“How can you not get romantic about baseball?”
Billy Beane in Moneyball spoke completely true words. How do you avoid the romance of the sport? Other sports don’t offer what baseball does. Watch a team clear the benches after a walk-off home run. Watch a pitcher after striking out the side. Watch a runner slide into the plate and after the dust clears see the umpire swipe his arms out and declare him “safe!” by a fraction of a second. Watch a fan base erupt when a team is running its second time through the batting order in one inning.
Listen to the stories. Watch videos of the greats. Or just watch Starling Marte jack a home run on the first pitch he ever saw in a major league game. Watch Jason Grilli’s epic fist pump after striking out a batter. Watch the smile on Andrew McCutchen’s face as he trots around the bases after a home run. Watch A.J. Burnett either leaving the dug out to defend his team or telling a batter to “sit the fuck down.” Watch Rod Barajas make it all the around the bases. Baseball is full of romance, but at the same time it is full of suffering, and not many fan bases understand suffering the way the people of Pittsburgh do. The Pirates have 19 games left to win 10 so that they can finish above .500. It wasn’t too long ago that the Pirates were in first place and over 10 games over .500.
What happened? Seven games lost in a row. Four of them to the Cubs. THE CUBS.
As a Pirate fan, what do you do? Can you be upset? Can you abandon the team? It’s been 20 years. Twenty years of losing. What do we even do with this?
We will be back. We always come back. You live and die with the team. We suffer with them. We are glutton for punishment because the saying that pain is pleasure is true. We stay because for every game where they commit seven errors, for every game that they abandon three runners when there are no outs, there is a moment that reminds us of why we love baseball. There is a moment that reminds us how pure and beautiful the sport is. We revel in the roar of the crowd (when they aren’t woo-ing anyway). We love the sound of baseball: the crack of a bat, a foot hitting the base, a ball smacking leather at 98 mph, the scraping of cleats on dirt.
We will keep coming back because no matter how bad it is, no matter how much they lose, we have hope. For as much as this team beats us down, they continue to lift us up as well.
This may not be our year. It may not be next year either. But one day, the suffering will end. It has to. We have to believe.