The 2013 season is over.
There were so many answered dreams last night. No Pedro Alvarez moon shot; no Andrew McCutchen walk-off; no Gerrit Cole complete game shut-out. I’ll admit, I indulged in some childlike fantasizing about how game five would end. And I don’t even need to waste the screen space to admit that none of it came true. (Although, I just did.)
With the last swing-and-a-miss, I continued to sit in silence on my couch. I briefly watched the Cardinals celebrate and then flipped windows to the Twitter feed. I favorited a lot of nice sentiments, added one or two of my own, and browsed the final box score. Maybe I was looking for answers. But maybe I was just imagining how looking at this list of names will feel ten years from now.
Tim Williams summarized many of my post-game (and even late season) thoughts about this team here. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t waste your time here – click on the link now.
Given that there’s really no need to repeat all of that (with less research and a day late…), I think it’s worth using this blog to revisit the strange universe of sports fandom.
We Pirates fans are all very different people. Sure, there are some commonalities – especially among those living in and around western PA – but really, all we truly have in common are the colors. We watch the men in black and gold play the game of baseball from spring through the summer. And we all hope to continue watching them into the fall. We are a community defined by our daily allegiance to the ballpark, the TV and radio, the internet, the scoreboard, and the daily debate about our beloved Pirates. When the Pirates win, we share our joy. When the Pirates lose, we share our grief. Win or lose, the one constant is that we share.
Maybe that’s what all of this sports nonsense can be distilled down to: we share. Pirates fans share today the grief and disappointment of falling short of the ultimate prize. Cardinals fans are sharing, too. They just happen to be sharing the joy of taking the next step in the journey.
It might be hard to appreciate the fact that Pirates fans and Cardinals fans are ultimately engaged in the same endeavor. But I think Martin Prechtel makes a lot of sense when he describes joy (or praise) and grief as two sides of the same coin. Grief and joy can’t live without each other. And he even goes further to say that if we cannot experience one of them, the other becomes inaccessible.
Right here you might say (yell): ‘Pirates fans have already had their share of grief!’ And of course, Cardinals fans have more championships to remember than any other National League team. But maybe Pirates fans haven’t really felt grief lately. Maybe, as Prechtel suggests, the numbing that comes with an inability to find joy builds into a pervasive depression – something heavy and dark; something that looks like anger or apathy, sarcasm or disdain.
Depression isn’t grief at all. In fact, it is an act of systematic denial – maybe not a willful act, but an act nonetheless. Depression is the denial of joy. And if we are to accept the notion that joy and grief live together, depression is the denial of grief as well. As fans, we have surely experienced the act of denying our grief by pointing the finger, blaming angrily, or even feigning disinterest. But something just happened…
The 2013 Pirates won’t let us do that. They shocked a fanbase out of a long and deep depression. The malaise of two decades was lifted with the emergence of energetic baseball, competent personnel moves, successful player development, and most of all… winning! We have had the pleasure of sharing (97 times over) our joy of victory with each other. That, friends, is a sure-fire recipe to break a depression if I ever heard of one.
That’s great, right?! Isn’t winning what we’ve wanted all along?! Well, yes it is. But with this season of joy breaking through the darkness that has burdened Pirates fans for so long, we also receive the the other side of the coin: the grief.
So feel it Pirates fans. I know I’m taking on a tone of someone that’s followed this team forever – and I haven’t – but I have experienced depression, grief, and joy rooting for different colors, sharing with different people. And go and read that piece by Tim Williams again…