I drove about 1,400 miles this past weekend.   Not much in this life would inspire me to subject myself to that particular layer of hell.  But when Pirates fans and bloggers call, it’s to The Gathering we go.

This was my second visit to PNC with all of you Pittsburgh Sports Forum & Bucs Dugout types (and other assorted degenerates).  Having shaken off the rookie jitters from last time, I sat in Gold Lot #2 with comfort this year.  (I forgot a chair, so I don’t know who to thank for all of the sitting comfort – but thanks.  Sitting on the pavement would’ve been difficult.)

A few post-thoughts:

  • Most importantly, the Pirates won!  I’m 3-0 at PNC in my short life of Pittsburgh fandom.
  • David Wright did his part to make the hometown fans happy: 2 K’s; failed on 1st/3rd no outs; winning hit off his glove; and grounded out to end the game.  Sweet.
  • Cocktailsfor2 continues to be the most profane and yet most welcoming event organizer I’ve ever met.  His inclusive style of irreverence is a truly exemplary model of community-building.
  • Who knew there was a novelist among us?  If you weren’t aware, one of our own is writing a story that includes (but is not limited to) post-apocalyptic dragon zombies and telepathic cats.  Take a guess!
  •  And who knew there were two (2) Gathering attendees that milk cows?!  To be fair, one milks over 100 Holsteins while the other only milks 4 Jerseys.  Bonus points to anyone that’s ever milked a Hereford!

OK. So I had a blast.  Sorry that my buddy El Cinturon couldn’t make it.  He’s got good Nutting stories from college.  Or at least he keeps telling me that.  But back to the baseball…

I haven’t written much this season.  It’s my sophomore slump I suppose.  But really, I’ve been busy.  I know that’s not much of an excuse, but it’s true.  Just so you know, the Boston media continues to offer punchline after punchline to the joke the Red Sox have become.   Sure, they’re winning.  But the juxtaposition of this year vs. last year – and more interestingly, the juxtaposition of the Boston media and the Pittsburgh media (with a backdrop of the national media) is striking.

The level-headed few in New England knew all along that the old chicken n’ beer story from 2011 was simply a byproduct of losing.  Anyone with a moderately reliable memory knows that the same writers were celebrating shots in the dugout just seven years prior.  So, the media reaction to the team’s turnaround this year is predictable.  A recent story suggested that the Sox were winning again because all the players like each other.  (Ha!) But an even more recent story let me know that they’re trying to fire up some of the old we’re-soooooo-special-(it’s-hard-to-be-us) propaganda again.  It’s ugly.  And this time, one of our beloved Pirates is the foil.

Dateline: Boston.  It’s All-Star weekend!  We’re in 1st place!  Let’s belittle other teams’ All Stars!  Headline: MARK MELANCON: MARKET WASN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR STRUGGLES IN BOSTON. <link>

Before we dissect this, let’s count the embedded assumptions.

  1. Mark Melancon was an abject failure on the Red Sox.  Considering that he was brought in as a closer (for the offensively gifted but oft-injured shortstop Jed Lowrie) this isn’t such a stretch.  But then again, they went out and got Andrew Bailey later that off-season…
  2. The Boston ‘Market’ is unique in some way.  And by unique, I mean more badass.  (btw- the ‘Boston Market’ restaurant chain used to be called ‘Boston Chicken’.  Ha!)
  3. Certain players can handle the Boston market while others can’t.  (Yankees fans believe this about New York, too.)
  4. People who read don’t know the manipulative trick of negative-word titles.  We all know the message in a headline like: John Doe didn’t beat his wife.  The assumption prior to reading anything is that he did, in fact, beat his wife.  Why else would we be reading the article?

If you actually read this piece, make sure you do one thing – read every quote from Mark Melancon in a sing-songy sarcastic tone.  Because that’s how Alex Speier wants it to be.  Now don’t get me wrong – I like Alex Speier.  But he does his job in the town of Boston.  An article like this is only printed to show how silly and naive players on other teams are.  Mark Melancon denying that the high-pressure atmosphere in Boston affected his performance is only evidence that the high-pressure atmosphere in Boston, in fact, affected his performance.  While he mentioned that word ‘mechanics’, he also mentioned ‘mentality’.  And you know that that means – he couldn’t cut it in front of baseball’s most knowledgeable and intimidating fans.  While Melancon described it differently, it really doesn’t matter.

This story has been played to 100 different tunes in the Boston media: a player’s mental ‘make-up’ needs to be considered before gracing him with an opportunity to play in beloved Fenway Park.  It’s a good thing, though.  It’s one of the vulnerable spots in the seemingly invincible armor of teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.  If GMs actually believe this garbage, it gives guys like Neal Huntington the window to bag guys (read: All Stars) like Melancon from the league’s wealthiest teams.

Oh, and go Bucs!  I hope no one gets hurt in that dumb game tonight.

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