Atlanta 4 – Pittsburgh 2; CJ: 0-4
I often complain about the Braves losing, usually after they drop a few in a row. Like when they started this season 0-4, I instantly thought all ‘doom and gloom,’ that it was a sign they were going to have a terrible season. Deep down, I know that’s a crazy thing to think after only four games, but what can I say? I’m a true fan.
But that tendency to think the worst would probably make it impossible for me to be a Pirates fan. I should ask my family back east how they do it. I mean, they’ve had to endure nearly two decades of losing seasons. And not just losing. We’re talking permanently locked in the basement of the Central division. (Which is somewhat fitting because they have basements in Pitt. We don’t have those in Texas.)
I know a lot of their fans blame it on Barry Bonds. And why not? He’s an easy person to hate. Plus, he doesn’t seem to care when people do hate him. So I’ll blame it on him, too. I mean, if you point to the decline of the Pirates beginning with their big loss in the 1992 NLCS, then it’s not a big stretch to say he’s a big factor. He was a Gold Glove outfielder, and his throw to home in Game 7 to get Sid Bream that cost them the series was pretty offline. And then, after contributing to that loss, he jumped ship and never looked back, leaving after that season for the San Francisco Giants, whom, I’m assuming, could pay him more money. And the Pirates have barely moved forward since.
**Interesting side note (well, I think it is, at least): I’m re-reading this book about the 1992 Braves that my grandparents got me years ago. (A lot of people have supported my Braves habit over the years.) In the book, the author talks about how the Braves were rumored to have tried trading for Bonds. Could you imagine that? Part of me is horrified by the idea. As the author summarized by quoting one anonymous Braves player, than Atlanta would have had the two biggest a-holes in baseball, Bonds and Justice, in the same locker room. That would have been rough on chemistry, I imagine. But on the other hand, Bonds was reallly goooood. He would have made a huge difference to that team. I predict World Series victories in ’92 and ’93 if he’s a Brave. Ok, maybe not. But they would have been even better than they already were. I mean, come on! They would have been awesome. That pitching and his offense! Oh, what could have been. Oh well. It’s probably for the better.
Not better for the Pirates, though. I used to wonder which was worse – watching your team not make the playoffs at all or watching your team lose in the playoffs. Is it tougher knowing from day one of Spring Training that your team won’t win a lot of games or believing your team can win, but, in the end, they don’t win enough?
In response, I thought about what people say regarding expectations. Expect the least and you’ll never be disappointed. For instance, as a Braves fan, I can’t help but expect a lot. (And, ultimately, be disappointed.) But, as a Bucs fan, I thought maybe there was a weird peace in knowing where the team stood relative to the others. That way, when they do manage to get close to .500, fans get excited. So, by that logic, it would be worse to be disappointed at the end of the season than to be pleasantly surprised.
But then I thought about something else: hope. There’s always hope. The hope that maybe this year will be different. That maybe this year they’ll finally put it all together and win again. And that hope is brutal
So then it became clear to me. Watching your team lose in the playoffs is hard. I’ve done that plenty of times. But in those few years when the Braves didn’t make the playoffs, it was harder to watch them struggle to win every game, especially remembering how they used to dominate. That was worse. I mean, in the post season I only had to suffer through four loses after a year of probably 75-90 wins. Granted they were big loses, but there were still only four of them. Compare that to a 162 game season where fans cheer for their team to win every single one, even though we know it’s impossible. That’s a larger amount of suffering and anguish and unfulfilled hope.
And I know from talking with my dad that that hope is always there. Sure, Pirate fans can say every year they know their team is going to be awful, but those old enough to still remember the team’s past glories, to remember Stargell and Clemente, have to secretly hope the tide will finally turn and winning will come back to Pittsburg. ‘Cause that’s the thing about fandom – you can’t help but be hopeful.