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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 24, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Between The Lines: There’s hope, Pirates fans

Until this season, my favorite sports team, the Baltimore Orioles, has left me disappointed. To every sports fan who bemoaned their teams’ lack of success, I have snobbishly held my suffering as superior. Try not experiencing a winning season since 1997. The only other person who could understand my pain is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

The plights of the Orioles and Pirates are remarkably similar. Both teams play in new stadiums that have been far more attractive than the performance of their home squads. Both teams lost hotly contested league championship series — the Orioles in 1997 and the Pirates in 1992 — and since then have not only been unable to make the playoffs, but have also failed to even finish a season with a winning record. This year, both the Orioles and Pirates started playing winning baseball inexplicably. On Aug. 22, both teams were 10 games above .500 and in positions to take a wild card playoff spot. Since then, the O’s have gotten hot and are battling with the Yankees for the American League Eastern Division title, while the Pirates have gotten cold.

With these two long-suffering franchises on track to end the two longest streaks of losing seasons in North American professional sports this year, I set out to find a Pirates fan at Ithaca College to commiserate in the decades of losing and share hope for the future of our favorite baseball teams. I thought I had found a potential companion in junior Stephanie Zang, a native of Pittsburgh and member of the women’s crew.

“I used to think baseball was so boring, but now its exciting,” Zang said. “This year, I was actually watching and knowing what inning we were in and what was going on.”

Truthfully, I was unable to find a true die-hard Pirates fan at the college. Zang described herself as a fan of Penguins hockey first, followed by Steelers football and then the Pirates.

“I remember in 2009, we won the Superbowl and the Stanley Cup, so those are big,” she said. “But what have the Pirates done? The die-hard Pirates fans, people with season tickets, are older, and they remember those winning seasons.”

When Zang said this, I realized what a difference five years can make for the college-aged generation of sports fans. I can remember the Orioles in the playoffs in 1996 and 1997. I vividly remember being at Camden Yards when the Orioles beat the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series, then being heartbroken when infamous pitcher Armando Benitez surrendered a home run in the 11th inning that knocked the Orioles out of the playoffs. Why would anyone else my age be a die-hard Pirates fan when they have no memories of ever having a good team to cheer for?

As I have closely followed September baseball since the Spice Girls were the big thing in music, I implore my long-suffering brothers in the Pittsburgh area to maintain hope. I can see the promised land of October baseball, and I can say with confidence that the longer the wait, the sweeter the reward will be.