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Bucco Fever sickens Pittsburgh with jubilee

Published on July 18, 2011 by in Features

The following article is written by Gino Ferretti. Gino is a contributor for Philly Sports Daily and PHL Sports Fan. He is originally from Philadelphia and moved to Pittsburgh five years ago. Since his move, he has remained loyal to his Phillies, but also has taken a liking to the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh. Gino came to me over the weekend asking if he could contribute a piece about the Bucs’ season so far, since it would be something that would not be welcomed on a Philadelphia site. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @PHL2PIT and enjoy:

If you happen to be an early riser like myself, you may have caught the unidentified flying objects cruising along the Pittsburgh skyline Saturday morning. While alcohol was being snoozed off and the morning sun kissed the Allegheny River, the city landscape had a distinct pep in it’s step. And as it prepped the rest of the city for it’s lazy rise, the beauty was in the hearts of a handful of Pirates die-hards still awake from the previous night’s push into first place. After 18 consecutive losing seasons, this peculiar morning was one of those where the hangover didn’t hurt. Because the party was still going on. The Pirates were in first place. And as I started my day, I didn’t even think twice to notify the authorities of the flying pigs over PNC Park.

The Pirates came out of the All Star break with a bang as they took two of three from the Astros in Houston this past weekend. But nevermind the dinky accomplishment of beating up on a meek Astros club, the major story was the leap to first place. The first rest in the cozy part of the standings since 1992.

But while it didn’t last past Saturday, entering today’s series with the Reds, the Buccos are a half game behind the Brewers for the division lead. Not bad for a team of fans who only desired to be .500.

The fact that they are soaring is not half as interesting as who is behind the wheel. There’s no King Albert on this team. No Prince, Doc, or Freak. They’re Maholm, Correia, and Jones, the forgotten and forlorn. They’re McCutchen, Presley, Tabata, the recent and raw. Yet they’ve established a veteran approach to the game without relying on winning experience. Half of the 2011 Pirates have agonized through their own small share of the 18 losing seasons. But there comes a time when collectively you can’t be beat up anymore. Some teams spend years getting away from defeat. For Pirates fans, it’s felt like a lifetime.

Winning is the only remedy for a losing ailment. Its the only metaphorical punch to the face of Phillies and Red Sox fans that will get their asses out of your seats. Its the only firework that will bring the city to its feet instead of being a band-aid for a Saturday night home loss. Winning turns June through September into baseball season around Pittsburgh. Baseball becomes the shoulder to cry on when post Penguins season dampens. Baseball is the fling before the big-bad, bitter wife returns in black and gold. Winning makes a half empty ballpark feel half full.

Who needs “all you can eat” seats when the craving is on the diamond.

And while nationally, sports media outlets are drooling over Buccos fever, the real reward is in the envy of new, rival fans. You know you’ve become a success – not when ESPN starts recognizing you on Sportscenter – but when you are hated by Reds fans.

“Stupid Pirates fans”, tweeted @REDS03.

They’re jealous of you, Pirates faithful. Let that one marinate……

The Pirates last homestand saw a balmy weekend of sellouts, but no red, blue or white in the seats. Black and yellow never seemed so patriotic until you heard anthems of cheers for their Battlin’ matey’s. The All Star break came behind PNC Park’s 10th sellout of the young season, the most since the Park’s inaugural year, 10 years ago.

But my dear girlfriend, who doesn’t know Pops from Parker dreaded days like this.

“I hope the Pirates never get good ’cause then we wont be able to get cheap seats anymore”, she once said.

Except now, you’d be lucky to get seats at all.

Twitter: @PHL2PIT
Email: phl2pit@gmail.com

 
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1 Comment  comments 
  • http://twitter.com/matt_glenn Matt Glenn

    I’m in a remarkably similar position to Gino.  I grew up (and still am) a diehard Philadelphia fan, but I started rooting for the Pirates when I moved out to Pittsburgh for school three years ago.  If you had told me ten, or even five, years ago that the Phillies would have sold out 100+ consecutive home games, I would have laughed in your face.  Before 2007 the only guaranteed sellout even at Citizens Bank Park was against the Mets, and that was because the stadium was half full of Mets fans.  You were guaranteed to see at least a couple brawls in the stands for each of those games.  Since about 2008, though, you haven’t heard a peep from Mets fans at CBP.  It’s amazing what winning will do for you.

    I see amazing similarities between the early-2000′s Phillies and the current Pirates team as far as fan support goes.  Until about 2000, 1993 was the Phillies only winning season since the mid-80′s.  Opposing fans could easily take over the stadium (first the Vet, then CBP).  The Flyers (and Sixers) dominated sports talk radio until May or June when the countdown to Eagles training camp began.  The Phillies were an afterthought.  When I first moved out here (and until about two or three weeks ago), I could sit in the lower level at PNC Park for the price of the worst tickets at CBP.  When the Cubs came to town before the All-Star break, a few friends and I had planned to go to the Friday night game.  I was shocked when I woke up Friday morning to find that only standing room tickets remained.  Saturday was the same situation.  There is definitely a part of me that, like Gino’s girlfriend, enjoyed the Bucs being so bad because I could get cheap seats to a great park.  But at the same time, during that series against the Cubs and the week or so since, it’s felt like I was in a real baseball city again.  People are wearing Pirates hats, talking baseball and going to bars to watch Bucs games in July.  This is awesome.

    While the Pirates don’t have the financial resources of the Phillies or the population of Philadelphia, it looks like Pirates fans will emerge from hibernation if the front office puts a winning team on the field.  I’ve been one of those yahoos invading PNC Park with the hordes of other Phillies fans for years.  It’s fun to take over an opponent’s ballpark, but I’d gladly trade that for a ballpark that’s full 81 games a year and a team that can re-ignite the Pennsylvania baseball rivalry.