Pirates finally reward fans for their loyalty

No fan base of any sports team anywhere has ever had to endure what fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates had to go through the last 20 years.

There was no hope. There was no “wait ’til next year.” The Pittsburgh Pirates were nothing more than something to occupy time until Steelers training camp opened.

For anyone who isn’t a fan of that particular baseball team, it’s hard to fathom what this season meant. Anyone too young to legally buy a beer at the game wasn’t even alive the last time the Pirates meant something.

That’s why you saw what you saw those closing weeks of the season: people filling PNC Park to the brim, people wearing all the Pirates gear they could fit onto their bodies and even people carrying around Jolly Roger flags – the unofficial symbol of the team.

That’s why you saw what can only be described as some of the most raucous crowds to ever watch a baseball game those three magical nights the Pirates played postseason games at its immaculate home on the North Shore of the Allegheny River.

And that’s why if you took to social media after the Pirates lost to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night to eliminate Pittsburgh from the playoffs, you didn’t see much in the way of vitriol and spite hurled at the players.

Instead, what you saw was a fan base – despite its disappointment at losing – thanking the group of men who allowed them to enjoy the sport once again.

The phrase “magical season” gets thrown around an awful lot by those whose job it is to cover the game. But it’s hard to describe what the Pirates did this year – going from 20 straight campaigns of losing more than they won to putting a team with the pedigree of the Cardinals on the brink of playoff elimination – as anything other than that.

But the magic wasn’t any kind of divine intervention.

It was instead the feeling of something lost returning. It was the realization that something had been missing and the fans were making up for lost time. It was learning to appreciate a winner, more than any group of people ever could.

Congratulations to the Pirates and their fans. This truly was a season you deserved.