For the majority of the 2011 baseball season, the Pittsburgh Pirates amazed their fan base and were one of the surprises of Major League baseball with their recent flirtation with first-place in the NL Central Division.
It felt great to wear my Pirates-gear with pride and joy once again. Yes, the Steelers have always been my number one team, but I'm also a diehard Buccos fan and seeing them turn their fortunes around after so many horrible years would be a dream come true.
I was talking to my brother recently, and he wanted to know if I'd be okay with the Steelers missing the playoffs this season if it meant the Pirates could make it to the postseason.
I said, "Joe, if these Pirates somehow make the playoffs, the Steelers could take the year off!"
Afterwards, I thought about it. "Would I really trade another Steelers postseason-run for a great Pirates campaign?" And I think the answer would be an emphatic YES!
I'm comfortable with saying that because the Steelers will always be around. They have one of the most successful and respected ownership groups in all of sports, led by the Rooney family, who have entrusted people like Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin to guide the franchise on a day-to-day basis off-the-field. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and James Farrior leading the way on-the-field. In the past, the Pittsburgh Steelers have hired coaches named Cowher and Noll. Legends named Lambert, Greene, Bradshaw, Woodson, Bettis and Dawson have suited-up for the Pittsburgh Steelers and were some of the best to ever play the game.
Since 1972, the Steelers have 25 playoff appearances, 20 division titles, eight Super Bowl appearances and a record six Lombardi trophies. They have been the model of consistency and have proven they can win, have a down period, rebuild, and win again. The Steelers play in the most popular professional sports league in America, and for decades, the NFL has believed that all teams should have an equal opportunity to succeed.
The Pittsburgh Steelers epitomize success, and their fan base is rabid, fiercely loyal, and world-wide.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, on the other hand, haven't had a winning-season since 1992 and only four since 1983. They've gone through four ownership groups since the early 80's, and most Pirates fans are crying for a fifth group to come in and take over. Let's just say, Bob Nutting hasn't earned the same respect and admiration that Dan Rooney has among his paying-customers.
After the glorious Syd Thrift/Jim Leyland years in the early 90's, guys like Ted Simmons, Cam Bonifay, Gene Lamont, Lloyd Mcclendon, John Russell and Dave Littlefield were just some of the names entrusted with turning around the fortunes of the franchise with little-to-no success. Players named Derek Belle, Pat Mears, Jeromy Burnitz and Adam Laroche have called themselves Pittsburgh Pirates over the past 15 years and were miserable failures.
Unlike the NFL, Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, and teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, with their huge local broadcasting deals, are almost impossible for small-market teams to compete with on a regular basis.
The Pittsburgh Pirates epitomize the almost hopeless underdog. They've been so downtrodden for so long, the thought of the Pirates winning is almost a pipe-dream to many long-time fans. And fans that were born within the past two-decades don't even know what a successful Pirates season looks like.
Sadly, the 2011 season has turned a bit sour for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they've lost 18 of their past 23 games and have slipped far out of the NL Central race.
At 56-62, they are also in-danger of turning those 18-straight years of losing into 19.
I don't know when the Pirates will ever reverse their fortunes and give their fans an exciting postseason run, but when they do, unfortunately, I know it will probably be brief because that is how MLB is structured.
As a Steelers fan, I'm confident I will see many more playoff appearances, AFC Championship games, and parades in Downtown Pittsburgh with the Lombardi Trophy as the main-attraction.
But the next postseason appearance or a trip to the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates? I'm sure there won't too many opportunities to see that as a Pirates fan, and that's why I'd gladly trade one horrible Steelers season (or even two) for even one memorable Bucco-journey.
What about you? If you're on BTSC, you're no-doubt a diehard Steelers fan, but is there another team in another sport that you also have a special affinity for that maybe hasn't had the kind of success the Steelers have had in recent years? If you had to make a deal as a sports fan, and you had the opportunity to see that other team succeed in-exchange for a down season or two for the Pittsburgh Steelers, would you do it?