In 2011, I started watching Pirates baseball again. I somehow decided to give them a chance after having given up on them years previously, half-rooting for the Red Sox in the meantime so that I could casually not expect failure every game. But they weren’t “my” team. When the Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, it just didn’t have any impact to me. Sure, the parade was fun to see in person, but looking back on it, it wasn’t as memorable as the 2009 Stanley Cup parade for the Penguins. They were my team, and I remember almost every second of it. The Red Sox? Great to experience, but meaningless. I had to get back to the Pirates.
Casually reading about them after that, it was painful to become reacquainted with how bad they were. The losing. The hopelessness. Watching players leave through trades or free agency.
Then they made some big changes, and hired Clint Hurdle. I remember his interviews being a breath of fresh air and a different attitude. The new season rolled around and I sprung for an MLB season subscription and watched almost every game.
It ended up being the season known as Collapse I. They had edged towards a winning record and then it all fell apart from mid-July onwards.
Next, in 2012, Collapse II. A new pattern, this one even more painful. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and then it collapses around you. I questioned what I was doing. Would they really change, or was it just a new chapter in the saga of eternal Pirates suffering?
But, then, third time’s the charm. It was all worth it in 2013 when the Pirates not only reached .500, but stormed past it on the way to the playoffs. The Dark Age was over. The Pirates were winners. They’d reached the promised land. And that wildcard game? That is an all-time memory. As McCutchen said, “Two decades of losing were forgotten” in a home run.
However tonight’s Wild Card game goes, it’s better than the twenty years of losing, the giving up on the entire season well-before the midway point, the watching good players get shipped out of town for paltry returns.
Finally, the Pirates are good. Consistently good. Finally, the Pirates are one of the best teams in baseball.
Finally, they can make a run to the World Series.
But they have to win tonight.