Being a Pirate fan is not easy. There are obvious reasons for this, with the primary one being that the Pirates are bad at baseball. They've been bad at baseball for just about as long as anyone can remember. Pirate fans that have suffered through 19 consecutive losing seasons have dealt with watching baseball games in a toilet bowl, the specter of the team moving, the inept management of Cam Bonifay and Kevin McClatchy and Dave Littlefield, and an uncountable number of losses in ways that can only begin to be described. That barely scratches the surface, of course. Once you count the embarrassing players (Derek Bell, Raul Mondesi, "Welcome to Hell" Jason Kendall and numerous others), embarrassing managers (Lloyd McCledon's ridiculous antics, Jim Tracy's lackadaisical approach to his entire career as a Pirate, John Russell's corpse impersonation), the stupid PR moves made by the Nutting/Coonelly regime, and things that I've probably intentionally repressed down into the dark recesses of my brain, you've got a mountain of reasons to not be a Pirate fan that no one would blame you for taking.
As a result, the Pirates are the red-headed stepchild of Pittsburgh sports. That's OK. I understand that neither local paper wants to waste their best journalist in the Pirate beat. I get why the Pirates almost never pop up on ESPN or MLB Network other than to fulfill the annual "wacky pre-season prediction" quota. I get why PNC is always empty when the Penguins are in the playoffs and when the Steelers are playing. You don't have to explain it to me, and I don't hold it against people that would rather cheer for Pittsburgh's more successful sports teams. The Pirates have been bad for a long time to the point that they became an embarrassment to the fans and anyone that wanted to jump off the bandwagon at any point after about 2006, I understand.
Here's the thing, though: Pirate fans do exist. Maybe the Pirates don't have a "Nation" of fans the way the Steelers or Pens or Red Sox do, but Pirate fans do exist. In fact, just saying that Pirate fans exist sells us way short. Pirate fans are amazing. I don't mean that as hyperbole, I don't mean that as "for lack of a better term." I mean that Pirate fans are amazing. There are few fan bases that have had been heaped under as much garbage as Pirate fans have in the last 20 years, and all you have to do is pull up a computer to find a legion of smart, funny, eloquent, die-hard Pirate fans writing blogs or commenting in game threads or just hanging around on Twitter. It's self-perpetuating, but the reason that Pirate fans are able to exist are other Pirate fans. Being a Pirate fan requires a type of loyalty that being a Yankee fan or a Steeler fan never will.
It sounds cliched, but this is why I don't care that the Pirates get ignored by the national media and mostly marginalized by the local media. Being a Pirate fan is like being in the best kind of secret club: who cares if no one realizes how good Andrew McCutchen is or how beautiful PNC Park is or how good the Pirate blogs are? We all know it and we know that there are other Pirate fans that appreciate the same things we do and have been through the same crap we have and so, somehow that makes it OK. When my friend Adam talks about his Bucco Playoff Kegger in October, every single Pirate fan knows what he's talking about. Someday, the Pirates going to find their way out of these woods and when they do, we long-time Pirate fans are going to let out a huge collective sigh of relief and talk about all of the things we went through as fans to see the club through to this point and have one hell of a party. We know we'll have other Pirate fans to share it with and the anticipation of that moment alone is worth waiting for.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm fine with the local media treating the Pirates like second class citizens and I'm fine with the national media generally pretending like the Pirates don't exist, but what really works me up more than anything is when people treat Pirate fans like they don't matter. How is it that the local media can spell tough, nonintuitive names like "Roethlisberger" and "Lemieux" right every single time, but so many writers and editors consistently misspell an easy name like "McCutchen?" (Make no mistake; it was the linked PG story that set me off today, but this is not an isolated problem) Andrew McCutchen is one of baseball's best centerfielders. He's an All-Star and a rising young star in general. He's signed the most important contract extension in the history of the Pirates. His last name is both distinctive and easy to spell. In all of Major League history, Andrew McCutchen and Dan McCutchen are the only two McCutchens to step onto the field. There has never been a big leaguer with the last name McCutcheon.
