passion of the fan base on talk radio after the 7-1 home opening loss to Colorado.
“This team stinks. They give me no reason to think the losing will end any time soon,” said one caller
“I’m not sure which team is more disappointing every year, the Pitt Panthers or the Pirates,” ranted another.
The point I’m trying to make is that the passion is still very much alive in the city. All the fan base needs is something to jump start it, something to give it a reason to cheer. The callers I referenced above were upset and distraught over a single loss that left the team at 4-3! Winning the first two road series of the season was like the nudge on the shoulder of this beast. Fans got a small taste of winning and started to go off after one loss — in April! I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like if this team goes into June with a record at or above .500.
The morning of the home opener last week, the city had a fun vibe. The parking lots between PNC Park and Heinz Field were packed with tailgaters; the stadium had an exciting buzz around it as sports talk shows broadcast from the bars next door. Women wore black and gold around downtown to work, and the new Pittsburgh anthem “Black and Yellow” could be heard bumping from cars throughout the city. There was excitment in the city over Pirates baseball, over a 4-2 team. It’s the same excitement that has only been found on fall Sundays over the past 18 years, and it’s the same excitement that has been lacking from the spring and summer for the same period of time.
As young and talented as this Pirates team is, along with having faces of the franchise in Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, this team could very well surprise us and contend a lot longer than this city is used to. Perhaps, this year, we won’t be counting down the days to Steelers training camp. It could be a fun summer on the banks of the Allegheny River, and it’s a summer that this fan base has been waiting far too long for.
My name is Bryan Inman, and I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. I’m asking the rest of you to get ready for a very bright future.