Familiarity bred contempt.
1990 was particularly tough, with the Pirates beating out the Mets for the division and ushering in some tough times for my team. (Though not as tough as the times the Pirates were about to experience. More on that later.)
I'm pretty sure it was 1990 when my dad taught me the theory that I should root for the Pirates to just go on and win it all...so that the Mets would be beaten out by the best. (My stubborn 12-year-old self would never admit the Pirates were 'the best'...or at least better than the Mets.)
But the Pirates hit some hard times...and now, I find myself rooting for the team I used to hate.
After three straight division titles (1990, 1991, and 1992...the latter two of which brought them to within a game of the World Series), the Pirates embarked on 20 straight losing seasons.
It's the longest such stretch of futility in professional sports.
In the meantime, they built a beautiful new ballpark which only the past couple of seasons has seen exciting baseball...though we got an indication of what it can look like for a big event when it hosted the All Star Game seven years ago.
I think there are a few things that make the Pirates appealing to me:
- That ballpark. I love PNC Park. Those bridges in the background, the layout of the ballpark...I love it. I think it's my favorite new park - the sight lines play a big part in that. I am dying to see some playoff games with that ballpark all decked out for the post-season and packed to capacity. And I'm really excited to get back there in person...though I'm not so eager about driving back to Pittsburgh. (That picture up top is a picture of a picture I took there back in 2005. I did not take great pictures capturing the beauty of the park when I was there. I need to get back just for the sake of better pictures.)
- The color yellow. Really, it's no small thing. I've always liked the Pirates' color scheme (though not always their uniforms) - yellow and black. And the aforementioned bridges - they're my favorite color yellow. I find the Pirates visually appealing.
- It's fun to root for an underdog. I got a taste of it last year when the Pirates were strong into July, before they fell apart and ended up below .500 once more. This year they're definitely going to end their losing-seasons streak, and it's almost certain they'll make the playoffs. It's fun to see this type of turnaround for a team. (Then go back to not liking them.)
- Lastly, the Pirates are a good team to watch. Andrew McCutchen is a solid player, but also according to all accounts, an even better person. So I like rooting for him. They're a young team with strong pitching...they're exciting to watch. They're the type of team I like to root for, and I'm kind of mad at myself for not picking them to be this good - they have the type of recipe I look for when I pick playoff teams at the beginning of the year, like Washington a year ago and the Giants a few of years ago. (Baseball editorial - I was all in on Washington - a division rival - last year, and they definitely angered the baseball gods by shelving their ace with the thought that they'll get back to that spot with him. I still like Strasburg, and I will enjoy watching Bryce Harper for the next 20 years or so, but I'll never root for the Washington Nationals again.)
Even better for me - that recipe the Pirates have this year and the Nationals did a year ago and the Giants did three years ago? It's the exact kind of team the Mets will be a year from now.
Then I won't have to root for the Pirates as the playoffs approach.
My team might be making its own post-season run.