A relationship between a fan and their team is no different than that between a man and a woman. Just like the last guy I dated, I thought this Pirates’ season was the one. Finally, everything was falling into place and we were destined for greatness, or at least a few steps above the mediocrity that I’ve allowed myself to accept for the majority of my life. But I was wrong.
Think back to July. The Pirates spent the bulk of the month battling for the division, win after win distancing themselves from the 19 consecutive years of sub-.500 seasons. PNC Park was nearly selling out, even without the help of the baby making music of Boyz II Men. Everywhere you looked, local and national sports media were buzzing about the possibility of the Pittsburgh Pirates playing meaningful fall baseball. It was intoxicating. We were being wined and dined by a young, ambitious, baseball team who seemed to live to make us smile. And then, it happened. They broke our hearts.
It came out of no where. Things just started falling apart. By late August, most of the time we stopped even bothering to hope for something good, we stopped praying for that little gesture to show us there was still a chance. Sure, occasionally they’d pull out a late game comeback and we would think that maybe, just maybe, the spark was back. But in the same way the disgraced boyfriend buys a dozen roses in an attempt to make up for his indiscretions, it didn’t last long. The next game would be the same disappointment we’ve grown accustomed to.
Even as late as game three of the series against the Reds this past weekend, we still tried to hold on. Tried to convince ourselves that they could just step it up, win these last four games things would be okay again. We still wouldn’t finish with a “winning record”, but it wouldn’t technically be a “losing record” either. It’s the same desperate hopefulness that women resort to when we see lipstick on our man’s collar. We all know what it means, but we just aren’t ready to admit it.
And then we make excuses. We come up with ways to justify their behavior. They’re a small market team. They were playing above their heads early in the season. We blame the owners, coaches, management, players, umps, the guy dressed up as Cheese Chester. We blame the other fans for not being loyal enough. Others blame the fans for being too loyal, for drinking $7.25 beers in a $250 million dollar ball park that has yet to house a winning team.
When it comes down to it, no one quite knows where things went wrong, or who is to blame. Does it matter? Maybe, so that we can learn a lesson and not repeat the same mistakes for another twenty years. But what I keep asking myself, when is enough, enough? How many times can the same team break my heart before another team, one who will treat me better, comes and sweeps me off my feet? Or maybe, just maybe, I will become so frustrated and broken by my seemingly unrequited love that I just give up on the game entirely. It’s certainly becoming a tempting course of action.
When I voice those thoughts, I’m accused of being a “bandwagon fan”. Yet, if explained in terms of a romantic relationship, I’d be told I was crazy for sticking around, that I was naive and deserved better. I will never stop trying to make the relationship with the Pirates work, but I do deserve better. This city, these fans, we all deserve better.