I’ve said before that I started to become a legit Pirates fan in 2013 when they had their first playoff appearance in a couple decades. Before then, I didn’t feel like rooting for a team that wasn’t very good, even though my dad is a lifelong Pirates fan. I loved watching baseball games but didn’t have a particular team I supported, and I subconsciously wanted one, so my baseball allegiances were fluid for a long time.
I hate to admit it, but I had a brief spell of Cardinals fandom in the early 2010s because they were amazing. I rooted for them in the 2011 World Series and especially loved David Freese (pictured above), who is now the Pirates’ third baseman and still one of my favorite players. In the 2013 World Series, I couldn’t decide whether to support the Red Sox, who sparked my love of baseball in the 2004 ALCS, or the Cards, even though they had beaten the Pirates in the NLDS that year. Both teams were good, so I liked them. During the four years I lived in the Phoenix area as a kid, I tried to root for the Diamondbacks. They weren’t very good, so they just didn’t hold my interest. (Part of that was because I was born in northern Illinois and thought I had to root for the Cubs. Thankfully I don’t remember rooting for them because that’s a sin against Pirates fandom. Besides, the Cubs were awful until two years ago.)
Basically what I’m saying is that I used to be a casual, fair-weather fan of multiple baseball teams. That’s not completely a bad thing because the sport was what I really cared about, but fair-weather fandom is lazy. It doesn’t require any real dedication. I’ve gained a lot of respect for Cubs fans who supported the team before 2015 (and I’m not just saying that because I grew up around them) because that World Series drought of over a century didn’t matter to them. They loved the team for what it was even though it was bad.
That’s kind of where I am with the Pirates right now. My support for them hasn’t gone away even though it started when they were good and now they’re in a slump. And more importantly, I’ve never even considered giving up on them in the last two years. I know they have loads of potential, so I keep believing in them even though they’ve been disappointing me lately. I don’t feel like I have to always be supporting a really good team, and I’m not on board with conditional fandom anymore. Real fans support their teams through the good and the bad.
That’s me at a Pirates game in Pittsburgh in May 2016. They beat the Braves that day.
And that’s me at a Cardinals game in St. Louis six weeks ago, wearing the same hat. This time I was rooting for the Braves and they won. Because rooting hardcore for a team means rooting hardcore against their division rivals, right? No more Cardinals fandom for me! Also, this is proof I’ll still just watch any game, regardless of who’s playing, because baseball had my heart before any particular team did.