Big Lead Sports Bar


Pirates Fans: Good, Bad, or Suckers?

There has been some debate this year about the state of the Pirate fan. The season basically started with a bespectacled Batman questioning why they continue to support such a mediocre product year after year before throwing out the first pitch in another disastrous season.

He calls his fastball "White Noise"

As the season moved on, the fans had varied reactions. Some, like the much-publicized
IrateFans, have taken their anger to the masses, gaining legions of followers along the way.

Another camp accuses Pirate fans of being so beaten down by 14 years of losing baseball that they have lost enthusiasm on most nights. And that many people are only there for the atmosphere and/or promotion, and could care less about what's happening on the diamond. While this is true on some occasions, I generally disagree with this point of view. Look around at the perennial doormats of pro sports, and their fans are beaten down. Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Atlanta Hawks. Kansas City Royals. Detroit Lions. I don't blame them for seeing their glasses half-empty. I really can't agree with this argument.
Please, Mr. Ford, FIRE MILLEN!

average attendance for Bucco games this season is 23,220 per home game, which is running amazingly close to last year's 23,003. Whatever the case, this number is drastically down from the 30,742 that opened PNC Park in 2001. They currently rank 27th in the league in average attendance, leading KC, Tampa, and Florida, three franchises that can only be described as "very troubled" for a variety of reasons.

The scary fact is that, in all likelihood, the numbers for this year are pumped up like Mark McGwire circa 1998 because of the All Star Game. The 2007 advance ticket sales could see a free fall in the offseason unless Littlefield McNutting can make a big, huge, gargantuan splash. But I don't see Big Papi coming to PNC anytime soon.

The Pirate fan has shown his/her affinity for four things, in varying order: the game of baseball, the aura of PNC Park, actually supporting the Pirates, and promotions. The Pirates' marketing staff does an efficient job of boosting ticket sales even to the level they are now. KC averages 17K, Tampa about 17K, and Florida 13K per game. Of course, none of these other teams play in a park like PNC, nor did they host the Midseason Classic. But I digress.

Yes, the Pirates overload their schedule with promos, fireworks, and giveaways. Heck, they're even
letting dogs in on August 29. So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Should we submit this to Sports Illustrated as a "Sign of the Apocalypse"?

The group buying in to the idea of the Pup Rally, Eat n Park Ladies Night, and SkyBlast Reloaded feeds the fuel to another group of critics: Pirate fans are suckers. As long as fans continue to support the team at the box office, the product will not improve. This is a situation Chicago has grappled with for a long time, as the giant beer garden with ivy will sell out whether the home team wins 100 games or 10. Why should Cubs management put more money into the team, when they really don't have to? Why should Pirates management do the same?

I don't think we're bad fans, I think we're somewhere between good fans and suckers. It's a fine line. I believe the opinions will be all over the board on this one, and for good reason: there's no right answer. I think there is still plenty of interest in this team. In fact, I think the city is dying for a winner, and would definitely support the team through a pennant chase.

If I may get on my soapbox...
There has been an entire generation of Pittsburghers grow up who literally have never seen this team win. Just let that sink in for a second: if you live in Pittsburgh and are about 21 years old or younger, you have zero idea what a playoff run is like. I grew up watching the Bonds/Bonilla/Van Slyke Pirates, and even though we had our hearts broken three times, the path provided a lifetime of memories. I still have visions of raking leaves, eating dinner, and then settling in for Jack Buck's TV broadcasts while shaking my Green Weenie. Winning bonds people, it bonds all races, it bonds a city. We just experienced this earlier in the year. Just imagine how nice it would be to hold a parade in the fall.


Unknown said...

Shaking a green weenie is a sign of impending blindness.

Anonymous said...

Shaking your weenie makes it turn green.

Anonymous said...

Great site. Agreed with most of your points here. But, Pup Night also takes place at such august venues as Yankee Stadium. Yes, my wife and I are taking our dog, Shirley, tomorrow. I've also been to more than 30 freakin' games this year. Fan? Sucker? One from column A, one from column B.