I was probably 8 or 9 when I went to my first Pirates game, with my dad and my friend Jill and her dad. Jill explained to me that Mike Schmidt was the devil (Jill was, and I believe remains, a fairly devoted baseball fan – she knew everybody who played). I liked Mike LaValliere because he ran like a cute little chipmunk. My dad helped me score the game, which was fine until about the seventh inning when they start making all the substitutions and you have to keep crossing stuff out. That was annoying. Pinch what? But that did help me learn about what all was happening. Shockingly I was perhaps one of five children in all of the United States who did not play Little League in the 1980s, so I was somewhat unclear on the concept.
I went to some games growing up. Not a crazy amount, but enough. I liked Andy Van Slyke and Sid Bream because they were good, and good looking. (Please keep in mind that it was like 1988.) I liked Tony Pena. I was excited about the Bonds/Bonilla era and disappointed, but not enormously so, when the Pirates did not win the World Series in the early 1990s. I was probably more focused on getting my bangs as high as possible, most likely. That took a lot of energy.
I did not really live in Pittsburgh from 1994 – 2002. I was in college out of state (although technically I suppose I was here for most of the season, but NEVER MIND) and then lived in DC. This was pre-Nationals, so I was living in a city with NO BASEBALL TEAM. Through all this time I would still root, root, root for the Pirates, because if they don’t win it’s a shame. But I don’t know if I went to any games. Probably not. They blew up Three Rivers Stadium and I wasn’t here for it.
I moved back and PNC Park was already here. Everyone hated the Pirates because they sucked or whatever, so it was cheap and easy to go to games. So I went to games. Some friends got a group together and I got in with the group. Mostly they would spend the games drinking at the bar, but I sat in the seats and watched. Ben and I started dating, and he loves the Pirates, so we went to more games.
Then the Pirates started to win more, and tickets were harder and more expensive to get, but now everyone is interested in the Pirates, and from living with Ben I know what’s going on. I know who most of the players are. I might even recognize them if I saw them on the street. I’ve spoken to Clint Hurdle at Starbucks (he said Zoe was cute). I sit next to Lou at work, who talks about the Pirates approximately 3 hours out of every day, and I’m able to keep up with the conversation (much to the chagrin of our immediate neighbor Ethan, who is excited that hockey season is coming so maybe we’ll shut up already).
So what kind of fan am I?
- Fair weather friend? Clearly not.
- Rabid maniacal fan? Also clearly not.
- Fan by proxy? Perhaps. Maybe if I wasn’t with Ben, I wouldn’t be such a fan?
- Native Pittsburgher fan? I think this is right. I would never root for another team. I like the Pirates. I would go to games if they were awful. (Maybe not if they pick up someone who starts sliding into other players and breaking their legs, but I don’t really see them doing that, do you? I mean, certainly Cutch would not permit such shenanigans.) I enjoy the view of the city from the stadium, and watching the pierogie race n’at, and pretending like I’m going to catch a hot dog. I’ve been to other games in other stadiums and it is not the same. (Why don’t some of the other stadiums have random events during the game like pierogie races and hot dog tosses and what not? I need something else to capture my attention for when they start switching everyone out in the seventh inning or whatever.)
So I think that’s what kind of fan I am, and I’ll be watching the Wild Card game tomorrow (sort of off and on, you know, while we’re putting the girls to bed) and making fun of Jake Arrieta because he looks like Merry the Hobbit and LET’S GO BUCS!!