My name is Brian Cox. I am 28 years old. And I can vividly remember exactly one moment of Pittsburgh Pirates postseason baseball in my lifetime.
I remember sitting (well, actually standing most of the time) in the living room of my childhood home in Mount Union with my father. The Pirates were leading the Atlanta Braves 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series and lights-out closer Stan Belinda was on the mound.
The Pirates were three outs away from the World Series and this team was a juggernaut, having won three straight division titles.
Then, the impossible happened.
After the Braves plated one run, light-hitting-to-say-the-least Francisco Cabrera slapped one into left field with David Justice on third base and former Bucco Sid Bream on second, representing the winning run. To say Bream wasn't a fast runner is like saying concrete isn't very soft. The man was slow.
Bream rounded third and headed for home (a brown-eyed, but not necessarily handsome man) as alleged-Gold Glove left fielder Barry Bonds came up guns blazing.
Except that he misfired.
His, as I remember it, approximately 37-hopper to catcher Mike LaValliere still seemed to be just in the nick of time to nail Bream at the plate. instead, the umpire called him safe - and life as a Pirates fan for me and many more in my generation would never be the same.
For 20 years, practically our whole lives, we've been forced to watch teams that fielded a bunch of has-beens (Kenny Lofton, Derek Bell) and never-will-bes (Chris Duffy, Daniel Moskos, John Van Benschoten).
For 20 years, on the rare occasions that a good player finally provided a face of the franchise, someone we could root for (Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth), the owner traded him away for prospects (read: saving money).
For 20 years, we've been promised that some day the team would be good again and we'd be proud to be Pirates fans, only to wonder if it would ever actually happen.
Even the past two years, we've been teased with late-summer first-place squads only to have the mirage disappear and the oasis of winning in our desert of losing go with it just in time for Steelers football.
Two years ago, again in Atlanta, there was the infamous 19-inning game where umpire Jerry Meals inexplicably called the Braves' Julio Lugo safe at home even though everyone in the stadium whose opinion didn't matter (including Lugo) could see he was out by a ton. The Pirates' season pretty much died that night. I can still hear announcer Greg Brown shouting incredulously "He called him safe?!"
Last year, the team was 16 games over .500 on July 28, only to completely fall off the face of the earth and finish below par again.
We've been conditioned to expect the worst because the worst has always come. We've seen the straw house of 2011 and the stick house of 2012 get blown down by the Big Bad Wolf.
But not this year. Not this team. Not in 2013's house of bricks.
The biggest reason to believe in these Bucs lies with what transpired Tuesday night when the Pirates beat the Milwaukee Brewers for win No. 81, thereby ensuring the Pittsburgh Baseball Club couldn't finish under .500 this year.
Hardly anyone employed by the team cared.
The reason why is quite simple. Instead of this happending during the last game or two of the season, the Pirates still had 24 more to play in the REGULAR season. They plan on playing more than that because that win gave the Bucs a two-game lead in the division and put them 11 games up on the final playoff spot in the National League.
I've stopped waiting for the collapse because it's not coming. No, it's going to take a strong October wind to huff and puff and blow these Pirates' house down.
There's a whole generation of people like me who can either barely remember the night Bream slid safely home or not at all. They've known nothing but losing and have barely given the Pirates a thought their whole lives.
To be a Pirates fan has been to suffer, to be mocked, to be sentenced to losing year after losing year.
Until now. Until October.
Then, we will see the true renaissance of Pittsburgh baseball. Win No. 81 wasn't the end of the line, it was merely a mile marker on the road to bigger and better things for sports' most collapsible franchise.
To my fellow members of the "lost generation," these aren't your father's Pittsburgh Pirates. No, for the first time, these are finally OUR Pittsburgh Pirates.
And they're going to be a Big Bad Wolf for anyone they meet in October.
City editor Brian Cox, a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.