In the six months of Ladies, this is the hardest post I’ve had to write. So hard that I’ve actually been working on it since this game…
That’s right. Ever since the Buccos gave up a 10th inning walk-off grand slam to Dodgers on April 21.
You know, after they gave up the lead in the 9th.
So promise to stick with me if turns into the worst post ever in all of sport blogging history. I have a boat and we’re going up the river…
I am not the best baseball fan. I can score a game, I can maintain a fantasy team with a fair amount of success, and I can savor the stillness in the air when a pitcher takes that extra half a second before turning to throw the ball. But I do not have a passion for it.
I watch baseball with a cynical eye and a jaded heart. I do not understand – no, strike that – I do understand why baseball fans get upset over players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Jose Canseco, but frankly I do not care.
Maybe if there was a part of baseball that held some sort of special memory for me, something larger than the fleeting images of going to games with old friends, something other than a cold, Fall night my freshman year of college. If I only had one positive emotion tied to the Pirates, I would be more upset over players doping, ballparks redesigned to be hitter-friendly, and balls being juiced. But I don’t, so I can’t.
Because as a fan of a “small-market team”, the game has always been fixed.
I knew going to see the Pirates take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was going to be a rough trip. Roy Hobbs up in Seattle had sent a cryptic message about Jeff Weaver being able to take down the team, even with a 10-some ERA. And judging by the map, Angels stadium was no where near my house, despite being called the “Los Angeles Angels”.
A quick check of SigAlert showed that the route was clear, but as soon as we pulled on to the 101 we knew our intelligence report had been flawed. Good thing we had left more than three hours before game time.
For an hour and half TheStarterBoyfriend and I made our way down the 5, talking about past games, the lunacy of the up-coming Pirate Fan Protests, the rage of many fans, and the overwhelming sense of ennui that had taken over even the most rabid of Bucco fans.
After briefly panicking just before Disneyland that we didn’t know which exit to take and one $5.95 call to Verizon 411 Connect, we finally ended up in the parking lot next to famous ice cream truck.
This isn’t what I had expected the enemy to look like. It was reborn, shiny, and adored. That fixed up van was everything Angels; crap through the ’80’s and ’90’s only to find glory in recent years.
We paused and pressed on.
One of the natives came up to us and asked if we wanted her take our picture while I took this shot, and genuinely seemed hurt when I said thank-you, but that was not necessary. ESPN will lead with a Steeler story seven days a week, but the Pirates… I don’t know if they even make Baseball Tonight these days. We didn’t exist any more.
Sadly, I think she’s done FHM and not Playboy.
Jeff Garcia? A Browns jersey? When did we cross in to Cambodia? The enemy was everywhere and I couldn’t get Starterboyfriend out of the boat.
Watching the warm ups, I could tell no one was in charge. They knew they were out fighting for the biggest nothing yet, an inter-league game.
By the second inning we were already getting killed, 5-0. I had texted my old baseball watching buddies across the country, “I get to go to about five Pirate games a year, and they blow it each time.” Britcher, as always, was the first to respond, “Just you watch, we’ll come back and win this thing.”
The war was already over and he was going to keep on fighting. It was then I knew he was never going to truly come home.
Nady made it back. He had that light about him, that he’d be the one guy to score any runs for us all season.
Bautista on the other hand, was going to keep on doing what he had done all series – blowing every play that came by third base and spending more time on his knees than a hooker back in Saigon.
Another message came from Britcher. “You’re a Pghburger, see if they will you let you go out and catch.”
This wasn’t my war anymore. 10-1 final score. We certainly were not going to be building this any time soon.
Starting pitcher Ian Snell, the same man who I had seen go from winning a Dodger game to having his teammates blow it in the 9th back in April, lost it after the game.
“I [expletive] hate this,” he said at his stall, his voice rising. “And you can put that in the paper. I [expletive] hate losing. I hate when the team doesn’t bring out its full potential. And if they fine me, fine me. I don’t care. Because this is getting stupid. We’re better than what we’re showing.”
That is the quote of a man’s spirit being broken. Soon he’ll be as dead as the other villagers around the clubhouse. “Welcome to hell” still hangs in air, even all these years later.
So walk out June 30th, it won’t matter. Smizik from the Post-Gazette already has his response as does Gene Collier. If you believe John Harris from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, it is the fans fault in the first place and that Pirate fans are just another cog in the wheel of keeping a 14-year loosing streak going by supporting the team.
(It is convenient for Harris to forget that for most of the 90’s every other story was about how the city couldn’t support a Major League Baseball team. It was drummed into even the most casual of fan that if they did not show their love, if they did not support the Pirates no matter what, that the team could be taken away. Moved to a better, brighter city like Nashville and out of dingy old Pittsburgh. For a town that has more civic pride than sense, these lessons are not going to disappear overnight.)
Nothing is going to change the plight of the Pirates. 14 loosing seasons will soon turn to 15. Blame who you want, but I know where my fight belongs.
I cannot see Selig, but I can feel him everywhere.