If there's one thing about sports that I know for sure, it's that just when I think I've seen everything, something new pops up.
For example, did you know that no Pittsburgh professional sports team has clinched a championship at home since 1960, when Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski won Game 7 of the World Series with a ninth inning home run at historic Forbes Field?
Maybe you did know about Pittsburgh's 56-year trophy-clinchin' in 'dahntahn' drought. I knew about it, too, but the desire to end this "drought" began to pick-up steam last week, after the Penguins went up three games to one over the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals, with a 3-1 victory in Game 4 Monday night.
With Game 5 scheduled for Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on Thursday night, and the cup so close fans could taste it, suddenly hoisting the trophy in the Penguins' home arena became a thing that really had to happen.
In the days leading up to Game 5, sports historians (you know, something anyone can be now that Wikipedia exists?) began crawling out of the woodwork and appearing on local radio shows, reminding everyone of this dreaded streak of championship "futility."
In-turn, other sports historians (you know, people with way too much time on their hands?) began popping up on local radio stations, reminding listeners that, in-fact, teams like the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets (1967), the ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers (1968) and the WTT's Pittsburgh Triangles (1975) all won championships in Pittsburgh.
Nothing against those titles, but they were all--how can I say this diplomatically--minor league and/or inferior and/or "There was an actual tennis league?"
Obviously, when people talk about the clinching in Pittsburgh drought, they're referring to the NFL, NHL and MLB.
Unfortunately for Penguins fans and fans of Pittsburgh's professional sports franchises, even though tickets were going for as high as $2,000 for Game 5, and even though the scene outside the arena was epic, as fans gathered in anticipation of an historic celebration, it wasn't meant to be. The Penguins fell to the Sharks, 4-2, and now the series shifts back to San Jose for Game 6, Sunday night.
Fear not, however, because the Penguins are still in control of the series and a victory on Sunday will clinch the city's 12th championship since this "drought" began some five-and-a-half decades ago.
Seriously, does it really matter where a team clinches a title? If you're a Steelers fan and old enough to remember it, did you feel any less excited when the team won its first Super Bowl in New Orleans?
If you're a Pirates fan, were you any less thrilled that the two World Series titles they've won since Maz's homer were secured in Baltimore?
The Penguins were one of the worst teams in the NHL in the 1970s, and 5,000 fans attending games at the old Civic Arena was akin to old Pitt Stadium being half full for Steelers games in the 1960s. Therefore, were you any less joyful when Mario Lemieux hoisted the franchise's first Stanley Cup in Minnesota in the summer of 1991?
Obviously, the answer to all of the aforementioned questions is "no," or at least I hope it is.
Much like the 5/50 streak for Antonio Brown, did you even care about the home-clinching thing before people started pointing it out?
If the Penguins win Game 6 (and with the way sports is--especially hockey--you better hope they do) and clinch the franchise's fourth championship, will it feel any less special to you if the boys raise that cup over their heads at an arena in Northern California? Maybe you're one of those people who spent a ton of money on a ticket for Game 5. But while you didn't get to see a clincher, if the Penguins win Sunday night, you can always say you were in attendance to see the Penguins play in a series where they came out World Champions at the end.
Imagine being a Cleveland sports fan right now. The Cavaliers are down 3-1 to the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
While Pittsburgh is in the middle of a home-clinching drought that goes back 56 years, Cleveland hasn't experienced a title of any kind in 52 years (and is probably heading for Year 53); in other words, Cleveland's sports fans would probably sign in blood to see one of their major sports teams clinch a championship in Siberia--on tape-delay.
The great thing about sports is it brings a community together. Everywhere I walk, I see Penguins memorabilia hanging from windows and doors. As a Steelers fan, I'm well-aware of the international popularity of the team, and that thousands upon thousands of supporters have never (or hardly ever) set foot in Pittsburgh.
You can be apart and still be together. Even though the Penguins will be in San Jose Sunday night, the streets of Pittsburgh, as well as the seats in the Consol, can still be just as full as they were Thursday evening.
Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, Miami, Baltimore, Pasadena, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa and Detroit: Those were the cities where Pittsburgh's sports teams have clinched their 11 titles over the last 56 years.
And, guess what? That hasn't prevented the City of Pittsburgh from earning the label: "City of Champions."
At the end of day, if the 12th title is clinched in San Jose, it won't matter as long as the parade is held in Pittsburgh.