Forget what you thought you know about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The small crowds, cellar dwellers, AAAA farm team, 18 straight losing seasons.
Forget about it. The city of Pittsburgh has, why shouldn’t you?
There is a new sense of belonging in the Steel City, or shall I say Buc Town. It’s cool to be a Pirates fan and the 2011 Buccos have provided a city with hope that this time around really matters. Summer has always been a void for sports fans in athletic crazed Pittsburgh, PA. Fall belongs to the Steelers, the Penguins own winter and spring and with top-flight college programs (WVU, Pitt, Penn State) in the region all-school year long, summer was never really welcoming to what it was meant for.
Yes, people would wind up in beautiful PNC Park, but simply as a courtesy. The Pirates have always been a sideshow for people just looking for something to do on a warm, summer night. Think about it. Everybody watches the SuperBowl, everybody goes to the annual church festival, everybody goes to a Pirate game-for the heck of it, really with no rhyme or reason.
That’s different this year and there is reason to prove it.
Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provided factual evidence that a competitive Pirates team in June is a true revolution.
Pirate games television ratings are up 34% from last year and are at their highest since 2005.
Apparel sales have boomed up to 50% in the Pittsburgh metro area.
Views of the Pirates homepage are up 41%.
Attendance at PNC Park is up 12%.
This is far from the same old, same old. Usually, Pittsburgh is a far cry away from contention, let alone .500, by this time of the year. June is about to wrap up and the Pirates currently stand at 39-37, a mere 2.5 games out of first place in the National League Central.
To quote Lou Brown from Major League, “we’re contenders now.”
Baseball is indeed a funny sport, as no one could have predicted this dramatic turnaround from last year’s Bucs and last years Bucs “fans.”
Twice in 2011, PNC Park attendance records have been set and then broken. An average of over 22,000 people have rushed the gates so far, this year. It’s a new feeling at the park, too. People can relate to this team unlike any year before. It’s a new feeling that these guys are our guys. Complaints of years before that read something like, “they just trade away everyone, anyway.” Well, they did that to get to this point.
Most notably pitchers Jeff Karstens and Joel Hanrahan, whose performances on the mound propelled the Pirates to a 6-4 win over the Red Sox on Saturday, have been the centerpiece to bewildering revolution.
With plenty of season left to play, there is more than enough time for the Bucs to pick up steam, but lose it as well. For now, it’s time to enjoy competitive baseball in Pittsburgh. For many, it’s something new. But, it’s fun to be a fan.