Looking at how different generations of Pirates fans handle the current Pirates really interests me. There’s my grandfather, who remembers so much that’s great about Pirates history. His friend is in the famous picture of Bill Mazeroski running home, running right behind him; he remembers seeing Willie Stargell in his prime; he saw Roberto Clemente’s 3000th hit. He stopped watching the Pirates until recently. When he does talk about the Pirates, he is extremely frustrated and irritated.
There’s my father, who has lost interest in the sport of baseball. He would rather watch the Steelers, the Penguins, or any major Pitt sport than the Pirates.
The fans who really remember the great things in Pirates history generally just get frustrated with the last two decades of Pirates history and don’t spend that much time thinking about. And really, who can blame them? When you’ve seen players like Clemente, Stargell, and Bonds why would you want to watch Jason Kendall, Jack Wilson, or Jason Bay? The younger generation of Pirates fans pay more attention to the current Pirates because they don’t seem as bad because we don’t have much choice. If we’re baseball fans, our heroes didn’t win. We can’t fondly remember their triumphs when these Pirates lose.
And yet, in reading the (outstanding) work of Pat Lackey at Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? I have noticed that even the (relatively) small age difference between us leads us to react in different ways to the Pirates. The blog name itself reveals a yearning for the past glory of the Pirates.
The fact is, my friends and I don’t have a glorious past to yearn for. As I’ve mentioned before, my nostalgia is for Jason Kendall and Brian Giles. Those teams were not good. The effect that this has on my (and my friends’) reaction to the Pirates’ performance is interesting.
We get far less frustrated and angry at the Pirates than older Pirates fans. We expect them to lose; we’ve never seen anything else. And so we are trained to look for the bright spots: Andrew McCutchen had two hits and stung the ball; James McDonald struck out everyone, even if he got hit at the end of his start; boy Alex Presley has a beautiful swing (oops, I got that one wrong). When the Pirates lose, my father and grandfather will groan. My friends and I just mentally go “ok”, and laugh about the hilarious string of ineptitude that is the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s how we came to enjoy baseball.
I honestly don’t know how I’ll react if the Pirates are ever truly competitive late in the year. It will be an entirely different experience to actually care about a game. Because as big of a Pirates fan as I am, I’m rarely truly invested in whether they win or lose. That’s how I’ve been trained to watch them. I hope that soon I can change that.