I've been taking it on the chin from several readers in the comments section of Sunday's All You Can Eat article, mostly along the lines of "fair weather fan" and "too tough on the Pirates". I was also accused of never criticizing the Steelers or Penguins: "If the Pens and Steelers fall on hard times, the site would never get updated."
There were lots of accusations thrown around. So let's address them.
#1- I'm not a Pirate fan.
I guess those people missed the article in March of 2007 that led off with this line: "I love the Pittsburgh Pirates. They were my boyhood team, they were my inspiration for playing 14 years of baseball, and they’re still my favorite team to this day."
That article was entitled, "79 Reasons Why It's Hard to be a Pirate Fan". The point of the article was to show how hard the team has made it to hang in there after all these years of losing. And that was written BEFORE they went 68-94 in '07.
Let me reiterate this for those who missed the message: The Pirates are my favorite team. There is no other team I would like to win more than the Pirates. To see an entire generation of kids grow up without knowing what a winning season of Pittsburgh baseball looks like is a true injustice. In my eyes, a person who's not a fan is apathetic, a much more serious offense against fandom. Criticism shows that you do care about the team, because you want them to get better. Do you ever see anyone calling talk shows discussing the struggles of the Pittsburgh XPlosion? Of course not, because few people care.
#2- "If the Pens and Steelers fall on hard times, the site would never get updated."
That's a comment obviously made by someone unfamiliar with the site. I guessed you missed the painful weekly recaps of the 2006 team that started off 2-6 after winning the championship and looked like they were in a fog. Check the archives.
If anything, a case can be made that REAL fans want to discuss the team more when the team is struggling. Mark Madden would always say that a struggling Steelers team was great for ratings. Why? Because they have passionate fans who want to figure out what's wrong.
As for the Penguins, it's hard to be critical of a team that made what looked to me like all the right moves for an entire season, on the ice and off. From delivering season tickets in-person to the Marian Hossa trade to letting fans watch playoff games outside the arena, this organization has had the Midas Touch. Sure, there were a few times where I disagreed with Michael Therrien's decisions, but it's hard to argue with the results. There was very little to be critical of.
So with that as the background, I wanted to ask: What do you think is a real fan? Is it someone who rubber-stamps their approval on every move, or is it someone who actually voices their opinion when a team makes a move you disagree with?
If you want blind cheerleading, this is probably not the site for you. To use the cliche, "It is what it is."
I have my style and my opinions. There's no one forcing you to keep coming back if you don't agree with what I say. If I bother you so much, why are you still reading? Do you also sit through movies that you dislike?
With the Pirates, we're talking about a team that's on the verge of setting a Major League record for ineptitude next year. Tell me all the positive storylines I should be covering. Tell me the crowd on Sunday was not near-comatose.
Of course, according to some of you, I'm out to get the Pirates. I criticize everything they do. You know, like how I bashed them for taking Pedro Alvarez. Oh, wait...I didn't.:
For as many shots as we all take at the Pirates, it's time to pat them on the back when they do the right thing. And from most perspectives, this looks like the right thing. Although much of this season has played out like the previous 15, right down to the last-place standing that we see today, hats off to the Pirates on a good pick. Now sign the guy!
I love the Pirates, I love the Steelers, I love the Penguins, and I love Pitt. My methods may not be the same as yours, but we all have the same championship aspirations. I talk about their ups and their downs, not just their ups. If anything, all losing does is make winning that much sweeter. Ask the many Penguin fans who were around during the couple of years preceding Sidney Crosby. Pirate fans' expectations have dissolved down to a .500 season. A championship? I think the city's collective heads would explode. And win or lose, I'll be talking about it.