“I thought you would have been going crazy right now.”
My college roommate looked over at me as I had the joy of someone who had just received a free sample at Sam’s Club. The moment was cool, but it wasn’t life changing. I wasn’t freaking out. I could take it or leave it, and it didn’t impact my life.
I wasn’t at Sam’s Club though. I was sitting on the floor at a party, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a team that I follow win a championship. Well, the first time I could really appreciate it.
The only other time I saw a team I liked win anything was when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup back-to-back years in the early 90s. That got me into hockey, but I also didn’t understand at the time that the team you follow didn’t win every year. You see, when you’re young enough, you don’t care about winning championships. You just love watching the game, and if you’re lucky, you get to go to the stadium and watch it live.
But then you reach a point where you start pulling for the ultimate goal in each sport. You realize there is a point to all of those games. Rather than just watching the game for fun, you now have a purpose for pulling for your team.
It was maybe around middle school or high school that I started realizing the reality. The Penguins won championships when I was younger, but that wasn’t guaranteed every year. I vaguely followed football, and didn’t really start following the Steelers closely until around 2001-02. I was an Orioles fan growing up, so I wasn’t thinking about championship possibilities much for baseball.
So when the 2004-05 season came around for the Steelers, I thought I was finally going to see a championship. The first championship I could really appreciate since reaching an age where you realize that those aren’t just something that happens every year.
I saw them get close and lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship a few years before. I saw them struggle after that. And then they went 15-1 and looked like the strongest team in the NFL. The 2004-05 season was their year. I was finally going to see a championship.
I couldn’t sleep the night before they played the Jets. I ignored my classes all week leading up to the Patriots game. The buildup to that game was like waiting for Christmas when you were a kid. Then the game came along…
“Looks like I’m going to be guaranteed a championship this year.”
My roommate was happy because he was a fan of the Patriots and the Eagles, and right after watching Corey Dillon run the nail-in-the-coffin touchdown into the end zone, he knew that his two teams were going to meet for the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the realization that the Steelers had lost again in the AFC Championship — to the Patriots of all teams — was hitting me. I’m not going to print what I said next. Just know that it was a lot of yelling and profanity that was screamed loud enough for everyone in our dorm to hear it, I started throwing things around the room, and at one point my shoe came off and I used it to start beating our metal door. I’ll admit there was some crying that night. I hated the Patriots. I hated that my friend, who had experienced his team winning a title just two years earlier, was going to see it again while I was dying to see it once.
I couldn’t enjoy the next season. The Steelers started 2-0, but lost to the Patriots. It was just a sign that even if they would make it to the playoffs, they would lose to the Patriots.
They eventually were at 7-5, and needed a strong run to make the playoffs. They got that by winning their final four games of the season. But it didn’t matter. I was changed. Prior to that year, I was cheering for my team to win. This time around, I was dreading that they had the possibility of losing.
They played the Bengals, went down early in the first half, and came back and won. It was a great game. But then they had to get past the Colts.
There was the scare with Jerome Bettis fumbling on the goal line, but the Steelers escaped with a win.
And none of that mattered, because they were back in the AFC Championship, and I was expecting them to lose. So when they beat the Broncos and made the Super Bowl, I didn’t know what to feel. I wasn’t expecting that, and I just shifted to where I expected them to lose the Super Bowl.
It was only around the end of the Super Bowl that I realized what was happening. The team I followed was finally winning a Super Bowl. The moment I dreamed about, couldn’t sleep in anticipation over, and spent so much emotion over was finally here.
And I spent so much time expecting a loss. So much time protecting myself from that inevitable downfall. So much time refusing to cheer until they actually did something that mattered.
I spent so much time waiting for something that never came, and it caused me to miss the ride. Nothing mattered except a championship, and when the championship arrived I couldn’t even enjoy it.
I’ve seen the same thing happening with Pirates fans over the last few years. They had an amazing season in 2015, but the Wild Card game got the AFC Championship game treatment. Nothing was enjoyed until that game, and even in that game the excitement level was down compared to previous Wild Card games, possibly due to the building fear that the team would inevitably lose.
The Pirates struggled the last two years. But then they started off great this year. They were a fun and exciting team to watch for the first six weeks of the season. A lot of Pirates fans missed that ride and spent the entire time being skeptical, worried about the inevitable losing that might come.
They did slump, and dropped below .500 last night. Those Pirates fans who were waiting for the losing can now say they were right. They can say that they avoided getting their hopes up early in the season because the real team has arrived, and they’re not going to contend. And maybe they’re wrong on that. Maybe this streaky team will break out of their current slump and turn it around with a hot streak. That will probably be met with more skepticism and waiting for the eventual losing.