Andrew McCutchen doesn't care if you know how to spell his name. He's got his contract extension, he's got his All-Star appearance, he'll have his endorsements. Andrew McCutchen probably doesn't even read the baseball coverage in the PG or the Trib. No, the people that read that coverage are the Pirate fans. The people who've had long, long winters that have had April 5th circled on their calendars for months. The people who say to themselves, "This week has been rough, but if I can just get to 1:35 on Thursday, it'll all be OK." The people that go to PNC Park when it's 42 degrees and rainy in April and when it's 102 degrees with 99% humidity in August. The people that watch every game on their computer, even though they live hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh. The people that know that Tim Neverett has a depth perception problem on home runs, that Pedro Alvarez's toe-tap this spring is new, that saw Charlie Morton last spring and said, "Wow, that looks different" without ever having to be told that he dropped his armslot.
And when we see "McCutcheon" in print, we roll our eyes and swear under our breath. How can you write a story about the plight of the fanbase and misspell the name of the team's best and most exciting player? Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates right now; his talent and potential and his extension represent the things that make this Pirate team different from every Pirate team that's come before them over the last 19 years. If you can't do enough homework to spell his name right, how can you possibly write anything else about the team? Making a mistake that simple (and I'm not singling out the writers and reporters here -- I know how easy it is to make a typo in a long piece and I'm sure you'll find at least one in this post -- because newspapers have editors for a reason) and careless says to me that you don't care who reads it. It's just a piece about the Pirates, right? Who cares? Who cares if Andrew McCutchen's name is spelled right? No one will read it anyway.
I care. I'll read it and I'll notice when it's wrong and I'll remember it, too. It's OK, though, because even if people like to pretend that Pirate fans don't exist, we Pirate fans know differently. And when things finally turn around for the Pirates, we'll lose our minds and we'll toast Andrew McCutchen and we'll pack PNC Park and we'll be impossible to ignore. I can't wait.
The PIRATES are not just a embarrsment to us in Pittsburgh but all of MLB.. How the league could allow this kind of team to be called a major league team is a joke. I believe if a team does not make the playoffs in 10 years the league should hold a investigation and possibly remove any owner involved for that period of time even a minor owner. They forfiet their part of the team without any compensation. That would keep the game honest...at least the Yankees and Red Sox etc. TRY to WIN....
@WilliamPearce Just because Pat got me fired up a little today (justly so), I'd like to take a moment to say that while anyone is allowed to express an opinion, it does help if it's based in reason.
The Blue Jays - now stacked with Bautista, Morrow, Lawrie et. al, haven't been to the postseason in 18 years. Their fault? Partly yes, partly no.
The Marlins, who have had world-class players in Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson and now Stanton and Jose Reyes, haven't made the playoffs in 8 years.
And that's not to mention cases such as the Cubs, Rangers, Mariners or Nationals, where pennant droughts are legendary.
All of which is to say, it's awful when a team doesn't make the playoffs or win a championship for what seems like forever, but it happens all over the place.
You want MLB to remove the owner? What kind of person would want to come in and replace them, with MLB hanging over that? The Yankees and Red Sox try to win, and they also, like the Angels and Rangers, have a huge TV deal. The Pirates don't have a similar deal. They were awful in drafting for many years, and it shows, but that's not been the case recently. Heck, they were even in first in June. If you had removed people in power a year ago because the Bucs hadn't made the playoffs, would McCutchen be signed long term? Would the Bucs have signed Cole and Bell? Probably not.
Who is realistically saying they aren't trying to win? They might have bad strategies- that's always up for debate- but trying? Really? That's your argument?
@pbcrevolution The playes try... the owners only want a profit.. Until they have good pitching they will never win. High draft picks for 19 years.. Pass up Fielder, Howard, had Bautista twice.. etc. The list goes on and on..they picked anyone that they could get cheap.. I have suffered through this for 19 years as you have. Just don't pee in my ear and tell me it's raining. The ownership is a disgrace to pro sports..19 years is the longest streak ever... Even the umpires take almost every close play from them.. I was at the world series against Baltimore and many seats were empty.. I just wonder if my brother is right.. MLB is making us pay for those empty seats??? In the first half of the season CH. would argue for anything that went against the Pirates..2nd half stayed on the bench???? They all QUIT...
I have been a true Pirate fan since I was old enough to start loving sports, which was about 1955. In fact I was at every home game in 1960, including Mazs' shot heard round the world!!! I have been sentenced to Philadelphia since 2005 but I am still a Pirate fan. Don't worry there are a lot of us out there. I wear my Pirate shirts all over this funky town. Don't worry, we will get our chance. It's coming in about 2 years if we keep our young core (That has been the problem for 20 years) instead of trading everyone for NOTHING or malcontented a holes like Bell. The Green Weenie will be back and I will be waiving it. Long live the Buccos!!! RIP Gunner!!!!
