Wednesday, January 30, 2008
God Bless the People of Pittsburgh
Fire Joe Morgan hits one into the Allegheny with this post in response to a truly bizarre piece comparing Pirates fans to... well, just read it. Go ahead. I'll sit pretty right here until you're done...
Right, so, the point of the original piece by one Mike Seate is that baseball fans compare unfavourably to those of, ahem, superbike racing. I won't deconstruct the argument, because FJM has already done so, and done so better than I could (I can manage concise, and I can sometimes manage funny, and on rare occasions I even nail intelligent, but all three is asking too much of me).
But my point is that, okay, I've been to Pittsburgh and gone to a Pirates game at beautiful PNC Park, and found Bucco fans to be... subdued. I live in Ottawa, and I went to Lynx games for 15 years, so I know subdued. And Pirates fans fit that bill. I found them subdued and, well, sparse.
But think about it: it was September, and the Pirates had been out of contention since (roughly) late April. Again. And as a fanbase they have been, frankly, shit upon by ownership and management for a decade and a half now.
On that afternoon in Pittsburgh, I saw the Pirates lose to the Chicago Cubs. The park was half full, but half of those in attendance were decked out in full Cubbies regalia, a traveling roadshow of folks bleeding Cubbie blue. Cubs fans, who are entering their one hundredth year without a championship, are often cited as the mose diehard, fervent, and knowledgeable baseball fans around.
But. There's an argument to be made, I think, that instead of being the best baseball fans in the world, Cubs fans are Earth's biggest schmucks, shelling out year after year to see a team that never wins when it counts, a team run by a succession of organizations that have little motivation to win because, hell, the fans keep pouring into Wrigley anyway. The flipside of that argument would be that Montreal Expos fans were among the smartest and savviest lovers of baseball anywhere, because they knew when they were being treated poorly, and they rebelled with their wallets and asses (which no longer occupied the Big O's yellow plastic seats, see?).
Viewed in that light, maybe Pirates fans are pretty smart, too. Maybe they're simply fed up; maybe they're saying, "Thanks for the ballpark, but call us when you're actually trying to field a winning team."
I liked Pittsburgh, truly. It seemed to me an interesting city emerging from its industrial past, shaking the coke dust off and stepping smartly into the twenty-first century. I liked its neighbourhoods and its architecture, and its people seemed like good people. I loved imagining Forbes Field filled to the brim, of the mighty Clemente patrolling right field. And PNC is gorgeous - if you like ballparks, you must see it - but too full of ballpark tourists like me, and not enough local, hometown crazies. What I longed to see was a park jammed with rabid fans, with shirtless idiots screaming their faces off, with families and old guys with transistor radios, all cheering on a team with a real chance of winning. Imagine that: NL CENTRAL CHAMPS. That'd make for a different kind of fan, I dare say.