The unfortunate thing here is that those Pirates fans didn’t just avoid getting their hopes up when the team was winning. They also missed their chance at enjoying some objectively good and entertaining baseball. And that’s unfortunate because if you’re just going to skip over the season, ignore and downplay the highs, embrace and legitimize the lows, and wait for the team to reach that next level that you fear they will never reach, then you’re not going to enjoy it as much when the team finally surprises you and reaches the goal.
Enjoy sports, Pittsburgh. Because there’s really no point to all of this if you’re going to dismiss the good things and focus only on the bad things — especially to the point where you waste the good moments thinking about the possible upcoming bad moments.
Bradenton is in third place in their division, 3.5 games behind the leader with nine games remaining in the first half.
West Virginia is in fourth place in their division, four games behind the leader with nine games remaining in the first half.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 3-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon. The Pirates will send Nick Kingham to the mound for his sixth start. He allowed three runs over five innings against the St Louis Cardinals in his last start. He gave up three runs over 5.2 innings versus the Cubs in his previous outing. The Cubs will counter with left-hander Jon Lester, who has a 2.44 ERA in 70 innings, with 60 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. He gave up four runs over six innings against the Pirates on May 29th.
The minor league schedule includes Tyler Eppler, who has allowed four runs over his last 17.2 innings, while striking out 20 batters. Altoona’s Pedro Vasquez faces the same Hartford team he saw six days ago when he allowed three runs over five innings. Bradenton’s Luis Escobar allowed one run over six innings in his last start. He is holding batters to a .220 BAA. West Virginia doesn’t have a starter listed for today, but it’s likely Hunter Stratton, who has allowed 14 runs over 13.2 innings in his last three starts combined.
MLB: Pittsburgh (31-32) @ Cubs (36-24) 2:20 PM
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (4.03 ERA, 30:5 SO/BB, 29.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (31-27) @ Pawtucket (27-31) 6:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.12 ERA, 57:16 SO/BB, 57.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (29-27) vs Hartford (28-32) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (5.46 ERA, 20:10 SO/BB, 28.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (31-25) @ Tampa (32-29) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.62 ERA, 45:21 SO/BB, 54.2 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (31-26) @ Hickory (23-34) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
DSL: Pirates1 (2-4) vs Red Sox2 10:30 AM
DSL: Pirates2 (1-5) vs Royals2 10:30 AM
From Thursday night, Taylor Hearn works out of a big spot to finish up his strong outing. If you’ve never seen him pitch, this is a great video because you see seven pitches.
6/8: Richard Rodriguez placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas.
6/8: Mason Martin assigned to Bristol. Jesse Medrano assigned to West Virginia.
6/6: Samuel Reyes added to West Virginia roster. Evan Piechota promoted to Bradenton.
6/6: Eric Wood placed on disabled list. Jerrick Suiter added to Indianapolis roster.
6/6: Cam Vieaux promoted to Altoona. Jake Brentz assigned to Bradenton.
6/6: Oddy Nunez placed on disabled list.
6/5: Yoel Gonzalez released.
6/5: John Bormann added to West Virginia roster.
6/4: Pirates released Andrew Walker and Linse Carvajal.
6/3: Cam Vieaux promoted to Altoona. Garrett Brown added to Bradenton roster.
6/3: Austin Coley placed on disabled list.
6/2: Tyler Gaffney promoted to Altoona. Mitchell Tolman assigned to Bradenton.
6/2: Reymundo Pena released.
6/1: Jung Ho Kang assigned to Bradenton
6/1: Montana DuRapau assigned to Altoona. Elvis Escobar placed on disabled list.
5/30: Brandon Waddell promoted to Indianapolis. Jerrick Suiter assigned to Morgantown.
5/30: Eduardo Vera promoted to Altoona.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and two of them spent 11 seasons with the Pirates. Lost with the other two players born on this date, Julio Gotay played infield for the Pirates during the 1963-64 seasons and he was part of a big trade that sent Dick Groat to the Cardinals in November of 1962.
Dave Parker was born on this date in 1951. He was a 14th round draft choice of the Pirates in 1970 and played for the team from 1973 until 1983 when he left via free agency. Parker hit .305 with 166 homers in 1,301 games for the Pirates. During his time in Pittsburgh, he won the 1978 NL MVP, made four All-Star teams and won three Gold Glove awards. You can read a full bio of Parker here.
Also born on this date, Bill Virdon, who played for the Pirates from 1956 until 1965, then returned briefly in 1968. He played 1,415 games for the Pirates, the 11th most all-time. Virdon hit .266 during his time in Pittsburgh and won a Gold Glove in 1962. He drove in five runs during the 1960 World Series. You can read a full bio on Virdon here.