Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fairweather Fans

Now that the NLDS is over and the Pirates have been eliminated, I'd like to address the "fans".

Dear Pittsburgh sports fans,

You disgust me. I'm just going to open with that so there's no question about where I'm going with this article. For years now the Pirates have languished in mediocrity, stringing together losing seasons and building toward the future. During that time, their beautiful stadium (frequently recognized as one of the best places to watch an MLB game) sat half-empty game after game despite having the lowest ticket prices of any National League franchise. The supposedly healthy and loyal fan-base in the city around them treated the Pirates like the proverbial red-headed stepchild, alternately attacking or ignoring them. Now that they have put together a winning season and competed in the playoffs, though, suddenly everybody in Pittsburgh is a Pirates fan. That's their team, don't you know?

Well let me tell you something. Do you know how I know that PNC Park was half-empty game after game? Because I was actually going to Pirates games. Despite having to spend 2 hours in the car each way to get there, I attended multiple games each season. That's because, unlike the throngs of "fans" who cropped up this year and acted like they'd always supported the team, I actually am a Pirates fan. Does that sound bitter and judgmental? Good. You see, I'm not delusional enough to think that everybody out there should latch onto a professional sports team and support them through thick and thin, but when somebody claims to be a fan of a team it means that they're a part of something bigger than themselves. They're part of a community that shares failures, and through that shared experience they take communal joy in the triumphs. But hopping in as a fair weather fan is wanting all the good without paying for it. It's being an atheist your whole life, dying and meeting Saint Peter at the pearly gates, then suddenly shouting "Yeah! God is awesome!" and expecting to get into Heaven.*

To highlight the way Pittsburgh sports fans have treated the Pirates over the years, I'd like to briefly recount something that happened to me about four years ago. I was in Pittsburgh to pick up a friend from the airport. I happened to be wearing a Pirates shirt that I had received during one of the promotional free t-shirt days at the ballpark. As I'm walking into the terminal, a little old lady stopped me. She said "You shouldn't be wearing that. You should wear a Steelers shirt instead." Yes, that was only one person, but never before or since in my life have I had a member of the public admonish me for wearing an article of clothing that supported a team in their own city. That's who the Pirates were to the city of Pittsburgh just a few short years ago. They were the team you "shouldn't" root for, for no discernible reason other than the fact that they weren't winning. Now, though, with the Steelers off to a terrible start and the Pirates finally demonstrating that their GM's long-term planning was well-advised, suddenly the entire city of Pittsburgh are Pirates fans and want to pretend like they've been cheering them on all this time. Well excuse me, but as an actual Pirates fans I'd just like to say: screw you Pittsburgh.

*This is not an endorsement or condemnation of any belief system or lack thereof. It is purely an illustrative example.

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