@johnws John I have a bridge in in New York ...would you like to buy it????? I hear in 5 years..in 5 years..in 5 years...not a echo.. for 19 years... REALLY.. I am 69..was a fan for 56 years.. It will never happen until George S. comes alive and buys the PIRATES...
@WilliamPearce Hi William. I'm 65 and I hear you. I guess being a fan is not giving up on your home town team, even if a holes have been running it for the last 20 years. You never quit hoping and then IT happens. I just would like to see the IT happen before I join the Gunner and at 69, you know who that is. On being 69, you made it into the cool generation William and that is about 60 to 75!!!!!!
Between the passion and analysis in WHYGAVS, the straight up reporting on Bucs Dugout, and the farm system detail on Pirates Prospects, the Pirates are very well served by their blogging community. Becoming a regular reader here has allowed me to tease out questions like "WHY aren't the Pirates getting better?" and "Do any of these trades make sense?", in short, making me a more intelligent fan. It's actually strengthened by connection to the team; otherwise I may have given up years ago along with the other casuals. Thanks for writing, Pat.
Great stuff! I hope Cutch's crazy wife never runs off with a baby here in Florida like Tabata's did, because I'd probably have to kill myself telling my producers that we were pronouncing "McCutchen" wrong...
Count me in as one of those die-hards. And a nice perspective on the post- not too over-the-top, not too melodramatic. Just saying simply that it'd be nice if people didn't discount a fan base.
Oh and let me add my day job is in the print media. So I'll say that, like Pat, I totally get that a typo can happen. What I don't totally get is how that got past several editors who would've seen McCutchen's name dozens of times by this point, even on the news side.
That and I don't get the PG's shuffle of Pirate beat reporters since DK left. I don't even know how they are handling it now, but the blog there has been lackluster, sporadic and often behind on the news cycle. To which I say to blogs like yours, keep up the good work.
Ha I just found this on the PG: http://old.post-gazette.com/pg/12071/1215710-467.stm Also spells it McCutcheon. Multiple times
Great post. Hard to take seriously what someone in the media writes when they can't even spell a name correctly, and even harder when it manages to get by the editors. These are the people that are supposedly paid to care about the Pirates.... or at least their job of covering the Pirates.
Great article. Just one footnote. If you were a Steeler fan in the '50s, you would know exactly how it feels to be a Pirate fan now. Believe it or not, the Pirates were the big story back then.
@steelerfred You must be an old timer like me. Steelers - who the hell were they in the 50's and early 60's. You hit that one on the head!!!
It didn't bother me as much when he was still a minor leaguer. You can't blame the lazy media folks and editors for not knowing who he is when he's not playing everyday in Pittsburgh and Google was so new and kind of scary in 2005-09. And I can kind of understand national media and opposing team's media not knowing how to spell it, since it's such a complicated name and again, it's hard to remember Google's URL.
@jrgsstuff I hope they win a few.. but last year was a fluke. I wondered how they could win as they did early on.. But as usual August came...wins stopped coming.. This team has no heart and has not had heart for many years from upper management to the bottom...I hope I am wrong.. but history repeats it's self in Pit every year. Our only hope is because two of the best hitters have left our league. That is poor others getting worse make us better..????
This is an epic, awesome, phenomenal article! This article somes up so many thing that I try and try to explain to so many of my friends that, quite frankly, don't understand. Thank you so much, Mr. Lackey!
Great post, completely agree. This problem predates McCutchen though, just a few short seasons ago Nate McLouth was our best player (sad but true) and a lot of people spelled his name incorrectly too (McClouth). We deserve some resemblance of respect here, we are a dedicated fan base and the least reporters should do is spell our players names correctly.
Awesome post Pat. I'm somewhat of a strange breed, a Pirates fan, living in Australia that has never even been to America! I wore my McCutchen jersey to a game here in Canberra and got abused by people with clever comments like "Pirates suck"! These were people that were wearing the same Canberra Cavalry hat as me! We were there to cheer on the same team yet I still got shit! I guess my point is that us Pirate fans on the other side of the world feel your pain and one day, one beautiful shining day, it will all be worth it. Go Buccos.