At 41, I don't feel the urgent need to create one of those "Bucket Lists" just yet, but if I had to put something on such a list right now, I'd pick seeing the Pirates make the World Series just once in my lifetime. I realize the Buccos made the Series back in 1979 when I was seven years old, but the only recollection I have of that time is my mom saying something about "Chicken on the Hill With Will" as she watched the games unfold. Turns out Willie Stargell, the star of the team and World Series Hero, owned a restaurant in Pittsburgh's Hill District and would give out free chicken to anyone eating there at the time of one of his blasts--if anyone was in Pop's restaurant during the top of the sixth inning of Game 7, they were probably too nervous to eat anything just before he clocked a two-run shot to put the Pirates ahead to stay.
Anyway, other than that vague memory thanks to Mom, I have no memory of Pittsburgh's epic victory over the Orioles. It's been 34 years since the Pirates made it to the World Series, and I think I'd give just about anything to see it happen again.....and I mean anything.
Two summers ago, just after the Bucs began their descent into mediocrity after flirting with first place, I wrote this piece about how I'd endure a poor Steelers season just to see the Pirates have a magical campaign.
When I asked the readers of BTSC if there was any way they'd endure that kind of pain just to see another team they were fond of prosper, the responses I got ranged from "Heck no!" to "Are you out of your heckin mind?" to my favorite, "Someone needs to beat the heck out of you for even suggesting it!"
Last season, the Pirates were even better than they were in 2011 and were 16 games over .500 in early August but suffered a historic collapse and finished with a losing record for a 20th straight year.
This season, the stakes have been raised even higher for fans, as Pittsburgh is 46-30 and has the second best record in Major League Baseball. Will the Pirates collapse for a third straight year and finish with a losing record yet again? I don't know, but since we're about a month away from baseball's trade deadline, I think it's only appropriate that I, a die-hard Steelers fan for over 30 years, offer up the ultimate sacrifice so my favorite baseball team can have a successful campaign and make it to the World Series.
With that in mind, I'd like to announce the sale of my very own Steelers soul (at least for a year) in order to see some Pirates postseason magic (if only for this year).
I got myself into a bit of hot water among my BTSC brethren a season ago when I blurted out that I thought the "Steelers sucked!" in their 20-14 loss at Cleveland that included eight turnovers--maybe the poorest performance by the team in half a decade. But if it means a World Series appearance by the Pirates in 2013, I'll "The Steelers Suck" in every game thread through December. In fact, I'll have "Steelers Suck 4Life" tattooed on my forehead and name my first born "Flacco's Unibrow Defeo."
I feel so strongly about seeing the Pirates make the Fall Classic this year, I'd accept a 2-14 season for the Steelers, complete with the number one overall pick. And if Kevin Colbert then turned around and traded that first pick for a slew of fourth round draft picks and Santonio Holmes, it would still be worth it (hey, selling your soul ain't pretty).
You might think this is a bit extreme on my part, but as a small market franchise in a league without a salary cap, the Pirates window of opportunity is very small. Sure, players like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Gerrit Cole are still young and will probably be in town for a few more seasons, but you just never know what can happen to small market baseball teams.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a nice run as contenders in the AL East for a few seasons, but they're currently in last place. The Milwaukee Brewers recently made a postseason appearance or two but then lost Prince Fielder via free agency and are now in fourth place in the NL Central. The Minnesota Twins, consistent contenders throughout the 2000's and a model for all small market teams to emulate, finished last in the AL Central the past two seasons and are in serious danger of doing so again this year.
When the window closes on small market baseball teams, fans must put up with many years of stuffy, stagnant losing.
I don't know when the window will shut on Pittsburgh's current baseball team, but when it does, it's probably going to be ugly. If it's anything like the early 90's, McCutchen will sign with another team, mysteriously gain 40 pounds of muscle, and then break Barry Bonds' all-time home run record.
A 2-14 season may send thousands of Steelers fans into depression, but if any team has built up enough emotional equity to endure such a bad year, it's the Black and Gold. Much like a stocked minor league baseball system, the Steelers have great depth in the success and memories department, and I'm pretty sure that will continue into the future.
What's one bad season for the football team if it means just one great one for the baseball team? It's time to go all in and sell off some Steelers assets in order to acquire some Pirates gems--hey, you have to give to get.
Let's Go Bucs in 2013!
This completes the transaction for my Steelers soul.