…for giving me something to struggle with for 21 years. For, with time seriously running out, not making #21 roll over in his grave. For shutting down Operation Shutdown. For making me so angry, depressed, shocked and confused that I just had to write about it, so at least I was writing about something. For Greg Brown, who became a major league baseball announcer in 1994 with the Pirates and before tonight had never called a game for a non-losing MLB team. For giving me something to connect with family on when there was nothing else to talk about. For giving me the ability to say I saw Keith Osik pitch in a blowout loss at Three Rivers Stadium. For Andrew McCutchen, who chose going to Pittsburgh to resurrect the Pirates over going to college. For giving me the guts to stand and cheer for the likes of Craig Wilson when my Pirates played at Oakland Coliseum. For changing the life of my 20-year-old cousin, the biggest Bucs fan in the world, who before tonight had not experienced a non-losing season for his hometown team.
For making me fondly remember the last time I saw my grandfather, in the hospital in April 1994; he told me he was excited about the Pirates winning six in a row, not knowing (as he died that week) that our team would go on to lose for 18 more years in a row, a North American pro sports record. For making me feel less stupid for seeing 20 games a year at Three Rivers Stadium as a teenager when the Pirates were nothing more than a sad joke. For, as Clint Hurdle said, “re-bonding a city with its baseball team.” For being so bad for so long that, even with the best stadium in all of sports, you could not raise ticket prices to modern levels and I could always afford a ticket. For stopping the god-awful, painful, distressing, psychosis-inducing losing streak before it ruined my relationship with an amazing woman due to all the tear-my-own-hair-out complaining I do about a long-cursed sports team that made the fabric of my life stink for six months a year since I was 12 years old. For finally making me able to not only wear a Pirates hat but see my daughter wear a Pirates hat without at some point visualizing the word “loser.”
For Jason Grilli. For Jason Kendall. For Jason Bay. For them and all the other Pirates who had spectacular seasons for embarrassing Pirates teams. For turning the tables on professional sports and raiding the Yankees and Mets – both of whom spend twice as much money as Pittsburgh on baseball players – for four players who are helping us pave a road to the World Series. For finally hiring a GM with an IQ over 60. For finally, after 21 forsaken years that are now flashing before my eyes, making it possible to follow the Pirates not just because I’m proud of being born and raised in Pittsburgh but also because I’m proud of the product on the field. 81 wins, to me, after so many years of desperation that for some reason I could never just walk away from like so many did, means (as Greg Brown said tonight) “the losing is over.” 82 wins, when it comes, will mean “let’s win it all.”