Oh, sports. All year, through each and every season, you give me hope. I invest time and emotion into you and sometimes it’s even worth it. Then there are the other times, years like 2012, when you fulfill your awful, inevitable promise to ruin my life.
OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s been a bad year for Pittsburgh sports. This year, every team that I care about has completely self-destructed in one way or another. Let’s review, shall we?
The Pirates came into the season facing a seemingly inevitable Major League Baseball record-breaking 20th consecutive losing season. It was an ominous milestone, but the Pirates decided to temporarily shake the monkeys off their collective backs and put together a very solid season through the all-star break.
Their record shortly after the break was 67-54. That’s right–13 games over .500. Things were looking up. Nobody wanted to jinx it, but, at 13 over, people in this city seemed ready to come out and say it–there’s no way the Pirates will screw this up. No, sir, this is the year we at least finish above .500. And that’s just about the time the slide started.
The Pirates started to lose and lose big. Even then, with a September schedule that featured plenty of games against the Cubs, Astros, and Mets, the suddenly flat Buccos could find a way to limp into the playoffs, right? No. The Pirates kept losing, prompting me to calculate daily first their playoff chances and then the number of wins they needed to stay above .500.
That great feeling permeating small-talk around town began to fade. Sports fans who were excited to have a meaningful conversation about the Pirates had to come to the realization that 2012 was different, yes, but not in the way they’d hoped. It was, instead, the year the Pirates engineered the biggest collapse in Major League Baseball history. Better focus on the Penguins and Steelers, right?
Wrong. After a sad first-round exit last season courtesy of their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, The Penguins haven’t played at all this season due the the NHL lockout. They have, therefore, disappointed fans by default. I won’t blame the players, but a lost season is a lost season. Will we see the Pens take the ice at all this winter? It’s not looking good. All games through Dec. 14, along with the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, have been canceled. The last NHL lockout resulted in a completely lost 2004-05 season and Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby is talking about playing in Europe.
Then there’s the Steelers. The Steelers made the playoffs last season like they usually do, but they were Tebowed. In fact, I think we were the only team to truly BE Tebowed. So sad. This season, the Steelers are confounding us all with injuries, inconsistent play, and some suspect coaching decisions. You know how the Steelers seem to always lose to bad teams? Yeah, they’ve done that a lot this year. The Steelers have lost to the sub-par Titans, Raiders, Chargers, and Browns. One week you get a gutsy, seemingly season-saving performance by 3rd-stringer Charlie Batch, and the next week you get a completely incompetent effort at home against the San Diego Chargers. (If the CBS sports guys didn’t pound it home enough yesterday, I will remind you that the Chargers had never won a regular season game in Pittsburgh until yesterday’s blase performance.)
Wow–reading over all of this reminds me that it truly has been a terrible year in Pittsburgh sports. (And I didn’t even get into college sports.) What good can come of that? Well, for me, there has been the surprising upside of finding a way to not let it ruin my day. Believe me, I’ve let a Steelers playoff loss, or Penguins’ first-round playoff exit, ruin my day(s) before. That’s why I don’t want to let it happen in the future. Why? Because it’s inevitable. All of these teams will lose again in excruciating fashion, so don’t think that it won’t happen. It’s a game, and while I totally understand getting caught up in the stories and the emotions, out boys in black and gold will play and win again.
Need another reason to get over the latest sports disappointment? We’re spoiled! The Steelers have more Super Bowl wins (6) than any other NFL team! The Penguins, too, have won three Stanley Cups and recently captain signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal that will keep him in town until he’s close to retirement. As for the Pirates, well, they haven’t done much in a while, it’s true, but that doesn’t invalidate what they have accomplished–five World Series championships and rosters featuring Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Willie Stargell.
I’ll leave you with this, video of the greatest, most clutch, home run in history, and proof that, sometimes, things do work out–it’s Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run against the juggernaut New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was the only walk-off, series-clinching, home run in World Series history and it happened across the street here in Oakland.
So, even though it’s the Monday after a Steelers loss, I hope you have a good one.
– Corey, The Labs @ CLP
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