Amazingly, summer is over halfway completed and the fall is quickly approaching. It pains me to say that statement because I love the summer. I love the heat, going swimming, water parks, the beach and watching baseball.
However, one major thing I love about these next few weeks is the full sports blitz that we as fans get to experience. This year is especially great because the Pirates are doing so well (I know they did well the last two years, too), Steelers training camp is about to open, the Penguins will have a full season upcoming and it all seems to merge at one point.
What I, along with all other Pittsburgh sports fans, hope for is the Pirates are still playing meaningful ball, chugging along towards the playoffs, the Steelers start the season strong and the Pens rev up by showing they were right in locking up their core for many years to come.
What we have missed the last two seasons of Pirates baseball is by the time the Steelers season starts, the Pirates fans are so frustrated with them, they become an afterthought. This year does seem to be different though, the Pirates are being looked at as a “lock” for the playoffs while the Steelers hope to finish above .500.
Just imagine we had a sports season like we had in 2009. The Steelers won the Super Bowl, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup and the Pirates, well, they were the Pirates of old. Imagine this year, if the Pirates not only break 20 years of losing by going well over .500, but make the playoffs and win the World Series. Imagine the Steelers shock everyone again like they did in that Super Bowl-winning year when no one thought they would be above third in their own division. Imagine the Penguins finally put it all together again and win another Stanley Cup. City of Champions, indeed!
Granted, it’s way more likely the Pirates make the one-game playoff and get knocked out by Cincinnati, the Steelers finish no better than second in their division and either miss the playoffs or get knocked out early again and the Pens can’t get over that playoff hump to make a real run for the Cup.
But near-misses are what make sporting events so great to watch. Ask yourself: would you rather have at least one successful franchise who wins it all while the other two don’t make the playoffs or get knocked out early? How many of you would trade a Pirates World Series win for the Steelers to finish third and the Pens to get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round? Who would take the Steelers to win the Super Bowl while the Pirates…actually, nevermind, that has happened way too often and we know how that feels. Or, would you rather all three franchises have successful seasons by providing a winning record, a playoff appearance and the possibility of winning a championship?
I think what I love about sports the most is the unknown aspect of the games. It’s those watercooler discussions, the random phone call to your best buddy to talk about possible trade scenarios, dressing up in your team colors with your favorite player on the back and watching the game from start to finish, and regardless you are there for your team the next game.
Non-sports people will never truly know the joys and angst to which fans of their teams go through on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Being a Pirates fan since I was little, with Jason Thompson as my favorite player, all the way through the Barry Bonds era, I know what it’s like to suffer with a team.
Being a Steelers fan, I know what it’s like to have the potential for success each year, being “better” than every other team in the league on a regular basis. As a Pens fan, I know what it’s like to have the best player in the world on your team every game along with arguably the second-best.
Being a Pittsburgh fan comes with a lot of sports responsibility. Most, not all, Steelers fans will root for any other team, so long as it helps the Black and Gold in the long run. I’ve found myself rooting plenty of times for Baltimore or Cleveland or New England just because it helps the Steelers get closer to their goal of winning the Super Bowl.
If you blindly root against these teams because you “hate” them, maybe you should re-evaluate yourself a little bit. If we needed Baltimore to beat San Diego to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, would you still root for San Diego? Of course not but a lot of other sports fans don’t realize this and would root for San Diego just because they “hate” Baltimore that much. It’s silly. I want the best for the Pittsburgh sports teams and if that means rooting for our most “hated” rivals for them to get ahead, so be it.
Get ready Pittsburgh sports fans, we are at the beginning of potential greatness, but we also must be aware that we are more likely to suffer the greatest disappointment. That’s what makes being a sports fanatic such a great thing. You just never know.