I know, this is one of those articles that will have comments such as, "I'm really fed up with the content of this site, and when I get through with this comment, I'm emailing Jeff Hartman."
Please forgive me. I have a platform, and I just had to share my experience of going to my first ever postseason game in any sport, when I attended the Pirates Wild Card playoff game against the Cubs at PNC Park, Wednesday night. People (mostly non-baseball fans who apparently only get stimulated when something is in constant motion in front of their eyes) say baseball is the most boring sport there ever was, but how can that be when soccer exists? Anyway, I've always disagreed with the notion that baseball is boring, because there is just something very dramatic about the anticipation of the next pitch and the next swing. When your favorite football team has a first and goal at the eight, there's a pretty good chance of a score. However, when your favorite baseball team has the bases loaded and one out, it could end in a grand slam, a double play or somewhere in-between.
But, regardless of how you feel about a particular sport (by the way, American football fans, there are those other football fans who reside in places like Argentina who fall asleep while watching the NFL--even when Marshawn Lynch is in full beast mode), if you're emotionally invested in it and/or a particular team, those emotions are all the same.
Wednesday's Wild Card contest had all the consequences of an NFL playoff game, meaning the team that won got to play on, and the team that lost had to go home. What made matters worse in this case was the fact that the two teams squaring-off had an average regular season win total of 97.5.
Ouch for the loser, which I obviously hoped would be the Cubs. Of course, Chicago had Jake Arrieta pitching, who was on the roll of a lifetime and basically hadn't given up a run since before August. I was off all day on Wednesday and had to wait around in a tense state-of-mind, anticipating this event. And I wasn't just nervous about the ultimate outcome of the game, either; I was nervous because I couldn't believe I would have to endure three or four hours of such drama unfolding right before my very eyes. You know how you feel when you're preparing for a job interview, a date (well, at least the ones from those dating sites) or a party that you were invited to even though you don't really know the host and only kind of know the person who invited you and you're wondering if people are going to say, "Who the hell are you"? That's how I felt in the hours before heading over to PNC Park for the 8:08 start.
Even as I walked over the West End Bridge after parking in the West End (it's a great little secret way to avoid traffic that I'll never have to worry about anyone stealing since it involves walking, and Americans hate to do that), I felt tense and nervous. I sure as heck didn't feel bored about baseball.
When I met up with my uncle, and we continued our little walk to PNC, there were people dressed in black all around us (it was a black-out). When we arrived at the park, we were handed a black Pirates rally towel, similar to.....well, you're offended.
It was only about 7 p.m., and the excitement was just killing me. I couldn't wait to get this thing started, just so I could calm down a bit. However, before things could get started, there were the introductions of each team (including the trainers), and that just made the anticipation and tension build even higher. Speaking of those introductions, Arrieta was eventually introduced, and the boos were so loud, you would have thought Ray Lewis and Tom Brady were walking side-by-side, each giving the crowd the double bird while wearing all of their Super Bowl rings on their middle fingers.
When it was the Pirates turn for introductions, the place went bonkers and continued to go bonkers until the last player was introduced. We were up in Section 328, and when each coach and player's name was announced over the PA, the fans waved their black rally flags in unison; glancing down at the sell-out crowd, it looked just like Heinz Field during a Steelers.......well, you're going to say they stole the idea from Myron Cope's Terrible Towel. (By the way, the Miami Dolphins' Horrible Hankie from 1971 says "Where's my money, Myron?")
Regardless of who started what towel waving phenomenon, eventually Korean sensation Jung Ho Kang was introduced to the crowd. Kang suffered a major knee injury and was lost for the rest of the season, thanks to a questionable slide into second base by the Cubs' Chris Coghlan in a game involving the two teams in mid-September. Kang, who had to have emergency surgery to fix his injury the same day he suffered it, came out onto the field in a wheelchair, and the ovation he received was so loud and prolonged, if Mean Joe Greene would have walked out onto the fictional scenario I provided earlier and beaten-up both Brady and Lewis as they were flipping the fans the bird, the cheers still wouldn't have been as loud.
Eventually, Andrew McCutchen' mom sang the national anthem, and I gotta tell you, I was getting a little misty eyed. Not necessarily because I was feeling overly-patriotic or whatever, but because I couldn't believe I was part of such an epic evening that I hoped would end in a great way for the Pirates.
Did you click on that link? Did the people in attendance seem bored?
Anyway, the night didn't go so well for the Pirates, as they ultimately fell, 4-0, to Arrieta and the Cubs. But the fans were into it the whole evening and never really gave up hope. There was a point in the bottom of the sixth inning, when the Pirates had the bases loaded and one out. Starling Marte was at the plate, and the way the crowd was screaming and waving those towels, a hit by the young slugger may have brought the house down. Unfortunately, as the aforementioned scored clearly indicates, Marte didn't get the big hit but grounded into a double play, instead.
In the top of the seventh, pitcher Tony Watson, Pittsburgh's rather accomplished set-up man, drilled Arrieta in the hip as revenge for Arrieta hitting two Pirates earlier in the game, and a benches clearing scrum ensued. After the scrum broke-up and Watson went back to the mound, the crowd chanted "Tony Watson!" over and over again. I didn't know what was going on initially, but I joined in. Why? Because it was the playoffs, and that's what you do in the playoffs.
Up until we finally left after the bottom of the seventh, I never could shake my jitters (I flew for the first time two weeks ago, and I wasn't nearly as nervous), and those nerves were still with me as we left PNC and walked back to our car.
Again, nothing is boring if you're emotionally invested. Most pro wrestling fans would tell you that no match is truly good unless the crowd is involved. Remember The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18? By all accounts, it was just an ordinary match, but it was memorable, because the crowd was just electric the whole time. Why? Because The Rock and Hogan were/are two of the most "over" wrestlers in the history of the business, and the fans cared about the outcome.
Lastly, I never could have envisioned that my very first postseason experience would take place at something called a baseball Wild Card game, but there I was on Wednesday, soaking up every second of the action.
It didn't quite turn out how I'd hoped, but it was something I'll never forget.
Baseball is boring? If you think that, you weren't at PNC Park on Wednesday.