What it Means to be a Diehard Fan

Indeed this is the year Pirates fans have long been waiting for; they have had 20 consecutive losing seasons dating back to 1993.

Indeed this is the year Pirates fans have long been waiting for; they have had 20 consecutive losing seasons dating back to 1993.

The world of sports is a roller coaster ride filled with passionate fervor, emotions, championships, and crushing defeats. Sometimes it’s great to be a fan, and other times you just shake your head and accept bitter losses. Sometimes the pain of rooting for a team can be so bad that you just give up and leave the bandwagon (guilty as charged).

But the pain and struggle of rooting for a losing team is all part of the journey of being a fan. For some dedicated people, the struggle can last years, decades, or even a century (Cubs fans, I’m looking at you). But there’s a special form of character and humility to be earned from years of losing.

Look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. The last time they made the playoffs was 1992, when Barry Bonds won the MVP as a Pirates outfielder and Jim Leyland led the Bucs. Since ’92, the Pirates have had 20 losing seasons, finishing in last place nine times and losing 100 games twice. You could say fans in the Steel City have had a rough time recently. Some fans, like 19 year old Pittsburgh native Patrick Dudiak, have never seen their beloved Pirates make the playoffs, much less have a winning record. Pat recently wrote ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick about the dignity and privilege of being a dedicated fan, and I wish to share his profound insights with you.

“One quote in your article stuck out to me specifically though:

“Sid Bream slid, and the window slammed on our fingers,” Van Slyke said. “There were babies born in Pittsburgh who went off to college and never saw their team win. In essence, they lost a generation of baseball fans.”

I am one of those babies going of to college Van Slyke is referring to. But, the Pirates didn’t lose me. While it has certainly been a rough ride, and I am still waiting to see my first winning season (4 wins to go!), there are many in that generation Van Slyke feels like the Pirates lost that are still around.

I felt a little slighted by his comments, and speaking for some of us from this generation, I just want you to know that we’re still here. Sure, there were years of sitting through games, where we would take up 3 rows each at game with 12,000 fans, talking about how Jason Bay, Rob Mackowiak, Raul Mondesi, and so many others were going to “turn this team around”, and every opening day was like a clip out of ‘Major League’, when we would say “this is the year we break the streak.”

Well, after 20 years of being on this earth, and 20 years of losing baseball, we’re still here. Sports, and especially baseball, have a very special place in the hearts of Pittsburghers, and while it certainly stung every year to know that we would be dumping our top players or prospects at the deadline, we continued to show up.

Now, it feels as though our dues are being paid, thanks to Clint Hurdle, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and the hometown hero, Neil Walker. When asked why I continue to root for such a historically bad team, my answer, like many others, was that because once we break that streak, it will feel oh so good. Well, in 4 games, it will feel…pretty good. But its what lies beyond that, that has us in this generation excited.

It may have been a long, very bumpy ride. But I just felt the need to let you know that Van Slyke wasn’t exactly right with that quote. Many of us are still here, and we’re happy to get our feet of the seats in front of us so 38,000 others can join in on the fun.”

The Pirates are currently 79-57, tied for first place in the NL Central Division. For the first time in his life, Pat will see a winning Pirates team in 2013. And I hope the Pirates make the World Series this year, because its only fair for diehard fans like him to celebrate. It’s just one example of the sweet satisfaction of being a sports fan.

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